Lecture Series: The Epistemological Value of the Historical Individual.

New Perspectives in Biographical Research

Professor Dr. Raphael Gross
Dagi Knellessen
Felix Pankonin
Research Colloquium
Time: Wednesdays, 5–7 pm (every other week)

The biography is a classic and multifaceted genre. Long since has it only been the locus for presenting the dignified lives of the »great men« in a bid to reconstruct historical and social processes as exemplified in their lives. In German historical scholarship, in the 1960s the epistemic potential of biography was increasingly questioned. With the rise of structural-historical approaches, the method centered on individual actors seemed to many historians inadequate. However, since the 1990s biographical research has experienced an upsurge, despite previous prophecies of doom. At times it is even stylized as the »supreme discipline.« The method is currently highly popular likewise in the field of Jewish Studies. Yet the fundamental problems arising in the writing of a biography remain, now as before, and viewed against the backdrop of the largely now established post-structural perspective in theory-building, those problems are regarded as even much greater. For example, does the narrative structure of biography, oriented to coherence, necessarily have to negate the contingency of many individual life histories? Is it possible to bridge between the claim for unity in the description of the life trajectory of an individual and new knowledge regarding the fragmentary nature of that person's biographical pathway? The Research Colloquium in Winter Semester will endeavor to explore these and other basic questions. On one hand, the lecture series is centered on developing general methodological reflection on the challenges of the genre. On the other, as exemplified in ongoing research projects dealing with the lives of Jewish intellectuals and politicians, key problems will be illuminated and discussed.



9. November 2016
Reut Yael Paz (Gießen)
A Glimpse into the Promised Land of Law: The Life of Helen Silving-Ryu (1906–1993)

30. November 2016
Thomas Etzemüller (Oldenburg)
Das biografische Paradox: Biografien als Fenster zur Welt – oder bloß ein Narrativ?

7. Dezember 2016
Enrico Lucca (Jerusalem)
Biography Writing as a Cross-Boundary Genre: Reflections from the Life-Trajectory of Hugo Bergmann (1883–1975)

11. Januar 2017
René Schlott (Potsdam)
Raul Hilberg (1926–2007) erzählen: Zur Quadratur der Trias von Leben, Werk und Wirkung

1. Februar 2017 (entfallen)
Detlev Claussen (Hannover)
Biografie ohne Biografismus?

8. Februar 2017
Andrea Kirchner (Frankfurt am Main/Jerusalem)
»Woran die Menge glaubt, ist leicht zu glauben«: Überlegungen zur politischen Biografie des deutschen Zionisten Richard Lichtheim (1885–1963)  

Prof. Dr. Detlev Claussen, Leibniz Universität Hannover | apl. Prof. Dr. Thomas Etzemüller, Carl von Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg | Prof. Dr. Raphael Gross, SimonDubnow-Institut, Leipzig | Andrea Kirchner, Goethe Universität Frankfurt am Main/The Hebrew University of Jerusalem | Dagi Knellessen, Simon-Dubnow-Institut, Leipzig | Dr. Enrico Lucca, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem | Felix Pankonin, Simon-Dubnow-Institut, Leipzig | Dr. Reut Yael Paz, Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen | Dr. René Schlott, Zentrum für Zeithistorische Forschung Potsdam

9th November 2016 to 8th February 2017, wednesdays 5.15–6.45 p.m. (CEST); 11.15 a.m. to 12.45 p.m. (EST)
Dubnow Institute