Institut für Empirische Kulturwissenschaften und Europäische Ethnologie

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Actors - Narratives - Strategies. Constellations of Transnational Folklore Research, 1875-1905 (DFG/German Research Foundation, 2022-2025)

The research project makes a first fundamental contribution to the transnational historiography of folklore studies in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In order to investigate the processes of professionalization and systematization of folklore research in an interconnected European space, the project (re-)constructs micro-historical units of analysis, so-called ‘transnational constellations’, as networks of actors, infrastructures, narratives, and epistemic orders. To conduct a historical analysis of such networks of action and communication with a focus on transnational knowledge practices, the project draws on constructivist situational analysis and combines it with the conceptual framework of histoire croisée/entangled history. In this conception, the project examines transnational processes of exchange in their relevance for the formation of folkloristic knowledge and practice, while also focusing on their interdependencies with social, political, scientific, and economic conditions that influenced (the diverse forms of institutionalization of) folklore studies on a local and regional scale.

Three sets of questions are investigated in thick descriptions and multi-scalar analyses of transnational constellations. First, the project examines the motives, strategies, and socioeconomic and biographical preconditions of the actors whose relationships and knowledge practices transcended nation-state borders. Second, it elaborates on the sense-making narratives that served as instruments for the identification of interests and problems and determined the diverse forms of transnational work in folklore research. Third, it investigates the strategic positionings of disciplinary self-assertion and logics of regional and national institutionalization processes of folklore research in the context of transnational entanglements.

The project’s goal of laying a foundation for a transnational historiography of folklore research (by means of scholarly articles, a monograph, a master's thesis, and several contributions to the project Bérose – Encyclopédie internationale des histoires de l'anthropologie) is complemented by its link back to debates on disciplinary history. In a scholarly workshop with a subsequent publication, ‘transnational folklore research’ will be discussed not only as a finding, but also as an interpretament, to reflect anew on legitimized modes of knowledge of disciplinary historiographies as well as disciplinary self-understandings associated with it, and to discuss (im)possibilities and potentials of a transnational/-regional/-cultural history of folklore studies.

Principal Investigator:

Prof. Dr. Christiane Schwab


Frauke Ahrens, M.A.