Promotionsprogramm "Transformationsprozesse in Europäischen Gesellschaften"

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Aims and Objectives

Our doctoral program evolved out of a course established in 2007 by the Institute of European Ethnology at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and the Departments of Social and Cultural Anthropology in Graz and Basel.

Our positive experiences with this course led to the establishment of a comprehensive international doctoral program for cultural and social anthropology. Our aim was to establish professional channels of communication between senior academics and doctoral students, both at home and abroad. The resulting doctoral program, “Transformations in European Societies”, was launched in October 2012. It is a joint project of the universities of Basel, Graz, Inverness (University of the Highlands and Islands), Copenhagen, Munich (LMU), Murcia, Tel Aviv, and Zagreb.

Research Areas

Societies and social spaces change constantly, and certainly not just since people have started talking about globalization. This means that profound cultural transformations are a constant throughout history. Historical and contemporary processes and phenomena linked to these transformations lie at the heart of the research agenda of our doctoral program, which deals with European societies even though the transformations occur in global contexts.

Prospective doctoral students are encouraged to develop research questions related to the research agendas of the participating institutions and scholars. Our doctoral program focuses on three closely linked research areas: migration, mobility, multilocality; urban anthropology; and ethnography of work. These areas are especially fruitful for the study of social change and are incorporating the varied methods of the social sciences. Prospective students, however, may also propose research projects on other forms and aspects of social transformation.

Mobility, Migration, Multilocality

Against the backdrop of globalization and migration in the second half of the twentieth century, topics such as ‘mobility,’ ‘migration,’ and ‘multilocality’ became key paradigms of social research. The same can be said about transcultural anthropology, a perspective associated with these topics. Looking at how different actors cross borders, and what their cultures of knowledge are, both makes it possible to grasp the nature of transnational spaces, borders, and regional and socio-cultural formations.

Doctoral projects in this area should look at ‘liquefying’ and (in some cases) ‘re-solidifying’ traditional spaces. In line with contemporary social theory, these spaces should be seen as physical as well as temporal, social, cultural, economic, and political spaces. Accordingly, the projects should address the social conditions of mobility and migration, as well as their specific localities. Moreover, they should discuss which processes of re-positioning can be observed; which regional and social, political and imaginary links are emerging in the course of movements of people; and how these links can be analyzed.

Urban Anthropology

There has been a global re-ordering and re-positioning of cities in the last decades driven by globalization and the extension of networks involving people and spaces. These processes involve economic, political, social, and cultural activities.

In some instances, the dynamic changes in question lead to homogenization, but they are also always over-determined by developments specific to concrete places which means they play out differently in different cities. Cities do not just develop within the confines of their political boundaries but are interlinked with both their immediate surroundings and distant regions of the world. At the same time, there is a ‘renaissance of the city’: all over the world, city life is becoming ever more attractive. This gives rise to questions concerning the sustainability of city life, the conceptions of public space informing it, and the revitalization of urban communities. What is the ‘good life city’ of the future?

Ethnography of Work

In the last twenty years, research in European ethnology has increasingly applied ethnographic approaches and concepts to “work” and to the radical process of economization affecting the life-world in post-Fordist times. Scholars in the field are discussing the usefulness of an extended concept of work, which takes into account people’s lives – and thus also refers to subjectification and the blurring of boundaries between work and life.

Building on this research and the corresponding concepts, doctoral students working in this field are asked to produce case studies on the transformations occurring in the contemporary world of work. Such case studies—by way of their proximity to everyday life and experiences as well as their focus on actors—promise to go beyond the existing analyses of the subjectification of work in industrial sociology. In other words, they underscore the importance of the ethnography of work for Social and Cultural Anthropology.