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Summer School 2017: Digging and Reconstructing vs. Reading/Viewing and Interpreting: How Do Our Research Methods Affect Our Understanding of What Culture Is?

July 24 - August 6, 2017 | Freie Universitaet Berlin, Seminarzentrum, Room L115, Habelschwerdter Allee 45, 14195 Berlin

Disciplines within the humanities are most diverse and all-encompassing. One might even be tempted to use the term “human studies / studia humanitatis” for the systematic exploration of the “world” in general - since such exploration (including a strictly scientific one) is inevitably conducted by human beings. In this sense, the natural sciences are also part of the human and humanistic endeavor to understand, conceptualize, and shape the world we live in. Yet such an approach might be too simplistic. For it is reasonable indeed, to distinguish between the various human attempts at satisfying their (insatiable) curiosity and to reserve the term and concept of “science” for those fields of exploration where an empirical methodology in fact applies - a differentiation that was introduced during the Early Modern Age. The disciplines within the humanities (including the social sciences) have to do without this method of experimenting. As already Aristotle stated, the concept of probability requires that events contradicting all probabilities indeed occur; otherwise, one would be dealing with (natural) laws.
This commonality between the disciplines within the humanities notwithstanding, they seem to be distinct as regards the “objectivity” (the status) of their findings; in other words, there seems to be a significant difference between studies that focus on the discovery, reconstruction, and systematization of objects pertaining to material culture, and such as focus on conferring “sense” upon objects from the past. Against this backdrop, the summer school will explore how the objects scholars deal with influence their methodology, line of argument, and conception of the “objective” and “use value” of their studies.

Examining this vast field with instructors not only from the various international institutions of the network, but also from different disciplines of the humanities, the PCD’s summer school is conceived as an intellectual laboratory, which brings together young researchers from all over the world. Rather than being a ‘school’ in the pedagogical sense, its aim is to encourage discussions among all involved. Under the umbrella of a complex general topic, each particular session provides all participants with the opportunity of discussing specific materials and case studies from various areas in an interdisciplinary atmosphere. The individual topics and proposals for discussion are linked to the network’s research agenda, which focuses on describing principles of cultural dynamics. The individual sessions are taught by postdocs and senior scholars, whose research focus pertains to the network’s field of study.

In addition to the Incoming and Outgoing Junior Fellows of the network’s mobility program, circulating during the year, the PCD network invited graduate and doctoral students from all partner universities to take part in the annual summer school at Freie Universitaet Berlin.