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Research Agenda

The new GRK 2638 is dedicated to questions concerning the nexus of norms, their critique and how norms relate to social change. It seeks to study the specific structures of normative practices common to the arts, law, religion, language and morality. These normative practices are characterized by the way they are always bound to standards like rules are pertinent to artistic genres, moral habits and linguistic conventions. But at the same time, they are also defined when individuals engage in such practices and simultaneously have to critically reflect upon and distance themselves from these very same normative practices and their guiding standards. The GRK’s research agenda follows the hypothesis that in all these contexts – i. e. in arts, law, religion, language and morality – applying a norm in its full sense implies to also critically reflect upon the norm. Consequently, this also implies, that the realization of standards may lead to transformation. The GRK explores the transformative aspect of normativity in these contexts, analysing the similarities and the differences. The GRK does not oppose normativity and transformation, its main objective is to develop an understanding of how transformation is inherent to normativity.

From the GRK’s perspective on normativity, the debate on gender neutrality in language for example shows that standards of normative practices are no given rules, which practitioners merely execute in action as if they were linguistically trained automats. Norms are, from the GRK’s point of view, tied to controversies and diverging interpretations. Applying a rule is a hermeneutical practice that requires situated knowledge regarding the rules and their justifications. And, applying a rule in its full sense is always improvisational and spontaneous. Thus, the application of a rule may lead to its transformation. Transformation can become a standard itself of, for example, artistic practices. By investigating the transformative aspects of normativity, the GRK tries to render intelligible the difference between, on the one hand, innovation for the sake of innovation as a standard that runs the risk of becoming an empty stereotype and, on the other hand, transformation as a hermeneutical standard. The research agenda of the GRK is based on the premise that normativity, understood adequately to the phenomena, needs to be modelled by virtue of the expertise gathered in related but distinct disciplines. This is why the GRK seeks to bring together the knowledge gained in

Philosophy, German Literature, Art History, Studies of Religion, Dutch Studies and Linguistics, Musicology, Theatre Studies, Law Studies, Dance Studies, Film Studies.

The GRK’s research program can be articulated by way of four guiding questions which circumscribe the analytical frame of the GRK’s research agenda.

(1) How is the praxis of applying a norm to be accounted for? Are normative standards tied to critique and if they are how are they tied to critique? In which way has normativity by itself to be understood as being transformative?

(2) Does critical reflection of norms form a continuum of the norms in questions or does critical reflection instigate a break within them? What role does critique play for the continuity and discontinuity of a practice? Are normative practices capable of learning through crisis? What is the collision of norms to be conceptualized?

(3) Is there a difference between, on the one hand traditional conceptions of the application of norms and, on the other hand modern conceptions of the application of norms? Does the self-conception of norm-followers play a role in how they apply norms?

(4) How are we to understand the impact of language on the constitution of different normative practices the GRK focuses on? What role do the linguistically mediated practices of reasoning and judging play with respect to the transformation of norms? How are we to understand language, both as a medium and an object of critique at the same time?

These four key topics structure the common working program of the GRK. The GRK encompasses 14 participating professors of 10 different disciplines, bringing together humanities and law studies. It is designed to foster a broad theoretical knowledge exchange in an interdisciplinary research environment. The innovative research design of the GRK 2638 may be summarised as follows:

  • To conceptualize normativity while having artistic practices in view
  • To re-address the relevance of critique and think it beyond the limits of subversion
  • To sharpen novel perspectives on the disciplines using an interdisciplinary approach