Universität KonstanzExzellenzcluster „Kulturelle Grundlagen von Integration“

“We don’t need to pop the champagne corks…”

16. October 2008

In October 2007 the University of Konstanz was awarded the seal of excellence. The Center of Excellence  “Cultural Foundations of Integration” had already been launched a year earlier. Will the champagne corks be popping now?

Prof. Schlögl: No, we don’t need to pop the champagne corks, even though we have been successful and are highly satisfied with what the university, the executive board, the coordinators and the plenary assembly have achieved. We had already established the Center a year earlier. Apart from a few small “construction sites” we have been able to press forward with the installation of the Center in the last two years, so that it is now beginning to function as a complex scientific network of differing elements. But actually we would have a further reason to celebrate. The new building for the Center of Excellence has been inaugurated on October 22.

Does that put an end to your concern about rooms?

Prof. Schlögl: The new building does not only solve urgent problems with rooms. When the scholars in the Center now begin to work together in the same building this will lead to a further intensification of cooperation and exchange. This is an important precondition for integration within the Center and for the establishment of a stable and productive scientific unit in the remaining funding period. In the committees concerned a discussion is now taking place on the future organization of the excellence initiative. I think that a decision will have been taken by the end of the year on the framework conditions. Of course, we hope that the excellence initiative will be continued and will work to ensure continued funding of the project.

Would you like to continue the Center with a different topic?

Prof. Schlögl: It depends on the requirements, but I assume that we will not take up a completely new topic – not everything will have been researched and exhaustively treated after five years. We will take stock of the research issues raised and then deliberate together on a new interpretation or new accentuation of the general topic.

Is it difficult for you to bring the various fields of study and subjects under one umbrella?

Prof. Schlögl: No, not at all. We have a long tradition of interdisciplinary cooperation in the Collaborative Research Center “Norm and Symbol” and have thus gathered a great deal of experience. That has a positive effect on the Center. The cooperation there is part of the conception of interdisciplinary research cooperation in the Kulturwissenschaften, the Cultural and Social Studies. It is very important that the questions are made mutually intelligible through the specific subjects. That is what makes the matter interesting. A Center cannot function in any other way. That answers which are specific to a particular subject are given is normal.

How exactly do you organize the scientific cooperation?

Prof. Schlögl: I once characterized collaborative research centers as “irritating interrelationships”. A Center of Excellence deserves this label even more. We cannot all be at different places at the same time. So we have to find a middle path between institutionalized forms of cooperation, scholarly exchange in larger circles and the fact that scientific work is sometimes also carried out alone in the peace and quiet of a study, and this is also ultimately true for the preparation of the teaching for which we are responsible. We have decided on a solution, which is as far away as possible from centralistic elements and requirements. Instead, we organize the Center like a network. There are “nodal points” to which the individual has access in order to play his part in the community. But it is also left to each individual to organize such nodal points himself and to invite others to cooperate with him. In doing so we make use of the advantages of electronic networking.

How do you ensure that an exchange takes place?

Prof. Schlögl: Each semester we organize a colloquium together with the Collaborative Research Center “Norm and Symbol” with invited guest speakers. This series of lectures is publicly announced. In addition we have formed working groups from the research projects on cross-sectional topics. In these groups texts are read, ideas and first drafts discussed and talks with external guests organized. We will later ask these working groups to present their results to the Center as a whole. This will possibly lead to publications. Furthermore, numerous initiatives arise from the individual elements of the Center, for example the research groups, which are then of interest for some of the other members. A further important point is that we prepare a report workshop for the scholarly advisory committee (Wissenschaftlicher Beirat). In addition the executive board and the plenary assembly regularly discuss our common working programme and topics which are of interest to a broader public. At least once a year we present these themes publicly.

Last year, for example, the executive board had the idea of taking up the topic of civil war. In the way of preparation we gave work contracts to two junior scholars. In the Center we are interested in the cultural foundations of integration, but also in understanding processes of disintegration better. The result was a conference which was open to the citizens of Konstanz.

Professor Schlögl, which wish would you like to see fulfilled?

Prof. Schlögl: As far as the working conditions for scholars at the University of Konstanz are concerned my wishes have been fulfilled. Interdisciplinary cooperation and cooperation with interesting colleagues from other fields have always been very important for me. All in all I am very happy about the Center of Excellence “Cultural Foundations of Integration”. In comparison to the collaborative research centers (Sonderforschungsbereiche) it is larger, more flexible, less regulated and more complex, and for that reason, as far as we can see at the moment, it is also scientifically more productive.

Rudolf Schlögl, who holds the chair in Modern History at the University of Konstanz, is the speaker of the Center of Excellence “Cultural Foundations of Integration”. He has also been the speaker of the collaborative research center “Norm and Symbol” established by the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) since 2000.

Source: Reihe “Im Gespräch”, Referat Presse- und Öffentlichkeitsarbeit
University of Konstanz, www.uni-konstanz.de/imgespraech