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Research profile

Orientation towards Theory

Ever since it was founded, history at Bielefeld has set itself the programmatic task of analysing the theoretical foundations of historical research. This guiding orientation towards theory links up with and promotes a highly productive diversity of research subjects and approaches. As a result, historical research at Bielefeld University does not just range across all epochs but also across numerous systematic fields. One special feature is the way history in Bielefeld encompasses areas that other universities treat separately from history. At Bielefeld, you can study economic history, visual history/history of art, and history of science all in one department.

This theoretical approach to the subject encourages intensive discussion not only between the individual research and teaching units but also with neighbouring disciplines. The Centre for Theories in Historical Research set up in 2017 will provide the institutional framework for this exchange and promote an internationally networked discussion over the relevance of theories in historical research and history teaching. Post-graduate training in the Bielefeld Graduate School in History and Sociology is also based on interdisciplinary dialogue that transcends the borders of the discipline.

A further focus is on global and entangled histories. This links together research activities in ancient history, pre-modern history, and the history of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries not only with expertise on various world regions in Europe, Eastern Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa but also with our own local and regional history.

Historians make a major contribution to Bielefeld University’s strategic research area ‘The Globalising World: Individual and Societal Developments’. The Research Training Group 2225 ‘World politics: The emergence of political arenas and modes of observation in world society’ is also a product of cooperation between scholars working in the history of the political, global history, and the Institute for World Society Studies.

Studying practices of comparison and how their dynamics bring about historical change endows the Department of History at Bielefeld with a central research framework making it an inspiring nexus of exchange between the humanities and the social sciences. CRC 1288 ‘Practices of comparisons. Ordering and changing the world’ links history and history of art together with literary studies, philosophy, law, political science, and sociology.

Another field taking a broad historical and interdisciplinary approach is InterAmerican Studies. Together with the Faculty of Linguistics and Literary Studies, the Department of History at Bielefeld hosts the Center for InterAmerican Studies. It is also participating in the BMBF Research Project ‘ The Americas as Space of Entanglements’ and the ‘Competence Network on Latin America: Ethnicity – Citizenship – Belonging’. Moreover, it is playing a leading role in setting up the Merian Center for Advanced Latin American Studies/CALAS in Guadalajara, Mexico, as well as its regional centres in Argentina, Ecuador, and Costa Rica.

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