New research group at Mainz University to study how human beings are categorized

January 11, 2013

The German Research Foundation (DFG) has approved the establishment of a new Research Unit at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz on the topic of "Un/doing Differences. Practices in human differentiation." Within the research network, which has been initially established for six years, the eight participating researchers from the fields of Sociology, Anthropology, American Studies, Theater Studies, and German Linguistics will look at the cultural differentiation of humans and investigate how differences between individuals and communities arise or are created, and how these change or are expunged. The coordinator of the new DFG Research Unit is Professor Dr. Stefan Hirschauer of the JGU Institute of Sociology. A Research Unit funded by the German Research Foundation takes the form of a close working alliance between several prominent scholars who plan to collaborate on an innovative research topic over a longer period of time. The general idea behind the establishment of such research groups is to open up new areas of inquiry.

Human differentiation involves the identification or attribution of individuals as members of specific communities and groups in terms of their ethnicity, nationality, language groups, religions, or other factors, as well as intrasocietal differentiations on the basis of characteristics such as age, gender, or performance in school, work, or sports. There is a bewildering array of research fields that already deal with the categorization of humans. The new DFG group will take the corresponding findings as its starting point, but will also transcend these. The group will be thus be studying the important fundamental distinctions that form major research areas such as ethnicity, 'race', nationality, religion, gender - presumably the oldest form of human differentiation from a cultural history standpoint - and performance groups.

These various characteristics used for differentiation are usually studied separately in individual research areas, such as Gender Studies and Race Studies, but also as isolated topics within various disciplines, including Social Anthropology, Cultural Anthropology, Sociology, Political Science, History, Literature, Linguistics, and Social Psychology. However, there are considerable differences in the approaches taken by the social sciences and the humanities while there is a general consensus that it is necessary to define those universal characteristics common to the practices of cultural categorization and demarcation. "It is our aim to investigate for the first time how the many different social memberships of individuals actually compete with each other in order to demonstrate that people are not merely 'different' but can be distinguished from each other in the social context in various ways - or are not distinguished from each other at all," explained Hirschauer.

Each of the group's eight sub-projects addresses various aspects of the broader issues and, at the same time, sets its own emphases. Two African ethnological and two American Studies projects will be primarily focusing on the factors that determine the cultural lines of demarcation between communities. Four Sociology, Linguistics, and Theater Studies projects will be considering the cultural aspects of the categorization of individuals. Once the project group has completed its work, we may at last understand what conditions obtain to the differentiation of humans and why we assign them to categories, why differences arise and disappear again, and what essentially lies behind our need to categorize humans as 'types'.
-end-


Johannes Gutenberg Universitaet Mainz

Related Anthropology Articles from Brightsurf:

Study finds field of forensic anthropology lacks diversity
The field of forensic anthropology is a relatively homogenous discipline in terms of diversity (people of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, people with mental and physical disabilities, etc.) and this is highly problematic for the field of study and for most forensic anthropologists.

Neandertal gene variant increases risk of severe COVID-19
A study published in Nature shows that a segment of DNA that causes their carriers to have an up to three times higher risk of developing severe COVID-19 is inherited from Neandertals.

How do Americans view the virus? Anthropology professor examines attitudes of COVID
In her latest study, Northern Arizona University professor Lisa Hardy looks at how Americans' attitudes and responses have changed during the time of the pandemic and how to many people, the virus is not a biological agent but instead a malicious actor.

Neandertals may have had a lower threshold for pain
Pain is mediated through specialized nerve cells that are activated when potentially harmful things affect various parts of our bodies.

Running in Tarahumara culture
Running in Tarahumara (Rarámuri) Culture. The Tarahumara (Rarámuri) are a Native American people from Chihuahua, Mexico, who have long been famous for running, but there is widespread incredulity about how and why they run such long distances.

The growing pains of orphan chimpanzees
Using long-term behavioral and hormonal data from wild chimpanzees in the Taï Forest, Côte d'Ivoire, researchers from the Taï Chimpanzee Project at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, have revealed that mothers may be shaping pre-adult growth and offspring muscle mass even without direct provisioning.

Caribbean settlement began in Greater Antilles, say University of Oregon researchers
A fresh, comprehensive look at archaeological data suggests that seafaring South Americans settled first on the large northernmost islands of the Greater Antilles rather than gradually moving northward from the much closer, smaller islands of the Lesser Antilles.

Human songs share universal patterns across world's cultures
From love songs to lullabies, songs from cultures spanning the globe -- despite their diversity -- exhibit universal patterns, according to a new study.

Skull features among Asian and Asian-derived groups differ significantly
Forensic anthropologists have now discovered that several skull features in Asian and Asian-derived groups differ significantly with regard to shape, such that they can be distinguished using statistical analyses.

Skull dimensions of Dominicans and Haitians differ despite close physical proximity
Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) have conducted a craniometric study (measuring the main part of the skull) on understudied and marginalized groups and found that skull dimensions of Dominicans and Haitians, who occupy a relatively small island of Hispaniola, are different from each other.

Read More: Anthropology News and Anthropology Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.