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  • Project Areas

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Generation and Stabilization of Knowledge (D)

Project Area D is concerned with the generation, stabilisation and destabilisation of knowledge. The generation of knowledge is achieved with the aid of practices of comparing embedded in contexts understood both praxeologically and epistemologically. Over time, individual actors and communities of practice systematised and stabilised, transformed and destabilised this knowledge. The knowledge thus generated transforms practices of comparing into an authoritative comparative formation in a wide range of fields before disseminating the corresponding routinised links between comparata and tertia comparationis, which are then often characterised as ‘objective’. The project area studies the connection between the generation of knowledge and comparative formations across different time periods in six projects. The topics range from social self-descriptions in Roman antiquity, late medieval English precedent law, travel literature and ethnology of the 17th to 19th centuries, through to knowledge formations in literary studies and natural sciences, as well as in the context of 20th and 21th centuries digital humanities.

Project Area D deals with the production, stabilization and destabilization of knowledge. The production of knowledge is achieved through practices of comparing that are embedded in contexts understood both in a praxeological and an epistemological perspective. Individual actors and communities of practice systematize and consolidate this knowledge, transforming and (de)stabilizing it, over time. The knowledge thus created transforms comparative practices into authorized comparative formations and disseminates the corresponding routinized constellations of comparata and tertia comparationis, often marked as 'objective', in numerous social spheres. The project area examines the connection between knowledge production and comparative formations across different epochs in six projects, whose topics range from social self-descriptions in Roman antiquity, late medieval English precedent law, 17th to 19th century travel literature and ethnology, to knowledge formations in literary studies and natural sciences, as well as in the context of 20th and 21st centuries digital humanities.

  • Nahaufnahme des Barberini-Diptychon, einer spätantiken Elfenbeinschnitzerei
    © Louvre Museum; Peiresc Collection; Barberini Collection / CC BY-SA 3.0 (Unported)

    D01 (B04) | Comparing in Ethnographic Thought of Antiquity – The Roman Age to Late Antiquity (1th – 7th Century AD)

  • Spätmitteralterliches Reiterbild
    © Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies

    D02 | Comparative Approaches –Law of Precedent in Late Medieval England

  • Das Gemälde Szene aus dem Berner Totentanz des Malers Albrecht Kauw
    © Bernisches Historisches Museum, Bern / Foto Christine Moor

    D03 (B01) | Order in the Diversity: The Compared Body (16th-19th Centuries)

  • Farbgravur der höchsten Britischen Berge von 1852
    © David Rumsey Map Collection, David Rumsey Map Center, Stanford Libraries / CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 (Unported)

    D04 (B03) | World Knowledge and Comparing the World. Ethnographic (Travel) Literature and Comparative Science (1850 - 1950)

  • Diagramm aus einer lingusitischen Studie
    © Thomas Corwin Mendenhall / Popular Science Monthly

    D05 | Comparative Reading. Stylistics as a Method of Literary Studies - Formation and Critique

  • Abtrakte Darstellung von Makromolekülen
    © Universität Bielefeld

    D06 (C04) | Comparing at the Interface of the Physical and Life Sciences, 1960 to 2000

The research projects of Project Area E further deepen the findings of the first funding phase by investigating the limits of comparing in a twofold sense: On the one hand, they investigate the limits placed on comparing: Where, how and with what success are limits to comparability asserted? How are comparative operations de-limited and re-limited when operating via algorithms? Conversely, interest is focused on the way in which practices of comparing themselves determine boundaries and confer social efficacy on them. The project’s sub-projects, enquire into the extent to which internal demarcations of boundaries in certain comparative contexts lead to rhetorical and performative assertions of incomparability and stabilise them, or how practices of comparing set boundaries themselves by demarcating units, persons, and groups from one another, thus rendering them recognisable, also for historiography, over extended periods of time.

  • Eine Fotografie des Historikers Reinhart Koselleck
    © Bildarchiv Foto Marburg / Reinhart Koselleck

    E01 (C03) | Terms of Comparing. The Semantics of Comparison (16th – 21st Centuries)

  • Das Gemälde eine Lawine in den Aplen des Malers Philippe Jacques de Loutherbourg
    Philippe Jacques de Loutherbourg, Eine Lawine in den Alpen, 1803, Tate Britain, Photo © Tate, CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0 (Unported) (

    E02 (C01) | Comparative Viewing. Practices of Incomparability and the Theory of the Sublime

  • Abbildung aus der London Illustrated News mit dem Titel Die Ankunft der ersten Lokomotive in Indore, Zentralindien
    © Internet Archive / The University of Michigan Library (

    E03 (B06) | Beyond Racial Discrimination: “Backwardness” and “Indigenous Peoples”

  • Szene aus dem Film Schnittstelle von Harun Farocki
    © Universität Bielefeld

    E05 (C05) | Medial Dispositives of Comparing: The Operative Image according to Harun Farocki

  • © Sammlung des Schweizerischen Roten Kreuzes; Fotografie Bibliothèque de Genève, Archives A. & G. Zimmermann

    E06 | Comparative practices in the genesis, perpetuation, and transformation of «national literature». The case of German-speaking Switzerland

Project Area F explores the relation between practices of comparing and processes of standardisation and globalisation. As the first funding phase has highlighted, processes of standardisation and globalisation – as well as their contestation – can be observed in increasing numbers since the 19th century. This relation has two dimensions, which the project area will examine in more detail in the second funding phase: First, practices of comparing have become standardised and have diffused globally. Entities as diverse and varied as "races", "companies", "writers", "real estate", "states" or "universities" have been construed as objects of comparison and compared and evaluated within the framework of a global comparative horizon according to uniform criteria such as "artistic value," "prices," "development," "power," or "excellence." Second, practices of comparing have also themselves contributed to processes of standardisation and globalisation. The projects in project area F therefore study the preconditions, manifestations, limits, and effects of processes of standardisation and globalisation initiated and shaped by practices of comparing across a wide range of research topics—from 19th-century discourses on race, Nobel Prizes in literature, cars and real estate markets to contemporary power comparisons and rankings.

  • Französische Gravur des Anführers der Haitanischen Revolution Toussaint Louverture
    © John Carter Brown Library

    F01 (A03) | (World) Order and Concepts of the Future. Racist Practices of Comparing in the Caribbean (1791-1912)

  • Die Nobelpreisurkunde von Luise Glück
    © The Nobel Foundation 2020, Calligrapher: Susan Duvnäs, Book binder: Leonard Gustafssons Bokbinderi AB, Photo reproduction: Lovisa Engblom

    F02 |  “Greenwich Meridian of Literature”? The Nobel Prize as a Global Standard of Comparing

  • Werbung von General Motors für das Oldsmobile
    © General Motors

    F03 (A02) | Practices of comparing in Supplier Competition and Customer Orientation: The American and the German Automotive Industry in the 20th Century

  • Die erste Darstellung des Monopoly Spielbrettes
    © Charles B. Darrow / Monopoly

    F04 (B07) | Invest Globally, Comparing Locally? Nationalisation and Internationalisation of Property Valuation Standards since the 1970s

  • Weltkarte verzerrt proporational zur globalen Reichtumsverteilung
    © Worldmapper, CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 (Unported)

    F05 (A01) | Comparing Power in Times of Global Political Change, 1970-2020

  • © Universitätsbibliothek Frankfurt am Main

    F07 | Analogies between Comparisons as Mechanisms of “Departicularization”? On the Construction of Resonances between Colonial and Metropolitan Formations of Comparisons in National “Founding Debates” in the German Empire (1871-1918)

  • © Universität Bielefeld

    INF | Data Infrastructure and Digital Humanities: Digital Practices in the Humanities

  • © Universität Bielefeld

    Ö | Making of: Communities of Practice. Humanities and Society in Relation

  • © Universität Bielefeld

    Z | Central Tasks of the Collaborative Research Centre

Finished Subprojects of funding phase 1 (2016-2020)

Das Teilprojekt untersuchte die deutschen Rundschauzeitschriften als wichtiges Medium der deutschen Kriegspublizistik in den Jahren 1914-18 und arbeitete dabei die Operationen und Funktionen des kulturellen Vergleichens heraus. Der Forschungsansatz des TP bestand darin, diese Zeitschriften als ein spezifisches Medium zu begreifen, das durch seine formale Organisation als Netzwerk von unterschiedlich gearteten Texten und durch seine thematische Ausrichtung auf die Beschreibung der eigenen Nation in der Konkurrenz mit anderen selbst eine umfassende Praxis des kulturellen Vergleichens darstellte.

Kai Kauffmann

Malte Lorenzen

Das Teilprojekt untersuchte die in den Amerikas in den ersten Dekaden des 20. Jahrhunderts neu entstehenden identitätspolitischen Vergleichspraktiken in Kulturproduktion, Sozialwissenschaft und Politik. Dabei interessierten vor allem die Vergleiche zweiter Ordnung: a.) Mit Rückgriff auf welche Vergleichshinsichten werden Individuen und Gemeinschaften verglichen? und b.) Durch die Verwendung welcher unterschiedlicher Hinsichten ergeben sich Inkommensurabilitäten oder fügen sich die in den Vergleichen auftretenden Ähnlichkeiten und Unterschiede zu einem kohärenten Gesamtbild, d. h. zu einem übergreifenden komplexen Vergleich auf der Grundlage von ‚Indigeneity‘ bzw. ‚Blackness‘, zusammen?

Olaf Kaltmeier
Wilfried Raussert

Mitarbeiterinnen und Mitarbeiter
Pablo Campos
Susana Rocha Teixeira

Der englische Roman des 18. Jahrhunderts kann als Ort der Verhandlung gesellschaftlichen Wandels betrachtet werden, wobei explizite und implizite Vergleiche zwischen Figuren, die sowohl thematisch als auch durch erzählerische Mittel hergestellt werden, eine zentrale Rolle spielen. Entscheidend ist dabei, dass gesellschaftlich-diskursive Vergleichspraktiken nicht nur mit literarischen Mitteln thematisiert, kommentiert und bewertet werden, sondern dass literarische Figuren auch dem Aushandeln neuer Vergleichshinsichten dienen, welche ihrerseits in die Gesellschaft zurückwirken. Das TP untersuchte dieses Ineinandergreifen literarisch-diskursiver und gesellschaftlich-diskursiver Vergleichspraktiken vor dem Hintergrund der Modernisierung der englischen Gesellschaft.

Marcus Hartner
Ralf Schneider

Kristina Ebeling

Das Teilprojekt entfaltete eine Epochen übergreifende Paradoxie in der Erfahrung und Gestaltung von Subjektivität: Das Individuelle gilt als unvergleichlich und wird doch durch einen sozial-gesellschaftlichen Kontext des Vergleichens hergestellt. Autobiographische Texte bilden eine exponierte Form dieser grundlegenden, durch vielfältige historisch-narrative Operationen des Vergleichens evozierten und zugleich dargestellten Spannung. Das geschichts- und literaturwissenschaftliche Projekt verfolgte die dabei implizit und explizit zum Ausdruck kommenden Vergleichspraktiken exemplarisch an Texten des 11./12. und 19. Jahrhunderts.

Franz Arlinghaus
Walter Erhart

Carina Engel
Lena Gumpert
Mareike Gronich
Simon Siemianowski

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