Universität KonstanzExzellenzcluster: Kulturelle Grundlagen von Integration

Cultures of Identity

This research area examines how three significant referents of integration are culturally constructed: collective identity and the boundaries between communities; individual subjectivity and identity; and objects and artifacts in social relations.

What had been conventionally viewed as pre-societal foundations of socialization and integration – the individual identity of a person, the empirical reality of objects, and identification with a community – will thus be distinguished as cultural constructs produced in specific social fields and embedded in specific social relations. The assertion of individual and collective identity depends on recognition from the outside. This recognition is especially viable when the assertion of an identity is presented in the framework of cultural ideas of “successful” individual subjectivity or “well-founded” social boundaries.

Instead of seeing identity and objectivity from an empiricist or transcendental-idealist position, this research area proposes a change of perspective. As a result, the identity of the individual subject, the identity of a community and the identity of objects no longer appear to be transcendent, independent givens, but rather projections of social relations and embodiments of cultural models.

At the same time, cultural models come into play, and in two respects. To begin with, objects as well as subjects always already bear cultural significance: they are culturally classified and imagined; they are treated as culturally meaningful routines and rituals; and their history is narrated in cultural frameworks. Such a basic culturalization is hardly new or surprising. An original approach first comes into view on the meta-level. At issue here are general cultural notions of “successful” individual and collective identities, cultural schemes for “unquestionably given” objects, cultural models for “well-founded” community boundaries, and plausible founding narratives. These cultural models offer an interpellation-ready framework for communication between subjects on subjectivity, between communities on collective identity, and between practical actors on materiality.