New research in spatiality and temporality. Workshop of the Erfurt SpaceTime Research Group

Bärbel Frischmann, Geschichte der Philosophie / Susanne Rau, Geschichte und Kulturen der Räume in der Neuzeit / Katharina Waldner, Allgemeine Religionswissenschaft, Universität Erfurt
11.07.2019 - 12.07.2019
Nancy Alhachem, Max-Weber-Kolleg, Universität Erfurt

Human life and its practices are nowadays seen de facto embodied in the package of space and time. With regard to every event that occurs, one first asks: “what happened?”, forgetting or neglecting the “where” and “when”, which sometimes turn to be the existential reasons behind the event itself. In the analysis of these life practices and their occurrence, the Erfurt SpaceTime Research Group invited young researchers from different disciplines to investigate the theoretical approaches and the concepts contributing to the social and cultural construction of spatiality and temporality. Over two days of intense discussions, nine young scholars of Literature, History, Art, Religious Studies, Political Science and Philosophy presented their work, giving a wide and insightful contribution to the understanding of space and time in different époques and cultural contexts.

In her welcoming word, Susanne Rau presented the background of the research group that was established in 2011 at the University of Erfurt, and stated the focus dealing with the materialised and imagined constitution of space and time within social relationships, cultural contexts and their corresponding theories. She affirmed that exchange with and among younger scientists and the establishment of an interdisciplinary forum for younger and advanced researchers within the Faculty of Philosophy are the foremost objectives of the workshop. Therefore, each presentation would be followed by a prepared comment of other faculty members. For a better understanding of the concepts and their interaction, Katharina Waldner distributed different quotes concerning the meaning of spatiality and temporality and their treatment in the history of philosophy, religion or history of ideas among small groups which discussed them before presenting the results to the large group of participants.

In the first speech, BIANCA MOHR (Erfurt) introduced space and time as a challenge for data collection. In her study on bilingual children’s language development in Germany and the UK, she experienced difficulty in keeping the participants engaged over time. For a study that went over four years, from which two were dedicated to recruit all participants, Mohr’s research required a long testing time. In order to gain insights into children’s developing languages, she used a longitudinal design with three waves of data collection. She observed two-year olds with English and German input from birth who reside in either Germany or the UK. Space not only played a major role in the development of the toddlers’ language skills, but also in the research itself, in finding and communicating with the participants living in two different countries.

Gender discourses also had their share among the interdisciplinary exchange of the group. In his paper on education and women in Roman time, MARCUS HELLWING (Halle-Wittenberg) draw attention on a period in the lives of the Roman women that has been left neglected so far. Traditionally, it has been argued that Roman women were educated to the point that served their role as future wives, the degree of education varying and depending on the social status of their families. No matter how talented the girls were, they could not reach what was accessible for men, i. e. the school of rhetoric. Hellwing showed, however, that there were different back doors by which women were able to access different spaces for education and knowledge. By the means of selected examples, he showed to what extent the domus was one of these spaces, especially for widows who, after the death of their husbands, gained a place in the acquisition of knowledge.

A particular geographical case was presented by SIMON DOMINIK FRANZEN (Erfurt) who defined what "geographic" or "spatial" knowledge meant in the early modern state by using the cadastre survey of Swedish Pomerania as an example. Choosing an untypical way in his presentation, Franzen didn’t give simple answers, but raised more questions on how to address "spatiotemporality" in the context of early modern research, in terms of content and research methodology. By applying the GIS method (a technical complex that enables the collection, visualisation and analysis of spatial data [1]) in his approach, he drew attention to the importance of the early modern spatial surveys and their significance for the emerging pre-modern state.

Another paper dealing with geography studied the effect temporality had on the representation of space, and how war changes radically such realities. As PHILIPP JULIUS MEYER (Erfurt) explained, not only the globes were affected by the First World War, but also the tenth edition of the Stieler Handatlas. Employees being drafted into military, paper allocation, scarcity economy and the general circumstances of the war prevented the completion of the atlas. Territorial changes such as the one concerning Romania, Greece and Poland forced the delay of the atlas production, for the drawing of a single map took up to fifteen months. Meyer thus showed how the production of the Stieler Handatlas encompassed in its production various political time levels, mainly the pre- and post-war world, and the ability of the maps to create their own spaces.

Two interventions on Martin Heidegger’s Seinsgeschichte discussed the philosopher’s polemic ideas, with GUIDO LÖHRER (Erfurt) calling it “religious, exclusive, and inhuman” and STEPHAN HERBST (Erfurt) stressing that Heidegger’s history of being seats its history in the three pre-Socratic eras and ends with the German thought. Both participants argued that Heidegger placed philosophy and its history in the Occident, raising questions such as: Does the rest of the world have no philosophy? And what characterises Heidegger’s historical approach to metaphysics? Löhrer concluded that Heidegger’s history of being is the narrative of an inaccessible power that dictates to man the way of recognising and interacting with the world. [2]

In his micro-historical investigation, THOMAS SCHADER (Gotha) studied the everyday life of the German-speaking mission candidates of the Society of Jesus in the 17th and 18th centuries. He presented the Andalusian port cities as a space of subjectification, contingency and cultural experience of difference. The “Andalusian waiting room” became a space of memory, cultural alterity and temporal heteronomy for the waiting candidates. Investigating the space-time dimension in the Lefebvrian sense, Schader addressed the waiting room as an experiential space, where the action of routine co-designs the missionaries’ space, thus relating different periods of time to one another. The presentation raised intriguing questions that reflect our actual realities, for example: “How is time measured or perceived there?” “What strategies are invented to bridge the waiting time (the end of which is uncertain)?” “Is there a consciousness of time in the waiting room?” “In the face of a world in continual acceleration, should we learn waiting from the Jesuits?”

Further aspects of space and time were investigated. As DANIEL PALM (Bremen) argued, political activity and its expression need further research in their global expression. He supported the critique of teleological history writing that interprets protests on city squares in 1989 and beyond as forces for democratisation and liberal development. It is the form of protests, reaching out to a global audience whilst occupying the city square, which became a global phenomenon. However, a global history of occupied city squares since 1989 would need to stress the unpredictability of protests on the city square, he concluded.

With a stone, paper and scissors JULIA KULEWATZ’s (Erfurt) presentation visualised the essence of Herta Müller’s collage and literature work. Kulewatz argued that the collages act as a mirrored immediate perception, a sudden first impression. They are thought and concrete pictorial thinking. They locate the reader/viewer in a kind of space between the so-called reality and the imagination. Kulewatz added that the game – like stone, scissors, paper – can be repeated infinitely. The immediate transformation of what is real through the eye of the recipient and his invented perception takes place, for the reader himself is reflected in the collages. The work of the 2009 Nobel Prize winner reminded us of the fragility of the spaces we construct for ourselves and showed how perception can redeem or fool the reader’s eyes.

The last contribution took us to the world of German architecture, presenting the Bauhaus as a political space of historical conceptualisation. MATS WERCHOHLAD (Weimar) questioned the omnipresence of tradition by investigating relativity in space and time. Architecture becomes a space of social representation, where the society presents its dance.

The workshop ended at the memorial and educational site of Andreasstraße. Susanne Rau awarded the Bachtin-Lefebvre Prize for Studies in SpatioTemporality to Clara Frysztacka (Frankfurt/Oder), and then followed an enlightening talk about light and its shifts by the Viennese light-artist Victoria Coeln (Leipzig/Wien) who talked about her new project that will take place next October during the Light Festival of Leipzig to commemorate the 1989’s demonstrations. The two days event offered to the participants a space of reciprocity by presenting an overview on the different disciplines in which theories of time and space have been applied. Everybody benefited from this event, either by presenting, commenting or taking part in the discussions.

Conference overview:

Bianca Mohr (Universität Erfurt): Space and time as a challenge for data collection. A longitudinal study on bilingual children’s language development in Germany and the UK

Kommentar: Holt Meyer (Universität Erfurt)

Marcus Hellwing (Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg): Lernen im Alter – Zu einem Bildungsraum römischer Frauen

Kommentar: Katharina Waldner (Universität Erfurt)

Simon Dominik Franzen (Universität Erfurt): Geographisches Wissen im sich formierenden frühneuzeitlichen Staat am Beispiel der schwedischen Landesaufnahme von Pommern 1692–1709

Kommentar: Sabine Schmolinsky (Universität Erfurt)

Philipp Julius Meyer (Universität Erfurt): Weder Belle Époque noch Zwischenkriegszeit – RaumZeitliche Aspekte der 10. Auflage von Stielers Handatlas

Kommentar: Matthias Rekow (Universität Erfurt)

Stephan Herbst (Universität Erfurt): Vom ersten zum anderen Anfang. Reflexionen über Martin Heideggers Seinsgeschichte

Kommentar: Guido Löhrer (Universität Erfurt)

Thomas Schader (Forschungszentrum Gotha der Universität Erfurt): Raumzeitlichkeiten des Wartens: Jesuitenmissionare auf der Schwelle nach Übersee, 1660–1760

Kommentar: Susanne Rau (Universität Erfurt)

Daniel Palm (Universität Bremen): Protests in China and Germany from a Global Perspective

Kommentar: Heiner Stahl (Universität Siegen)

Julia Kulewatz (Universität Erfurt): Stein. Papier. Schere. Zwischen den Räumen und Zwischenräume in den Collagen Herta Müllers

Kommentar: Sandra Zawrel (Universität Erfurt)

Mats Werchohlad (Bauhaus-Universität Weimar): Das Bauhaus als Bühne in Raum und Zeit

Kommentar: Bärbel Frischmann (Universität Erfurt)

Public closing lecture
Victoria Coeln (Leipzig/Wien): LIGHT/SHIFTS

[1] As defined by Simon Dominik Franzen.
[2] Guido Löhrer, A Short History of Being. Abstract of the paper presented at the workshop, Erfurt, July 2019.

Tagungsbericht: New research in spatiality and temporality. Workshop of the Erfurt SpaceTime Research Group, 11.07.2019 – 12.07.2019 Erfurt, in: H-Soz-Kult, 20.09.2019, <>.