The aim of the second funding phase is to explore comparative practices at the meso level. Special attention will be paid to the productive power of comparative practices and the modes of comparison in order to elaborate the interplay of stabilization and change of medium scope. The concepts of practice formation, communities of practice, as well as the concepts of comparative formation or comparative dispositif derived from them serve us as heuristics to be able to examine comparative practices on the meso level. While on the one hand the interaction between the micro level and the meso level developed in the first funding phase is included, in individual projects the effects on the macro level will already come into view. In this way, important building blocks for a contingency-sensitive theory of historical change will be elaborated, one of the goals for the entire funding period of twelve years.
The various levels in the interplay of practices of comparing must relate to the multitude of identifiable practices of comparing within varying medium-range dynamics, whereby each possesses distinctive characteristics, rates, temporalities and transformational tendencies. Here, disruptions, coincidences, unforeseen developments, their diversity and inconsistency must be considered. For this, it is indispensable to trace insights into medium-range dynamics, to analyse micro-dynamics, situative negotiating processes, specific social contexts, all of which are characterised by conflicts and contradictions. At the same time, the question is whether there have been more comprehensive dynamics of adaptation and alignment as well as processes of demarcation and differentiation, which render meaningful discussion of historical transformations at the macro level. Examples of this are the transformations range from globally homogenised conceptions of religion or world literature, global scientific disciplines and sports, globally operating markets, state systems ordered in relation to national collective identities, and must be accordingly differentiated.
Bielefeld University has long successfully fostered the creation of equal opportunities at all levels and in all areas with structural, conceptual, and research-related measures. The current framework for gender equality, explicitly provides equal development opportunities for women as a responsibility of all members of the university, thus making gender equality a central concern of the university as a whole, at the management level and among all those responsible for personnel. Accordingly, equal opportunities for women scholars and the compatibility of family and career comprise key goals of the SFB in the support of women embarking on an academic career as early as possible: we offer scholarships for female MA students working on their theses in the field of comparative practices at Bielefeld University and assist female scholars in the transitional phase following the completion of their doctorates. In particular, the SFB supports female academics in enhancing their international profile; encourages them to participate in conferences and to undertake research residency programmes abroad. Furthermore, measures for further scientific networking and publication activities are constantly being developed. The SFB assists female researchers by allocating funds for childcare costs for conference participation and research stays abroad. The fostering of diversity, which accompanies the gender equality programme, is to form an increasing part of our work in the upcoming years; the SFB wants to reflect and reduce not only gender-specific disadvantages, but also such disadvantages as arise from social, cultural, and religious backgrounds or physical impairments.
Doctoral and postdoctoral scholars conduct an important part of the research within the SFB. The primary concern of our research network is to ensure optimal support for the academic qualification of young scholars. The Bielefeld Graduate School in History and Sociology (BGHS), the SFB’s writing and publication support along with its own advisory services constitute core support measures for scholars in their initial stages of qualification. For postdoctoral researchers (in their second phase of qualification), the SFB makes available further training formats specifically tailored to their needs. Moreover, the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research (ZiF), together with the Young ZiF, offers opportunities for networking and for the further development of academic projects. When it comes to hiring, diversity is our top priority in terms of international composition, social and cultural backgrounds, and gender. We expect that a great diversity of the members of the SFB will foster heterogeneous research perspectives, which then will engage in dialogue with each other. Based on the concept of collegial learning, doctoral scholars collaborate on methodological and theoretical aspects in their research projects, thereby strengthening interdisciplinary cooperation within the SFB.