Profile of the research field

The investigation of relations of self and transcendence, of the relations of community and individual, and of ritual communication and its meaning, as well as the reflection on social-institutional orders, on processes of social change, on concepts of value and meaning, connect the questions of "religion", "society" and "world relations". This mutual interrelation of individual actors, social structures and transnational horizons gives the research in this focus its profile. In concrete intra- as well as interdisciplinary projects - a profile-forming project is the group "Attraction, Repulsion, Indifference - a comparative cultural analysis of world relations" - the researchers of the field dedicate themselves to historical as well as contemporary phenomena in different cultural and social contexts. All faculties and the Max-Weber-Kolleg as well as the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy and various university graduate centres such as the Center for Political Practices and Orders and the Theological Research Centerare involved in the projects. Close cooperation between the actors in the current priority area has long been a lived practice in research and teaching, including joint conferences and workshops, lecture series and publications, and interdisciplinary seminars. The research is characterized by a special interest in making historical research results usable for questions of religion, culture and society of the present, whereby current social debates are taken up again and again and intensive research communication is pursued.

An overview of all projects located in the research field can be found here


Faculty of Economics, Law and Social Sciences

Meeting Places and Counter-Places in Erfurt: Social-Historical Research




BMBF: 195,000 euros (subproject funding)

Project description

As in all district capitals of the GDR, there were also so-called "conspiratorial apartments" (KW) in Erfurt. There is hardly any scientific research on the more than 400 KW or "meeting places" in Erfurt: "Conspirative apartments (...) are a subject that has been little researched so far" (Heinrich 2006). However, by systematically linking surveillance practices and everyday life, the KWs form a very unusual approach to the history of everyday life, rule, and memory in the GDR. In addition to research on mechanisms of selection, management, and control of the KW and the analysis of surveillance protocols, etc., the question is what character the KW had: Were they places of betrayal or radar stations in a submarine that could only see what was shown? At the latest, this confronts scientific work with collective memory, not only of direct actors, but of the public. For the everydayization and broad localization of the SED surveillance state in KW provokes questions about the perception, interpretation and assessment of one's own (historical) reality of life. Since Erfurt was the first city in the GDR where the headquarters of the MfS was occupied by citizens, the study of the KW is continued and confronted with a reconstruction of the "counter-places" where dissidents could (conspiratorially) exchange information. Through the research on "meeting places" and "counter-places" (methodologically oriented on the model of citizen science), a topography of domination and resistance in a city is shown. Inevitably, it is a matter of collective memory and critical examination of the images of the lived GDR on site, i.e. of "the (partial) social truth of validity of historical traditions" and of "the complexity and changeability of the thought patterns in which the GDR past appears in our present" (Sabrow). This research on "meeting places and counter-places in Erfurt" could also be used as a model for other cities. A digital city map with processed information could and should be a result of the research.

Project manager subproject

Prof. Dr. Alexander Thumfart (†)


Marian Herzog, M.A.

Cooperation partner


More information

The project is part of the overall project "Dictatorship Experience and Transformation: Biographical Processes and Social Representations in East Germany since the 1970s".

Link to the overall project