Currently, the ZFG has two research focuses. They spell out in more concrete terms the overall question and theoretical basis inherent to all research at the ZFG: representation/representation critical work, migration, and the diversity of gender.
The objects of research are representations of gender in different media, everyday situations and in the arts. Representation critical work involves fundamental theoretical and methodical questions. It builds on theoretical developments particularly in English-speaking countries (e. g. Cultural Studies, Feminist Film Theory, Postcolonial and Queer Studies), that have taken place in both theoretical and historical discourses of culture and science. Consequently, representation is not only relevant in the political sense (e. g. elected representatives) but also as practices of realization, imagination, as well as production of supposedly natural entities such as sex and gender. The critical perspective inherent in representation critical work aims at forms of naturalization of phenomena that grew historically, forms of naturalization that serve the stabilization and legitimation of inequality, of marginalization and minoritization.
This critical perspective is also central to the analysis of migration processes. Thus, migration research at the ZFG is not only concerned with worldwide processes of forced or voluntary migration of people, but also with the migration of material or visual objects. Economic globalization is ever increasing and by no means conflict-free, the circulation of information is likewise constantly accelerating. Thus, it becomes more important to ask in what ways images/texts/music circulate and how this may cause different cultural contexts to intersect or overlap – and, not least, how this may underpin processes that naturalize inequalities and universalizing assertions of European-Western culture(s). Representation critical work in the field of migration research – migration of people and things, that is – necessarily involves a critique of notions of cultural homogeneity and is consequently entangled with a transcultural perspective.
This results in a perspective on gender that accounts for the diversity of its socio-cultural manifestations: rather than homogenous categories, “femininity” and “masculinity” are always produced in connection with other categories of difference such as sexuality, race, social or cultural background, age, skills, etc. Thus, gender diversity is a central point of reference.
Knowledge, Institution, Memory
The research focus Knowledge, Institution, Memory comprises projects that, centring on the significance of the category gender, critically examine how knowledge is produced, handed down, and continually disseminated, while tracing the conditions and formation of memory.
Questions of institutional regulation play an important role. They include canonization and the generation of knowledge and cultural practices of memory and their discoursive dissemination. The point is to perceive the production of knowledge as such, to lay bare that it is a process of construction, and to interrogate it with regards to the mechanisms of its emergence and its effects. Together with other categories of difference such as class, race, sexuality, etc., gender operates as a pivotal principle of construction. The central concern is to discuss the potency of the production of knowledge, the mechanisms of its emergence, its function, and finally how it may be shaped and changed. The research cluster is actively involved where philosophy and history of science, cultural studies, and gender politics meet – a highly dynamic interface in current German academia.
Joint project 2015-2019: Geschlechterwissen in und zwischen den Disziplinen [Gender Knowledge in and between the Discipline] (Prof. Dr. B. Paul, Prof. Dr. M. Unseld/until 2016, Prof. Dr. S. Wenk), together with TU Braunschweig (Prof. Dr. C. Barth); funding by the Lower Saxony Ministry for Science and Culture’s programme “Geschlecht – Macht – Wissen” [“Gender – Power – Knowledge”].
Helene-Lange-Kolleg 2013-2016: Queer Studies und Intermedialität: Kunst - Musik – Medienkultur [Queer Studies and Intermediality: Fine Arts – Music – Media Culture] (Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. B. Paul).
Transculturality and Migrations
Gender Equality is among the central United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals. Gender research in Cultural Studies contributes significantly to the analysis of how and under what conditions its implementation may be possible. On the one hand, it is concerned with the effects of migration processes, displacement, and development aid on gender relations both locally and globally. On the other hand, it focuses on the politics of images that affect these processes. The global circulation of things, images, and texts – increasingly accelerated by a globalized economy and the internet – challenges traditional concepts of “culture” and “gender” as well as identity and difference, and their mutual designations. A transcultural research perspective draws attention to a blend of “cultures” that has always already been there, and the hierarchies and in-/exclusions inherent to it, as well as colonial legacies. Together with a gender critical line of questioning, transculturality can prepare for both normalizing strategies of universalization of “Western culture” and the often-concomitant assumption of a pervasive “nature” of the genders in favour of their diversity.
Study-research project on the development of a digital teaching and learning platform 2019/20: Transnational Perspectives in Gender Studies (TraGS), Dr. Lydia Potts, Dr. Sylvia Pritsch in cooperation with Prof. Sheila Meintjes (University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa); Prof. Paula Banerjee (University of Calcutta/Kolkata, India), Prof. Fatima Sadiqi (Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah University, Fez, Morocco); funded by the Lower Saxony Ministry for Science and Culture’s programme “Innovation+”.
Joint project 2017-2020: Gender – Displacement – Refugee Policies. Processes of Gendered In-/Exclusion in Lower Saxony (Prof. Dr. S. Wenk, Dr. U. Koopmann) together with the Universities of Göttingen (Prof. Dr. S. Hess), Osnabrück (Prof. Dr. H. Schwenken) und Luneburg (Prof. Dr. M. Grittmann), funding by the Lower Saxony Ministry for Science and Culture’s programme “Geschlecht – Macht – Wissen” (“Gender – Power – Knowledge”).
Joint project 2017-2019: Shifting Families: Interrogating Notions of ‘Family’ in a Context of Contemporary African Migration and Diverse Urban Spaces (Dr. Lydia Potts, Prof. Dr. Fatima Sadiqi) together with the Universities Johannesburg (South Africa), Fez (Morocco); funding by the Volkswagen programme “Knowledge for Tomorrow – Cooperative Research Projects in Sub-Saharan Africa”.
Research project “Refugee Women and Violence. Intervention, Prevention, and Overcoming Trauma in a Post-displacement Context”, part of the joint project “Gender – Displacement – Refugee Policies. Processes of Gendered In-/Exclusion in Lower Saxony” at the Universities of Göttingen, Osnabrück, Luneburg, and Oldenburg.