The focus group assumes that diagnosing is a central, constitutive mode of execution in modern society. This is because diagnosing implies an attitude in which a present reality accepted as a given is perceived, experienced, observed, and treated with regard to the questions of what potential – positive or negative – future is already laid out in it, and what is to be done in order to either unfold this potentiality or to prevent it from unfolding and to redirect the course of history in a better direction. In other words: in a diagnostic attitude, a present reality is objectified in terms of its future potential and turned into a resource that can be predicted and shaped.

This attitude realises a relationship to the world and the self that is fundamental for modernity in that it stabilises itself through the dynamic structural logic of a future-oriented controlling and shaping (enhancement, utilisation, optimisation etc.) of the foundations of life. The socio-scientific reference of modern self-problematisation to medical diagnostic terms and semantics could then be deciphered, for example, as an ‘appropriation’ in which the establishment and persuasive power of these terms and semantics is strategically used (in Bourdieu’s sense) to help the project of modernity to break through into everyday thinking, feeling, and acting.

Diagnoses are characterised by selectively making certain aspects or elements of a present reality so relevant and condensing them into a meaningful figure (“Gestalt”), the image of a crisis, a promise, a utopia, or a dystopia, that it justifies, for example, the demand for political measures and interventions or, more broadly, for a certain behaviour, an everyday lifestyle of the members of society, in order to prevent or bring about the imagined future. We call these figures, which are diagnostically constructed in the present, existential problems of reference – existential in so far as the future of human society, of nature, and the environment etc. seems to depend on their ‘processing’. In this context, it may be interesting to note that even descriptions of the state of the present world that are explicitly critical of modernity, such as the diagnosis of an “acceleration” leading to destruction of nature, alienation, and diseases, are articulated and carried out in the modern mode of diagnosis, which implies both an inevitability of developments derived or extrapolated from current “symptoms” and the idea of the possibility of shaping or making a future. Against the background of these assumptions, the focus group wants to a) critically question, sharpen, and, if necessary, distinguish the guiding thesis of diagnosing as a form of execution of modernity and the underlying concepts (diagnosis, imagination, fiction etc.) by means of thematically focused workshops, b) strengthen the regional cooperation between scholars from Oldenburg and Bremen and expand it through the exchange with outstanding international speakers, and c) increase the visibility of the research topic by publishing working papers (possibly as a basis for applying for an interdisciplinary joint project). In this way, the focus group aims at shaping the term diagnosis from a cultural studies and social sciences perspective and to illuminate its significance for the self-constitution of modern society.

(Changed: 20 Apr 2022)