Inauguration of New Collaborative Research Centre “Material Text Cultures”

Press Release No. 14/2012
19 January 2012
Ceremony in the Old University with science minister Theresia Bauer

The new Collaborative Research Centre (CRC) 933 “Material Text Cultures” at Heidelberg University will be officially inaugurated on 3 February 2012 with a ceremony in the Great Hall of the Old University in the presence of Baden-Württemberg’s Minister of Science, Research and the Arts, Theresia Bauer. This major project funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) involves some 80 scientists from over 20 disciplines. They will be investigating script-bearing artefacts from societies in which the mass production of written material is largely or entirely unknown. The speech at the heart of the inauguration ceremony will be held by literary studies scholar Prof. Dr. Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht of Stanford University (USA).

The Collaborative Research Centre “Material Text Cultures: Materiality and Presence of Script in Non-Typographic Societies” began its work on 1 July 2011 and will carry on for an initial period of four years. Among the objects examined by the scientists participating in this integrated project are religious texts on recitation scrolls in ancient Egypt, clay tablets from Mesopotamia bearing cuneiform script, written characters in medieval artworks or Buddhist inscriptions on stone tablets, to name only a few.

In the framework of the research project, sources of this kind will be examined above all with respect to their material presence in certain spatial and actional contexts. Where did writing exist and who had access to it? What kind of actions were performed on, with or as a result of inscribed objects and to what extent were these practices of reception influenced by the “materiality” or “presence” of the script-bearing artefacts? “Material text cultures” identified in this way provide important new indications about the ascription of meaning to writing in “non-typographic” societies both past and present.

“In its disciplinary disposition and research strategy, the Collaborative Research Centre 933 is unique in Germany,” says Prof. Dr. Markus Hilgert of Heidelberg University’s Department of Languages and Cultures of the Near East, coordinator of the new CRC. “In fact it is the first Collaborative Research Centre that has ever originated from the field of cuneiform studies.” Hilgert describes one of the “primary concerns” of the project as “bridging the gap between ancient and medieval studies on the one hand and theory formation in cultural studies on the other.” The CRC will receive funding from the DFG amounting to approx. EUR 10.3 million.

The inauguration ceremony on 3 February will be opened by the Rector of Heidelberg University, Prof. Dr. Bernhard Eitel. Subsequently, Prof. Hilgert will outline the nature of the research to be undertaken by the Collaborative Research Centre. The speech by the minister of science will be followed by Prof. Gumbrecht’s address on “Objective Sensitivity: The Epistemological Challenges of an Aristotelian Presence”. The ceremony will take place at 3.30 pm in the Great Hall of the Old University. For more information on the new Collaborative Research Centre “Material Text Cultures: Materiality and Presence of Writing in Non-Typographical Societies”, go to

Prof. Dr. Markus Hilgert
Department of Languages and Cultures of the Near East (Assyriology)
phone: +49 6221 543555

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