Research Focus 1 |
Research Focus 2 |
Graduate Research Group:
"Gender as a Category of Knowledge"
How does gender as a category of knowledge function in both implicit and explicit ways in structuring
scientific knowledge? This question lies at the center of the graduate research group which will be
introduced in the following.
On the one hand, the work of the group draws from those disciplines which already have an established
tradition of gender research to reflect upon. On the other hand, disciplines which cannot look back at such
a history, but nevertheless have important contributions to make - for example as it concerns competencies
and research skills regarding the history of science and the sociology of knowledge - are equally part of
the research program.
In supporting such a graduate research group under its auspices, Humboldt-Universität continues a
one hundred year-old tradition of Berlin as a vanguard for research on gender studies which can be traced back
to the pioneers of sexual science, the research projects of Georg Simmel, and the establishment of the first
In order to be able to develop research questions in a transdisciplinary manner , the cooperation between
representatives of different academic disciplines in the study program as well as with regard to academic
advising and mentoring of doctoral students is essential for the success of the graduate research school.
It is only due to pragmatic considerations that those scientific disciplines find themselves at the center
of the graduate research group which have succeeded in developing gender studies as distinct fields of
research within their own disciplinary boundaries. These include first and foremost: cultural studies and
historical studies, the history of medicine, the social sciences, education, theology and law.
As a result of these pragmatic considerations, the dissertation projects largely emanate from the
disciplines just mentioned, and doctoral students who have backgrounds in these disciplines are especially
supported. This does not mean, however, that the program of the graduate research group remains stuck in
disciplinary conventions or self-defines as gender studies based only in certain disciplines. It also does
not mean that the graduate research group only recruits students who have graduated from Gender Studies at
Humboldt-Universität - the selection of the current scholarship holders and associate members is proof
of that - but rather that the graduate research group's ultimate goal is to ensure that the results of
interdisciplinary cooperation are made to reflect back on the conceptualization and self-definition of
the disciplines themselves.
The guiding questions are to be developed transdisciplinarily and can be placed into two major foci of
research: (1) Construction of gendered categories in the disciplines and (2) the gendered codification of
scientific objects. The inclusion of disciplinary-based research debates and the communication of this
knowledge via common discussion forums in the graduate research group offers the chance to return this
knowledge back to the disciplines and to allow it to influence disciplinary-based debates in an innovative
way. At the same time, gender research is provided with a more sustained methodical and disciplinary basis.
This line of inquiry follows two different trajectories: First, research projects oriented towards and based
on specific disciplines are combined in working groups which comparatively examine synchronous questions
in order to promote interdisciplinary exchange and facilitate transdisciplinary analyses (for example
'reproduction' as a central concept in early modern anatomy, 'reproduction' as a problem in jurisdiction,
'reproduction' as a media technique, etc.). Second, individual dissertation projects develop diachronic
questions in that they draw from the spectrum of participating disciplines (such as metaphors of gender
in textual and visual discourses in medicine, jurisdiction, theology, etc.), while the interdisciplinary
make-up of the graduate research group ensures the appropriate consideration of the relevant disciplinary
The research projects are supervised by representatives of at least two different academic disciplines.
On the one hand, this measure is seen as guaranteeing an interdisciplinary approach to the chosen topic,
while on the other hand, it is secured that all doctoral students receive appropriate mentoring. All
projects equally relate to the Begriffswerkstatt , which provides its participants with a thorough
reflection of categorizations and meanings as well as familiarizes them with the many ways in which meaning
is (re)signified and how it is conveyed in different contexts. The Begriffswerkstatt thus aids in
the gradual establishment of a 'tool box', which offers instruments for research on specific topics and
which supports the gradual development of a methodology that transcends thematic boundaries. As a result
of these supervising and mentoring strategies and the organization of a Begriffswerkstatt as a space
for (self)critical reflection and innovation, a network model is being set up which may proof as exemplary
for other interdisciplinary projects.
In other words, the Berlin graduate research group takes up the already existing interdisciplinary
structure of gender studies, especially at Humboldt-Universität , in order to further develop a
transdisciplinary approach to research. Gender studies can foreground the intersections and close
connections between individual disciplines in a way and to an extent other disciplines are not able to.
This becomes especially clear in the work of the graduate research group which pursues the question of
how the disciplines are both similar to and differ from one another with regard to codifications of gender.
Thus, the research program offers the opportunity to develop ?gender' as a category of knowledge with
respect to its conceptualization, theoretical embededness , methodological potentials, and thematic foci.
Moreover, the work of the graduate research group offers a chance to contribute to a clarification of
concepts used in gender studies as well as in the participating disciplines, which can prove beneficial
to both the disciplines themselves and to the development of a productive cooperation between representatives
of different disciplines. In addition, this approach to research allows for a focus on urgent problems in
research as well as in everyday politics which run counter to disciplinary studies (such as the histories
of specific disciplines) and which so far are taken up only partially and are investigated only with
regard to selected aspects. These problems should be examined by drawing from the synergy effects that
come as a result of the interdisciplinary make-up of Gender Studies at Humboldt-Universität and the
opportunities for dialogue between different disciplines which may arise as a result of these effects.
This transdisciplinary approach and the comparative perspective which accompanies it serve to enable
students of the graduate research group to sharpen their awareness of specific inclusions and exclusions
of gender in the formation of science and the (re)production of disciplinary knowledge. Besides cultural
history, the history of media and the history of science, other fields of research which have been
established parallel to gender studies or have grown out of gender studies will certainly benefit
from this approach to research. These include race studies, postcolonial studies, identity studies,
masculinity studies and ability studies.