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New Collaborative Research Centre in the Humanities for Heidelberg University

Press Release No. 160/2011
25 May 2011
German Research Foundation awards integrated research venture on “material text cultures” approx. 10.3 million euros
Hilgert Markus 460x280
The coordinator of CRC 933 „Material Text Cultures. Materiality and Presence of the Scriptural in Non-Typographic Societies“, Assyriologist Prof. Dr. Markus Hilgert

Heidelberg University has a new Collaborative Research Centre (CRC) to its name, this time in the humanities. After a positive outcome of the reviewing process, the German Research Foundation (DFG) approved the new research venture at its spring session in Bonn. The DFG will provide funding to the tune of some 10.3 million euros for CRC 933, which bears the title “Material Text Cultures. Materiality and Presence of the Scriptural in Non-Typographic Societies”. The research venture will take up its work on 1 July 2011 for an initial period of four years. The coordinator is Assyriologist Prof. Dr. Markus Hilgert.

The aim of the research undertaken by CRC 933 is to establish the foundations for a new array of methodological instruments for use in historical cultural studies engaging with the interpretation of texts. The central focus is on script-bearing artefacts from non-typographic societies that did not possess any or any widespread methods for the mass production of writing. Examples are recitation scrolls in ancient Egypt, clay tablets from Mesopotamia bearing cuneiform script, written characters in medieval artworks or Buddhist inscriptions on stone tablets from the first and second centuries AD.

The CRC sets out to explore and document sources of this kind, notably in their material presence, with a view to subsequently analysing the significance of these “material text cultures” in their spatial, social and practical contexts. “This species of academic textual analysis focussing on past societies eschews the traditional idea of text-immanent meanings,” says Prof. Hilgert. “Instead we will be concentrating on the crucial connections between the material presence of the scriptural and the receptive practices geared to that presence. We see the human individual as a ‘locus of the text’ and hope to learn more from this ‘textual anthropology’ about the meanings that contemporary recipients ascribed to written texts.”

Involved in the new Collaborative Research Centre are scholars from the Institute of Ethnology, the Department of Germanic Studies, the Department of Classical Studies, the Department of Languages and Cultures of the Near East, the Centre for Ancient Studies, the Centre for European History and Culture, the Centre for East Asian Studies and the Department of Academic Theology. Also participating in CRC 933 are scholars from the College of Jewish Studies specialising in the Bible and Jewish Bible exegesis. There are plans to integrate a Research Training Group into the CRC educating doctoral students in the field of “textual anthropology”.

At present there are nine Collaborative Research Centres at Heidelberg University receiving funding from the German Research Foundation. It is also running five CRC/Transregio programmes and is involved in two projects associated with a further CRC in Darmstadt.

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A digital photo is available from the Press Office.

Prof. Dr. Markus Hilgert

Department of Languages and Cultures of the Near East

Assyriology, phone: +49 6221 542966,

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