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What do we actually do when we compare?

Published 5. Oktober 2017, 09:05 h
Kickoff conference of the Collaborative Research Centre (SFB) ‘Practices of Comparing’

People compare their skills with those of others, companies compare their financial performance, countries compare their gross domestic – comparing is being done everywhere. Nonetheless, research has yet to analyse what it means when comparing is used to order and understand the world. The Collaborative Research Centre (SFB) ‘Practices of Comparing. Ordering and Changing the World’ at Bielefeld University has been taking an interdisciplinary approach to this issue since the beginning of the year. From the 5th to the 7th of October, it is holding its kickoff conference with international guests.


Prof. Dr. Angelika Epple.
Prof. Dr. Angelika Epple. Photo: Bielefeld University/P. Ottendörfer
‘With this conference, we have succeeded for the very first time in bringing together international academics working in this emerging field of research on comparing which transcends the boundaries of disciplines within the Humanities,’ says Professor Dr. Angelika Epple, the spokesperson of the SFB ‘We hope that this international and interdisciplinary exchange will deliver the necessary impetus for ground-breaking research on the act of comparing. This is important if we are to come out of the ivory tower of academia and promote discussion on this topic in society as a whole.’

During the conference, the historian Professor Dr. Ann Laura Stoler (The New School for Social Research New York, USA) will give an evening lecture entitled ‘On the Limits of Comparison’. The literary scholar Professor Dr. Haun Saussy (University of Chicago, USA) will give a lecture entitled ‘Are We Comparing Yet?’ in which he examines what comparing is able to do. Throughout the conference, practices of comparing will be viewed in six cross-disciplinary sections: from analyses of comparative viewing in the history of art, across comparing in the digital age, up to transnational comparing and culture contacts. ‘This stocktaking of the current state of research on the act of comparing will deliver one of the main building blocks for a new way of describing historical change,’ explains the SFB spokesperson and historian Epple.

A total of 59 researchers at Bielefeld University are working in the SFB. With backgrounds in history and literary studies, philosophy, history of art, political science, and law, they are systematically analysing how practices of comparing are used to order and change our world. Epple explains: ‘We are carrying out basic research here and are repeatedly studying the question “What do we actually do when we compare?”’

Collaborative Research Centres are long-term university-based research institutions in which researchers work together within a multidisciplinary research programme – for up to twelve years. They are financed by the German Research Foundation (DFG). The SFB ‘Practices of Comparing’ is being funded with approximately nine million Euros for an initial period of four years starting in January 2017.

The conference language is English. The conference is being held in the CITEC building, Inspiration 1, at Bielefeld University.

Further information:
The website of the Collaborative Research Centre: www.uni-bielefeld.de/sfb1288
The detailed programme for the kickoff conference:
www.uni-bielefeld.de/sfb1288/documents/kickoff_programme.pdf

Gesendet von JBömer in General
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