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.:. Internationales Forschungszentrum für Kulturwissenschaften .:. International Research Center for Cultural Studies .:.

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Certainty Undermined

Cultures of Evidence


IFK_research foci shall strengthen the IFK's research profile via innovative themes and shall foster individual scholarship and intellectual debate among IFK fellows.

Cultures of Evidence. Reality in the Cultural Sciences
Academic year 2011-2012

In the cultural sciences it is now generally accepted that the impression of "immediacy" persists only so long as one has no knowledge of the conditions by which phenomena are produced, the social coding of one's own perception, and the medial and/or technological arrangement of things. Over the past two decades, such investigations have produced undeniably great achievements. Research into culture has thematized the pictorial worlds of knowledge-production, the cultural construction of gender difference, and other rhetorical arenas of evidence. Focusing on the mediations that permeate our understanding of the world, such studies have made visible the narrative structures underlying historiography, discovered the dramaturgic formulas of passion stored in cultural archives, and deciphered the technological encoding of images. Currently, however, we are witnessing the emer-gence of new questions since the emphasis on semiotics and linguistic foundation of knowledge neglected the resis-tance and relative autonomy of objects.

In the social studies of science, meanwhile it is currently assumed that while the hard sciences construct their ob-jects, the scientist is not lord of the game; though he may create his objects, he remains captive to the object-world thus produced. While he uses media (diagrams, pictures, formulas, texts, etc.) to generate evidence, these media cannot be analyzed in isolation from the space of the laboratories and experimental situations.

The conjecture that the objects of science are at once constructed and existing-mediated and immediate, robust and fragile, artificial and "natural"-points to an interest shared by the social studies of science and other fields of cul-tural research. While not abandoning their skepticism towards concepts of evidence, these fields now appear to be focusing more on the particular logic of things, on the arenas of action in which they are embedded, and on the prac-tical spaces in which formal, medial and discursive operations of perception are carried out. However the achieve-ments of the "linguistic turn" and of constructivism should not be abandoned under the auspices of a na´ve post-semiotic approach. Topics falling under the rubric of "cultures of evidence" include:

  • The relations between philosophical, scientific and forensic forms of proof
  • Evidence in legal decision processes (media, discourses, images)
  • Generating evidence through social rituals
  • Evidence in political processes (perception, decision)
  • Phenomenology and Neurophysiology of perception
  • Anthropological presuppositions in the cultural sciences
  • Evidence in the age of digital sound and image editing
  • Pictorial worlds of social knowledge, graphic representation, charts and statistics

The IFK discourages proposals that are either exclusively theoretical or exclusively empirical in character. It sup-ports projects that combine empirical investigation with thoughtful theoretical work. Research proposals that present a clearly formulated problem, demonstrate familiarity with the scholarly field(s), and develop an interdisciplinary methodological framework stand the best chance of approval by the International Advisory Board.

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