Research Institute Social Cohesion (RISC) can start main phase

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) decided to fund the new Research Institute Social Cohesion (RISC) with participation of the University of Konstanz for an initial period of four years.

The Research Institute Social Cohesion is an alliance of eleven university institutes and research bodies, which are located in ten different federal states and – as a consequence – are also looking at the regional diversity of social cohesion in Germany. Together, the over 100 researchers from a large number of different disciplines will use empirical studies, conceptual groundwork and large-scale comparisons to develop practical approaches that contribute to meeting current social challenges. They will cover aspects such as identities and regional worlds of experience, inequalities and solidarity, media and culture of conflict, polarization and populism, but also anti-Semitism and hate crime, and study these in a European comparison and beyond.

Nationwide research
In the 18-month preliminary phase of the RISC, during which the concept for setting up the institute was developed, an extensive research and transfer programme with over 70 sub-projects and cross-institute work domains was drawn up, which will be put into practice from 1 June 2020 onwards.

Alongside the University of Konstanz, TU Berlin, the universities of Bielefeld, Bremen, Frankfurt am Main, Halle-Wittenberg, Hanover and Leipzig as well as the Soziologisches Forschungsinstitut Göttingen (Sociological Research Institute, University of Göttingen), the Leibniz Institute For Media Research in Hamburg and the Institute for Democracy and Civil Society in Jena are also members of the alliance.

Konstanz division
The researchers working in the Konstanz division will primarily explore which key concepts are typical for social cohesion and how its narrative unfolds in Germany. In view of the current crisis, the question of social cohesion is particularly urgent, says law professor Daniel Thym, who is in charge of the Konstanz division: “The global corona crisis is demanding a lot from all of us, both individually and collectively, namely the courage for self-imposed isolation on the one hand and experiments with new forms of solidarity on the other: In our personal lives, at work, in the nation state and across borders. The current crisis is an example of how cohesion must always have a solid institutional foundation, be actively lived in and by society and have a public narrative.”

Apart from the legal shift in the concept of membership against the background of migration and integration, research priorities in Konstanz especially include cultural “narratives” in the sense of narratives powerful in society as a whole that create a collective identity and determine the positioning of individuals and groups in that society.

Through historical and ethnographic research, the team will examine the phenomenon of inclusion and exclusion in the framework of gainful employment. In addition, the Konstanz division of the RISC will deal in an international comparison with the political and social consequences for social cohesion as a result of changing media infrastructures and transformation experiences worldwide.

Communicating cohesion
Apart from delivering scientific insights and related policy advice, the Konstanz researchers want to stimulate interactive processes at the local level. Among the planned measures are a participatory narrative project and a further training programme for integration coordinators. As an overarching contribution to research and transfer, the RISC team in Konstanz also plans to publish a collective work on “Key Concepts of Social Cohesion”. It will demonstrate various dimensions of cohesion from a scientific perspective and also make them accessible to a non-scientific audience.

Konstanz research priority “Cultural Studies”
The Konstanz division of the Research Institute Social Cohesion is part of the “Cultural Studies” research priority at the University of Konstanz. The researchers in Konstanz from the fields of law, history and literature as well as cultural and social anthropology participating in the RISC will work closely, among others, with the Cultural Studies Research Centre (ZKF), of which Daniel Thym is a member of the managing board. The Cultural Studies Research Centre deals primarily with cultural phenomena and social self-concept processes. Under its umbrella, researchers from various disciplines explore topics such as integration and disintegration, migration of people, ideas and aesthetic forms, sites of memory as well as different cultures of appearance and representation.

Key facts:

  • The Research Institute Social Cohesion with division in Konstanz starts main phase. The institute is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.
  • The alliance of eleven university institutes and research bodies, which are located in ten different federal states, will develop practical approaches that contribute to meeting current social challenges.
  • The Konstanz division, headed by law professor Daniel Thym, will study how social cohesion has been changing from a legal, cultural, historical and anthropological perspective.
  • Start of the main phase: 1 June 2020.
  • Funding sum for the Konstanz division: Around 2.2 million euros.
  • Funding period: Initially, four years.
  • More information about cultural studies at the University of Konstanz.