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Working Groups

Please see below for more information on the working groups of the SFB 1015.


WG 1 - Otium – Immersion – Flow – Trance – Experience

The working group researched on the structure of experiencing otium as well as on the description and analysis of associative, marginal phenomena of otium, such as immersion, flow or trance. These terms and their respective experiences were reflected through theoretical recourse from different disciplinary fields, for instance sociology, psychology or phenomenology. Our examination of these associative phenomena was based on the assumption that their experiential structure partly coincides with those of otium. For a concrete instance, we analysed to what extent can the transgressive character of otium and its related experience of freedom, the absence of temporal constraints and performative expectations play a role in experiencing immersion, flow or trance. Moreover, the experience of alternative spatiality is often involved in the experiential structure of these associative phenomena. Their respective deviations from and differences to otium, are equally significant. Eventually, these analyses aided towards specifying the definitive concepts of otium. Methodologically, we were particularly engaged with the question how experiences are subsumable, scientifically. In doing so, we firstly discussed different conceptual approaches of the term ‘experience’ - as empirical knowledge (in German: Erfahrung) or experience in the sense of an ‘enjoyable experience’, and thereby with the description of specific, singular and/or unusual incidents (in German: Erlebnis). Our question aimed to further analyze the specific potentials that lie in the term of ‘experience’, for the empirical, discourse analytical and hermeneutically oriented analyses of otium. The sources on which our discussion of these associative phenomena were based, covered a wide spectrum, including artistic representations, historical accounts, as well as empirical data.


WG 2 - Semanctics of Otium

The working group Semantics of Otium asked how ‘otium’ is semanticized and lexicalized in different languages and literatures and what kind of relevance these semantics have for their particular cultural orders. Following these basic questions, it was examined whether a certain language has a lexical meaning for ‘otium’ and how the lexemes of ‘otium’ are adjusted to word fields in many languages. It became imperative to question, in the course of historical comparisons, possible changes of otium-lexemes within the various literatures that were examined. The aim of the working group Semantics of Otium was not to be an isolated and solely etymological or lexicographical research, but rather, to process an investigation of communicative allegory processes depending on their historical contexts based on historical semantics. The key proposition of the CRC 1015 was to examine the ambivalence of otium in its particular cultural semanticization through various interdisciplinary from the perspectives of the many subprojects. The aim was to combine a cross-section of the subprojects with a comparative perspective on the facets of relative freedom from time constraints and the possibilities of creative implementation within these.


WG 3 - Urbanity and Otium

The working group on urbanity and otium researched on current approaches to urban research and theoretical texts on urban studies. We discussed historical developments as well as current debates on the logic of cities (Helmuth Berking / Martina Löw) and the future of the city. In a second step, we introduced our results to the CRC’s interdisciplinary research programme. Which spatial structures favour or complicate experiences of otium? The working group paid special attention to the interferences of urban structures, urban spaces and otium as well as to the specific patterns of perception and reflection of those who experience leisure, in whatever form, in the city. In addition to their respective specific architectural design, we considered cities as places of social practice (e.g. of the flâneur) and symbolic forms (e.g. consumer society), the interdependencies of which we discussed. The working group also picked up on the guiding concepts of the three project areas: Borders (project area G) played a central role in the sense that otium in cities is often experienced as transgression: in the tension between dispersion and concentration, between bustle and tranquillity. The dominant category for our purposes was chronotopes (project area R), as we discussed for temporal structures of experiences of otium in urban space as well as of specific spaces within the city. And finally, urban spaces, in Henri Lefèbvre’s sense, are both prerequisites and results of social practices (project area P). In this respect, the differentiation between spatial practices, representations of space and spaces of representation also forms a theoretical approach whose viability for the connection between urbanity and otium we examined.



WG 4 - Nature and Otium

Nature plays an enormously important, often highly emotional role in discourses of otium. In its cultural conceptualizations, natural space is often understood as an antipole to urban space, which is characterized by the experience of workload, time pressure, functionalism, and heteronomy - qualities that are contrasted with the positive charge of a "place in the green" that is largely free of constraints and where people seem to be in harmony with themselves and the world. The working group reserached on such connections between otium and nature. Nature was understood in the broadest sense both as "untouched" (forest, mountain massif, lake/sea) and as designed form (garden, parks, cultural landscapes). The working group was as interested in its real manifestations as in its ideological constructions and its artistic stagings.


WG 5 - Modifications of Otium through Cultural Transfer

Discourses of otium and manifestations of otium in different societies and cultural formations cannot be meaningfully researched without including processes of cultural contact and cultural transfer. Unlike the traditional history of ideas, cultural transfer research analyses transfer processes with regard to persons, institutions, discourses, and media channels of cultural contact. The working group aimed to bring together those projects in which cultural transfer processes were significant in order to sharpen the understanding of otium also with regard to cultural constructions of identity and alterity and to better understand the discursively mediated character of otium. The results of the working group were also relevant for the entire SFB because concepts of leisure were reflected upon with regard to their cultural hybridity and privileged understandings of leisure (e.g. ancient traditions) were critically questioned.


WG 6 - Otium and Science

Occidental concepts of science are closely linked to the term otium. However, this connection is by no means definite. Instead it is, at least since the modern orientation towards experimental and empirical methods, quite problematic. Whereas science has to comply within an economic and political benefit calculus, it is visibly in conflict with the ideals of independent research and learning that implicitly or explicitly harks back to the classical concepts of otium. It is of no doubt that a scientific ideal which is in adherence to otium is in contradiction to the ideals of business of science. Even under optimal conditions, the basic requirement of academic science which states that otium should institutionalize free spaces of contemplation and creativity, is paradoxical and counterproductive to begin with. This tenseness between the principles of otium and science was examined in the Research Group. In doing so, the participants’ researched on otium and the various preconditions were explicitly reflected. For this purpose, the interdisciplinary context of the CRC provided a particularly dynamic platform which identified the different scientific self-conceptions of the contributing disciplines and helped bring them towards a productive conversation.