My project focusses on how collective contexts influence creative action on different cultural fields:
1) It investigates the guidance provided by the 'object' in creative action
2) It investigates the effect of the collective context upon this relation (to the object).
3) It investigates and compares this interplay on three different cultural fields: music, religion and academia.
1) Creative action. In a so-called 'object-oriented' perspective, creativity does not belong to the subject or the 'actor', but is defined as a reciprocal circuit which at one and the same time animates the objective experiential realm and makes the subject more susceptible and responsive towards it. In a word, the actions we undertake turn around and guide us (without determining us). Whether we are singing a song, in contact with the divine through prayer, or working on an academic paper, we have to make ourselves susceptible to 'objective' forms of practical, aesthetic or conceptual structure which one the one hand are projected by us, but which on the other hand simultaneously 'guides' us in our actions. On this basis, the project seeks to theorize creative action.
2) Social influence. All the time, we are more or less unwittingly drawn towards shared fascinations, attractions and desires, material or immaterial. Such fascinations are of collective origin. Here a continuum exists, ranging between 'interactionist' situations of collective co-presence and strongly 'mediated' forms of collectivity. On the one end of this continuum we find the singer animated and animating the concert audience. On the other end we find mediated collectives held together exclusively through dynamics of collective selection; through gathering around the same objects. Think about how dynamics of fashion influence such diverse fields as popular opinions, scientific theory, design, all areas of popular taste, political or religious currents, language and speech patterns etc. In this sense, the thinking or acting subject is never alone. In a modern society in which individualized creative expression is required in ever more cultural areas (in both private and professional life), vague forms of 'solidarity' or collectivity are mediated through 'individualized' creative practices taking place around an abundance of collectively 'charged' fascinations. The project seeks to theorize how the collective context influences creative action on different levels of mediation.
3) Empirically, the project centers on three different cultural fields: a) aesthetical creativity (primarily jazz singers), b) religious creativity (fieldwork in the Pentecostal church) and c) conceptual creativity (research carried out among students and researchers of sociology). Data are gathered mainly through interviews with informants active on the three fields. The interviews center on the immediate relation to the objective dimension (material or immaterial) in creative action respective to cultural field in question, i.e. (for instance) the relation to what is actually sung during the singing, to the actions and responses to the divine in praying, or to the emerging conceptual structure – the Sache – in concrete academic work.
The project bridges borders between sociology, philosophy and religious studies. Through selective readings of prominent theories, it deliberately – and controversially – seeks to combine heterogeneous sources: theories of 'resonance' (Hartmut Rosa), conceptions of action from STS (Bruno Latour) and phenomenology (Maurice Merleau-Ponty), with new approaches to Durkheim's sociology of religion (together with other sociological impulses).