Interview to Dissertation Awards
Left: Clemens Eisenmann. Photo: Oliver Wiegner,
Right: Zoltán Boldizsár Simon. Photo: Thomas Abel
Excellent papers: The BGHS congratulates the awardees of the dissertation prize 2018
Every year the Universitätsgesellschaft (University Society) awards the Dissertations Prize to doctoral theses completed at Bielefeld University with the distinction of summa cum laude. On 24 January two Alumni of the BGHS were awarded for their Dissertation projects in 2018, Clemens Eisenmann (Faculty of Sociology) and Zoltán Boldizsár Simon (Faculty of History, Philosophy and Theology).
What were their theses about, how was the process behind and what does it mean to receive such an award? We asked Clemens and Zoltan:
How would you describe your Dissertation in one sentence?
CE: In my Dissertation I analyzed spirituality in Yoga as a social practice.
ZBS: It’s about a novel way we conceive ourselves and the world as historical today - this is what I try to capture by the notion of unprecedented change.
What does that mean exactly?
CE: Spirituality is mostly understood internally as something very subjective. In contrast to this, I asked about spirituality as a social practice. The book offers – for the first time – an encompassing ethnographic analysis of Yoga and describes Inwardness in the context of physical exercises, yoga philosophy and (everyday) rituals as a perceivable social activity. It is a contribution to sociology of religion and sociology of the body, a further development of qualitative methodology as well as a reflection on fundamental questions of social theory.
ZBS: I explore the transformation of our overall historical sensibility, ongoing since the middle of the last century, since Western societies conceive of themselves as facing previously unimaginable changes in the technological and ecological spheres as arising out of the workings of increased human powers.
What is it like to receive the Dissertation prize?
CE: I was very happy! When you work on a project for many years, forms of recognition are sometimes rare. So even bigger the joy, especially when you see that other people are also interested in the topic.
ZBS: For me it was a pleasure as well. Now I’m looking forward to the book version coming out with Bloomsbury in June.
How did you feel about the event?
CE: I think it was a really inspiring event, especially the interviews which showed the variety of fields of research, which fits to the values of ZiF (Center of Interdisciplinary Research). I also enjoyed the music and many talks afterwards.
How did being a part of BGHS help you during your Dissertation?
ZBS: I definitely benefited from being a part of BGHS. When I pulled together a project proposal for the BGHS 2013, I planned to focus on theoretical questions related to history understood as historical writing. I was of course aware that the conceptual work I was about to carry out would enable me to talk about history in the sense of human affairs, but I wasn't sure that I want to venture into that. The structures from BGHS enabled me to participate in lots of conferences where I shaped the core ideas of the project, just as well as in internal discussions within BGHS and faculty.
The result was a book which - unlike the original proposal - pays equal attention to questions of historical and historiographical change in providing an overall conceptualization of the altered historical condition of Western societies.
CE: The interdisciplinary BGHS was an ideal framework for my research. There was always an open and warm atmosphere (likewise during my work at the faculty), which made it possible to have an inspiring exchange with colleagues and students also from different faculties. Next to scholarly exchange and financial support, there are the little details, which sometimes are most important. Such as technical support, friendly interactions and helping out with administrative issues. This supported me a lot to succeed writing my theses.
Are there any advices you’d like to give other doctoral researchers?
CE: Oh, that’s a tough one. Every empiric phenomenon needs a different perspective, maybe a different attitude of research or even personality. There are a lot of blind alleys, but in fact I’m not sad about all of those detours, because some of them are just part of the process. Maybe it’s a helpful advice to keep in mind that I also know of no one, who didn’t struggle. Especially in this regard I’m full of gratitude for the support of my supervisors Bettina Heintz and Jörg Bergmann.
The official reporting by Bielefeld University:
Awarded: The best dissertations of 2018
Book by Zoltán Boldizsár Simon:
History in Times of Unprecedented Change
The book by Clemens Eisenmann will be published this year in the series "Qualitative Soziologie" (Qualitative Sociology) by De Gruyter:
"Alles ist Yoga!" Die spirituelle Konstruktion von Wirklichkeit /
Reporting about DFG-prize awardee BGHS-alumnus Marius Meinhof:
Prize for dissertation by Marius Meinhof