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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Department of Cultural History and Theory

Projects with External Funding

Listed below you will find current research projects with external funding at the Department of Cultural History and Theory.

Mind-Reading as Cultural Technique: A Retrospective Approach to the Imaginary of Digital Media

The research project makes use of archive-based historical methods in order to investigate the correlations of digital media technologies and cultural techniques of mind-reading. The temporal horizon ranges from approximately 1880 – when the concept of mind-reading was constituted in the field of parapsychology – to the 1940s and 1950s – when researchers began to present computer programs as „mind-reading machines“ in the context of cybernetics and artificial intelligence.
Christian Kassung, Laurens Schlicht (DFG, since August 2015)


Hidden Kosmos — Reconstructing A. v. Humboldt's »Kosmos-Lectures«

Digital Reconstruction of Alexander von Humboldt’s “Kosmos-Lectures”

Alexander von Humboldt’s “Kosmos-Lectures” were delivered in two independent cycles at Berlin University (today’s Humboldt University) and in the neighbouring Singakademie (which today houses the Maxim Gorki Theatre). The lectures were the most eminent events in the years of 1827 and 1828. Their crucial importance, both with respect to Humboldt’s own oeuvre – especially considering his seminal work “Cosmos – A Sketch of the Physical Description of the Universe” that was published several years later – and with respect to the history of science and culture in general, is in stark contrast to the extremely precarious situation of sources about the lectures themselves. Most of the existing transcripts that were written by attendees of the lectures have not been published and Humboldt’s own manuscripts that formed the basis of the lecture have not yet been thoroughly researched. In this light, the project “Hidden Kosmos” will tap this research field for the very first time. The focus is on making all transcripts that are known today available digitally.

Christian Kassung, Dominik Erdmann, Marius Hug, Christian Thomas (Humboldt  University, Exzellenzinitiative, Förderlinie Freiräume, since June 2014)


Excellenzcluster Image Knowledge Gestaltung

An interdisciplinary laboratory

Complex problems cannot be solved within the boundaries of a single scientific discipline. They require the knowledge and expertise of researchers from different fields of science who come together in a cluster. The individual disciplines themselves ultimately benefit from reinforcement and enrichment. The Interdisciplinary Laboratory Image Knowledge Gestaltung brings together the humanities, the natural sciences and engineering sciences, medicine and - for the first time in basic research - design and architecture. More than 25 different disciplines have joined together in this interdisciplinary laboratory with the objective to strengthen and enrich each discipline through interdisciplinary collaboration.

Horst Bredekamp and Wolfgang Schäffner (DFG, since 2012)


Center for Jewish Studies Berlin Brandenburg

In the process of modernisation connected to the inner-Jewish Haskala (Enlightenment), Jewish research from the theological disciplines gravitated more and more towards fields such as philosophy, literary sciences, history, cultural history and theory and art history. The Center for Jewish Studies [Zentrum Jüdische Studien Berlin-Brandenburg] stands for the transdisciplinary integration of Jewish Studies, as well as for the promotion of dialogue in the research landscape. The central concern is to render transparent the plurality of already existing research and to intensify synergies between the researchers and the research centers by means of a wide range of collaborations.

Christina von Braun (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, since 2012)


Spectral Self-Recording: Occult Communication and Science in the Twentieth-Century

Subproject within the joint-project Social Innovation Through the Non-Hegemonic Production of Knowledge. Occult Phenomena at the intersections of science, media history, and cultural transfer (1770-1970)

This project examines the medial history of physical measuring instruments such as the nineteenth century “self-recorder” (literally, the “self-writer” [Selbstschreiber]). Starting from the premise that there was both a technical and epistemological correspondence between the devices deployed in spiritualism and the physical sciences during the nineteenth century, two principle questions arise: First, under what circumstances were technical instruments discursively reconstructed as spiritual or technical mediums? Second, to what extent did “new” spiritual apparatuses always already constitute a medium? We contend that these considerations comprise an essential chapter within the history of scientific objectivity, as well as that of styles of reasoning in metaphysics, physiology, and psychology. In particular, this study aims to demonstrate the structural parallels between nineteenth century conceptions of physical-mechanical objectivity and the legitimating discourse that surrounded spiritual media and apparatuses. In this way the reconstruction, analysis and discussion of the self-recorder links the strategies and practices of objectivity with the history of spiritualism.

Christian Kassung (DFG, since 2011)


Histories and Genealogies of Cultural Theories

Subproject within the Excellence Clusters Topoi. The Formation and Transformation of Space and Knowledge in Ancient Civilizations

The aim of the research group is the analysis of spatial practices and techniques of space production as well as space organization since antiquity. Taking classical antiquity as a starting point, these spatial practices and techniques are explored with regard to alterations and transformations that gave rise to and resulted in the reorganization and reevaluation of cultural theory. The six research projects of the CSG-II focus on either a corporeal, a social, an agricultural, a metrological or a networked epistemology of space. In doing so, they aim at specific perspectives as well as at a historical synthesis of cultural theories.

Iris Därmann (DFG, seit 2007)


Nature/Culture: On a Mythical Mythical Demarcation and its History of Transformation

Subproject within the SFB 664 Transformations of Antiquity

At the centre of this subproject is the history of transformation of the demarcation between nature and culture within the field of ancient myths of cultural emergence, the political philosophy of the early modern era and the human sciences (Anthropology, Psychoanalysis, Ethnology). The focus is on the following questions: How and under which historico-cultural conditions are the ancient distinctions of physis and techne, of physis and nomos transformed into the modern fundamental difference of nature and culture? What is the role of counter terms such as society, civilisation and history that were regularly assigned to the concept of nature in the 17th and 18th century? How is the demarcation between nature and culture constituted and dramatized? What are the violent acts, practices, techniques, cultural techniques and inventions, by which the transition from nature to culture is implemented? Which specific animals and relationships between human and animal thereby come into focus?

Iris Därmann (DFG)