Gender studies is an interdisciplinary field of research that for several decades has made an extraordinary contribution to the analysis of discipline-specific conceptions of gender. The Research Training Group has taken up this interdisciplinary approach in order to explore characteristic formations of gender as a category of knowledge within each discipline, as well as to examine comparatively the differences and commonalities among the disciplines and their respective usage of this category of knowledge. The Research Training Group takes as a starting point the increasingly discernible areas of overlap between the theory/history of science on the one hand and gender studies on the other. This overlap is a direct result of their common function to analyse scientific processes critically and self-reflexively. The Research Training Group’s objective is twofold: Firstly, ‚gender as a category of knowledge’ aims at bringing the critical potential of gender studies to bear upon each separate discipline’s approach to their epistemological basis of knowledge. Secondly, the transdisciplinary agenda of the group intends to provide a solid methodological foundation for gender studies.
The main focus of the Research Training Group is on the implicit and explicit role gender plays within the structuring of scientific knowledge. The Research Training Group is comprised of those disciplines that already have an established tradition of gender research and/or those that can provide research skills regarding the history of science and the sociology of knowledge. These disciplines are Literary and Cultural Studies (including German, English and American Studies, Scandinavian Studies and Romance Studies), General Linguistics, History, European Ethnology, Medicine, History of Medicine (including history of science), Social Sciences, Pedagogy, Theology/Religious Studies, Law and Economics. 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 sexology, the research projects of Georg Simmel, and the establishment of the first psychoanalytical institute.
The large field of gender studies has been pragmatically limited to two areas that are particularly suitable for the integration of the disciplines in question and that are able to focus their interests on a specific thematic field. The first area centres on the mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion as well as on the inscription of gendered categories into the production of knowledge, the terminology and the structuring of knowledge in the respective disciplines. The second area examines in what way the materiality and corporeality of each discipline’s objects of knowledge are coded in gendered terms. This question is of particular relevance to all disciplines involved in the Research Training Group. The plan for the future is to leave the first focus nearly unchanged, but to modify the second one: A shift from physical materiality/bodies to the social body shall facilitate a more thorough investigation of the transfer of knowledge: How are presuppositions about gender as well as concepts and paradigms of gender transferred from collective and cultural forms of knowledge to the realm of individual experience and understanding, and what is their impact on scientific knowledge? This shift further implies a stronger emphasis on the history and theory of knowledge in the first area. This modification was already initiated in the winter semester of 2007/08 and manifests itself in the selection of new PhD students and their research projects in January 2008, in the new structure of the weekly colloquium as well as in the topics of the study programm.