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Bielefeld Graduate School

in History and Sociology

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Interdisciplinary Seminar

In Winter Term 2009/2010, at the initiative of our doctoral researchers, a new seminar was instituted to further promote the exchange between history and sociology: the interdisciplinary seminar. This seminar aims at encouraging joint theoretical discourse between doctoral researchers, postdoctoral researchers and university professors on both disciplines' approach to research. The hosts and organisers of the seminar are the doctoral researchers in cooperation with a professor from one of the two Faculties.

Topics for discussion have so far been theories of consumption, working with/on social practices, control, space and time, culture and society, structure and reproduction, and change and continuity. You can find detailed descriptions of the individual Interdisciplinary seminars in the list below.

Winter Term 2016/17:Comparisons

Organisers: Thomas Welskopp, Oliver Flügel-Martinsen, Kerstin Schulte, Simon Füchtenschnieder

The seminar focused on comparison and on the way how different disciplines view the means of comparison, approach comparison or do not approach it. One of the most important reasons for the seminar was the fact that a collaborative research centre(Sonderforschungsbereich) dealing with comparison and comparative studies has been newly established at Bielefeld University. (This collaborative research centre focuses on comparative methods and ideas from both history and literary studies.)
Apart from taking into account important theories and ideas from both sociology and history that focus on comparison and comparative studies (e.g. by Michel Foucault and Quentin Skinner), a good number of texts that were read and discussed in class derived from the field of comparative literary studies (e.g. by Rajagopalan Radhakrishnan or Susan Stanford Friedman).

Winter Term 2013/14:Theories of Consumption

Organisers: Marius Meinhof, Thomas Welskopp

Although the relevance of consumer research has continued to grow since the 80s, the empirical and theoretical contributions to this field remain scattered. Scholars have not combined discussions of consumption into one integrated discourse, nor have they fully addressed the question of the embeddedness of consumption into the overall society - especially as relates to the relationship between production and consumption. In the seminar, we examined different theoretical and empiric contributions to consumer research in history, sociology and ethnology. The course literature did address consumerism in relationship to other topics, such as globalization, class distinction, cultural differences, identity concepts, and economic growth.

Winter Term 2012/13:Working with/on Social Practices II

Organisers: Henrik Dosdall, Clemens Eisenmann, Thomas Welskopp

The seminar seeks to provide an improved and deepened understanding of the approaches subsumed under the label praxeology. Hence, the overall aim of the seminar is to put into perspective the approach from a sociological as well as from a historical point of view. Is the praxis approach, as its proponents claim, pulling the rug out from under the feet of the socalled mainstream theories, or are its opponents right by arguing that the approach has indeed nothing new to offer? By taking up these questions, the practice approach is to be scrutinized in respect to its theoretical contribution to sociology and history, its scientific expediency and its conceptual presuppositions as well as its application, for instance, to the social practice of boxing. Taking off with an overview and introduction into praxeological theory, we thereafter come to speak of the role of the body, the role of language and the epistemological and theoretical foundations. Although drawing on some discussions and lines of thoughts from the last semester, everybody is still very welcome to join.

Programm (engl.)

Summer Term 2012: Working with/on Social Practices

Organisers: Gleb Albert, Rory Tews, Thomas Welskopp

In current methodological debates among historians, but increasingly also among sociologists, theories of social practices appear as a potential for the reconciliation of some of the most haunting contradictions between opposing theoretical strands: They stand for the combination of structure and agency, the return of the human actor, the mediation between discourse and agency, and for an insertion of "the material" into culture in a form alternative to Bruno Latour's loudly acclaimed, but limited actor-network-theory. Our seminar will undertake to account for the current state-of-the-art and to localize points of departure for further developments by discussing central texts.

Winter Term 2011/12: Control

Organisers: Anna Demidova, Thomas Welskopp

The seminar suggests to its participants to review the collection of texts (including texts by Pierre Bourdieu, Michel de Certeau, Harvey Sacks and Michel Foucault) which offer different approaches to the study of social control, and to reflect on how we can put them to work in our own research.
The topics we plan to discuss through the readings include: what it means to understand a rule, social production of law, being deviant as being noticeable, everyday resistances, resources of the European domination, political rationalities and governmental technologies.

Summer Term 2011: Space and Time

Organisers: Dominik Mahr, Mashid Mayar, Thomas Welskopp

This seminar served as an introduction to current tempo-spatial discussions in several fields of history and sociology. The topological change of the late 1980s was our as starting point to study the different aspects of this discourse.
The possibilities of tempo-spatial ideas was discussed on the basis of characteristic texts. Tempo-spatial concepts were heuristically useful tools for the analysis of historical and sociological changes on different scales (e. g. globalization) and in different fields of knowledge (e.g. Science Studies).

Winter Term 2010/2011: Culture and Society

Organisers: Ruben Hackler, Manuela Pfinder, Thomas Welskopp

In this seminar, the conceptual couple "culture and society" should undergo critical examination from a sociological and historical perspective. "Culture" was hereby understood quite generally as a dynamic ensemble of practices with varying patterns of meaning, while "society" on the other hand was seen as an established construct with an inherent tendency to create unity. The autonomy or interdependence of this pair of terms should undergo methodological and theoretical critical reflection from a sociological and historical perspective.

Summer Term 2010: Structure and Reproduction

Organisers: Thomas Welskopp, Frank Wolff

In this seminar, we took a closer look at the omnipresent terms "structure" and "reproduction". "Structures" were understood as transformable social contexts that are however defined differently in different disciplines in terms of their relationship to the actors or operators through which they are reproduced. How can we get a conceptual hold on the regularities of observable habitual actions? In this interdisciplinary seminar, we examined the interplay of these concepts by looking at theoretical developments from classic sociology texts to current approaches.

Winter Term 2009/2010: Change and Continuity

Organisers: Jörg Bergmann, Hye-Young Haubner, Ulrike Schulz, Thomas Welskopp

This seminar examined the focus on social mechanisms currently popular in sociology in order to open a dialogue on synergy effects and demarcation lines between both disciplines. The inflationary use of the term "mechanism" in both disciplines without a satisfactory explicit definition at first suggests an open approach. Social mechanisms are first understood quite generally as contingent, context-specific and generalisable causal relationships that can help explain social change. Our focus was not only on the social phenomenon to be explained, but in particular on its process of creation. This explicitly took the historical dimension into account: the contingency of transformation processes as well as the great variance in influential factors such as memory and experience, the establishment of social practices and routines or path dependencies.

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