Center of Excellence “Cultural Foundations of Social Integration”

The “Cultural Foundations of Integration” Center of Excellence investigates processes of integration and disintegration over the centuries and on all social levels – from the challenges facing cooperation within families and between neighbors to political questions on a global scale. Through their linkage with research that is empirically structured, yet oriented around basic conceptual principles, ongoing, publicly discussed problems are explored in a manner both theoretically grounded and developed along concrete lines.

Through close calibration, the individual research components here create space for both quiet, concentrated research and stimulating debates and presentations. In addition, the variety of participating disciplines – history and sociology, social and cultural anthropology, literature, art, and media studies, philosophy, the political sciences, administration, and law – and close collaboration of international researchers encourages a process of sustained and lively scholarly exchange.

Research in the tense field demarcated by the concepts of “culture” and “integration”

The Center's participating scholars do not generally understand integration, one of the key concepts in social theory and system theory, in a traditional normative sense. Rather, they place “disintegration” alongside it as a concept of equal foundational significance. The Center generally understands “integration” as referring to the construction of patterns of social order having a binding impact. It is by no means certain that this process succeeds. Precisely in view of recent developments such as progressive globalization, it is important to discover new models for describing decentered organizational processes.

If integration is not privileged as an ideal case, the corresponding cultural concept has to be treated differently. In the Center's understanding, culture should not be approached as guaranteeing social unity and closure – but rather as a heterogeneous force-field with diffuse borders. We here find a more intense focus on non-Western conceptual worlds and ideas of similarity that are viable in a culture-theoretical framework.

Research fields

Four research fields render the Center's theme concrete. By intention they do not represent organizational units, so as not to obstruct interconnectedness between the projects and the competencies of the various academic disciplines.

  • Identification and the Politics of Identity: How and under what circumstances do political, ethnic, and religious forms of affiliation determine integration? This research field investigates relevant processes and constellations.
  • Practices of Knowledge and Non-Knowledge: Narrating, demonstrating, performing – in what manner do such communicative processes form social knowledge and non-knowledge?
  • The Cultural Modeling of Hierarchy and Violence: This research field is focused on the unstable border-conditions of hierarchies and their dependence on situations marked by force and violence.
  • Cultural Dynamics of Religion: A range of differentiation processes stand at the center of this research field: How do religious communities develop, what institutional forms do they assign themselves, and how do they influence each other?

Institutional Structures

The Center integrates already-advanced students into its research framework. The two M.A. study programs “Studies in European Culture” and “International Administration and Conflict Management” not only form a bridge to teaching but are also meant to interest younger researchers in the Center's theme.

In the doctoral program on “Europe in the Globalized World,” in various research groups including those for early career scholars, and in a broad range of projects, doctoral students are supervised intensively and in a cross-disciplinary framework.

Inspired by well-known research centers such as the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, the Institute for Advanced Study Konstanz offers both early career and established scholars much-needed time and space for focused work on both articles and full-length studies.

The professorships in Cultural Theory and Methodology, Ethnology/Cultural Anthropology, and History of Religions, together with the junior professorships – in Economic History, German Politics and Public Administration, History of the Humanities and the Social Sciences, Political Anthropology, and Romance Literature – have expanded the disciplinary spectrum of the humanities and social sciences at Konstanz, at the same time they remain embedded in the university's traditional departments.

Moving Forward

The Center of Excellence has made the long-term enrichment of scholarly research into a central goal, and this through a series of concrete steps:

  • developing new procedures for the autonomous and quality-oriented distribution of resources
  • shaping organizational structures and research conditions in a framework of gender equality and in a family-friendly manner
  • improving international visibility and cooperation and
  • establishing transfer zones between scholarship and society.