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

.:. Internationales Forschungszentrum für Kulturwissenschaften .:. International Research Center for Cultural Studies .:.Home calendar about fellowships aktuell publications media

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.

Certainty Undermined - Life-worlds and Knowledge in Transition
Academic year 2011-2012

Global flows of various kinds have long been a core topic of cultural analysis. But now, more than ever before, the transnational movement of capital, people, and information impacts stock and labor markets, uproots social relations, and shakes communities and worldviews. People's life-worlds-the domain of self-evident and shared practices, beliefs, values, and communication structures-are undergoing far-reaching changes comparable to those affecting class structures, sociocultural milieus, and gender roles. From a historical perspective, such radical shifts are not entirely novel. To a lesser extent and more limited range, they also characterized the genesis of the modern capitalist world in the nineteenth century, and some of the changes date even further back in European and world history. The new IFK_focus seeks to probe the specificity of such historical and contemporary transformative movements, with particular emphasis on the knowledge, information, and symbolic systems shaped by people's cultural and geographic contexts.

The dynamism of knowledge, media, and life-worlds sketched above raises a series of fruitful questions: Which historical factors characterize(d) the changing modes of knowledge production in science and society? Further, how have everyday life-worlds been altered through the creation, dissemination, and reception of new information (technologies) since the birth of the Gutenberg galaxy? Will advances in electronic communication dramatically change the architecture of archives, the logic of cultural memory and canonicity, and the modalities of retrieving, decoding, and contextualizing diverse forms of knowledge? What role do media and information technologies play in today's social fabric, its logic of generational break, its uneven access to knowledge, and its notion of the 'political'? The IFK's new research agenda aims to trace and illuminate these diverse processes.

Whether historical or contemporary, the manifold, mutable configurations of culture, political economy, technologies, or the geography of motilities have neither clearly identifiable starting points nor termini. They are best addressed from multiple relational perspectives, since a renewed positivism is unlikely to shed light on these complex phenomena. Careful historical investigation, cultural anthropology, and cultural studies, however, may help to determine the extent and limits of these far-reaching changes. Topics under the rubric of the new research focus may include, but are not limited to:
  • Historical and contemporary case studies of global flows
  • Individualism as a Western construct vs. other notions of the subject and subjectivity
  • Cultural and technological transfer between the "West" and the "Rest"
  • The circulation of (visual) media, images, and aesthetic forms and genres
  • The creation and appropriation of knowledge in various cultural and historical contexts
  • Evidence, perception, and interpretation of media in historical perspective
  • The geography and temporality of mobile cultural producers and migrating knowledge
  • Cultural economies and genres that transcend national and ethnic boundaries


The IFK hopes to address global cultural transfer processes from a wide spectrum of locations, historical periods, and geopolitical perspectives and invites scholars from the humanities, cultural studies, and the social sciences to apply. However, it discourages proposals that are either exclusively theoretical or empirical in nature. The IFK primarily supports projects that combine empirical investigation with thoughtful theoretical work. Research proposals that present a clearly formulated problem, demonstrate familiarity with the relevant scholarly field(s), and develop an interdisciplinary methodological framework stand the best chance of approval by the international advisory board.

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