III. School of Linguistics and Cultural Studies

Institute of Material Culture

A brief description of the Institute of Material Culture

Ordinary, everyday things and practices take pride of place in the research and teaching of the Institute of Material Culture. Our concern regarding objects is with their transcultural migrations, the ways in which they are used and how they are represented in politics and institutions of collective cultural consciousness, such as museums. We are interested in the materiality (including shapes and functions) and mediality of artefacts, in their manifold meanings in the context of techniques of the body and as reifications of social relations, constructions of identity, mentalities, and relations of power.

’Cultural Studies’ at the institute constitutes of a genuinely transdiciplinary analysis of artefacts and practices combining the scientific approaches from cultural anthropology, material studies, sustainability research with explorations into both design and communication. This opens up new ways of looking at cultural manifestations, not least through the inclusion of theories and methods derived from social and natural sciences and finds representation in our staff’s research backgrounds. Our facilities include a design studio, a laboratory, archives and mobile educational facilities, to enable us to facilitate the transdisciplinary approach at the heart of our research.

In the sphere of teaching, it is of great advantage that we are a compact institute with a great deal of personal contact. We rely on versatile teaching and learning methods employed in direct, dialogue-based exchanges on site, on project orientation and both interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary collaborations. The following degree programmes are available: the B.A. programme ‘Material Culture: Textiles’; the teacher M.Ed. programme ‘Textiles’ (both in conjunction with further subjects), three M.A. programmes, namely ‘Cultural Analysis’, ‘Museums and Exhibitions’ and ‘European Master in Migration and Intercultural Relations’ (EMMIR), finally the Ph.D. programme ‘Cultural Gender Studies’.

Research focus: Material culture and museums, the migration of artefacts, fashion and body image in modern times (vestimentary representation of politics), and participatory cultural education. We recently completed a research study on folk dress in the Lüneburg Heath and the Wendland region, which was devoted to, inter alia, the networks of collectors and museum founders around 1900. In the current research study, three PhD students and two senior academics are employed to analyse the knowledge production at New Museums of Local Heritage.