Our everyday life is shaped by ratings, statistics and competition, whether it is sports, politics or science. To compare is believed to be objective. It supposedly helps us to obtain clear results. But how neutral is it to compare?
People compare themselves regarding their qualities and skills, companies compare their finances, countries their gross domestic product. To compare, for instance, influences how we perceive the other: Is it similarities or differences that get to stand out? Which judgements do we reach? When and why do habitual opinions sneak into the allegedly impartial act of comparing?
Researchers working in fields of history, literary studies, philosophy, art history, political science and law are for the first time studying how comparative practices order and change the world. The Collaborative Research Centre (SFB) 1288 “Practices of Comparing“ is conducting fundamental research by shifting the focus from ‘the comparison’ to a ‘practice of comparing’: What do agents do when they compare?
One objective is to raise awareness to the fact that the allegedly natural practice of comparing is never innocent, objective or neutral.
By studying an essential practice of order and dynamics in modern but also premodern, European and non-European societies, the SFB aims to contribute to a model for rethinking history, societies and historical change in the context of the latest historical and cultural theories.
Fields of Research
By placing the act of comparing at the heart of the SFB, it focuses on a practice that has multiple shapes and forms. Therefore, the projects pay particular attention to situations and contexts in which comparing can be performed in many different ways. Those who see themselves in direct competition with others and have to make decisions compare differently than writers of fiction or scientists, for instance, whose comparisons do not immediately result in concrete actions.
The SFB 1288 “Practices of Comparing“ is therefore divided into three project areas:
Practices of Comparing in situations of
- Conflict and Competition (A)
- Negotiation and Distinction (B)
- Observation and Contemplation (C)
Do different practices of comparison get formed in situations of conflict or competition as well as in social spaces of (self-)reflexivity? Do some cases evoke looking for differences and others for commonalities? Are open explorative comparisons that yield a definite result more common in contexts of observation and contemplation, that is, in sciences, literature and art?
The SFB doesn’t aim at distinguishing different types of comparisons by establishing three clear-cut project areas with assigned subprojects. Rather, the aim is to underline the necessity to pay deeper attention to the interdependency between situations and practices.
Early Career Support
The young researchers contribute to the research conducted in the SFB 1288 in essential ways. To successfully support them, the SFB benefits from an outstanding infrastructure offered at Bielefeld University. The Bielefeld Graduate School in History and Sociology, funded by the Federal Ministry for Education and Research in their programme “Initiative for Excellence”, as an example, ensures a structured education for doctoral students. All members of the SFB 1288 can participate in the BGHS interdisciplinary study programme.
The centre of the SFB’s early career support is the continuing process of education, including training in Digital and Public Humanities. International networking and scientific autonomy are further important concerns in supporting doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows. By concentrating on these measures, the young researchers are optimally prepared for their future careers, in academia as well as outside the academe.
Support and Training
- Research Data Management
- Digital Humanities
- Public Humanities
- Training for Student Assistants
- Fellowships for Guest Researchers
- International Teaching Experience for Young Researchers
- Postdoctoral Fellows as Principal Investigators in the SFB
- Teaching Experience in Summer Schools
- Funding for Proactively Organised Workshops
- ZiF-Funding-Programme for Postdoctoral Fellows and Junior Professor
Latest Gender Equality Efforts
Renowned historian Prof. Ann Laura Stoler (The New School / New York) made time for a conversation with female doctoral students and student assistants about the situation of women in the academic realm, as part of her stay in Bielefeld for the SFB's kickoff conference. Especially young women in science are often confronted with lots of expectations – one of the central topics of the conversation. The talk was moderated by Dr. Bettina Brandt, Scientific Coordinator of the School for Historical Research.
Gender Equality Measures
Academic transitions, e.g. between graduation and commencement of doctoral studies or after the doctorate, are determining milestones in an academic career. At the same time, they are characterised by insecurities and financial and personal concerns.
Therefore, the SFB focuses on three main points, amongst other things, as a reaction to the understaffed number of female postdoctoral fellows.
- Scholarships and Fellowships
- Regular presentation of SFB research in the master’s programme “Gender Studies”
After the doctorate
- Regular counseling regarding career opportunities
- Financial support for child-care during appointments in the evening or on weekends
- Contract extensions for women who give birth during the first funding period
Equal Opportunities and Diversity Officer
- Continuing evaluation of equality measures
- Adapting or changing measures if necessary