How demanding would it be if we were unable to recognise an object, such as a chair, quickly for what it is, but had to determine its shape and purpose every time, before we could confidently settle on it? Categories and stereotypes help us grasp situations rapidly and classify and process different perceptions and information from our surroundings, so that we can react and interact within a “reasonable” time frame. Epistemologically, stereotypes comprise fixed forms or conventional patterns (see etymology, above), which draw on our existing knowledge and values, and help us cope with everyday life.
Stereotypes are extremely convenient but they are by no means neutral. Not only our everyday life is affected by our subconsciously stereotyping different social situations and roles, academic discussions are also tainted by implicit assumptions, established canons, and interpretative models, which are rarely questioned. As the journalist and media critic Walter Lippmann stated in the earlier part of the last century, stereotypes are not “pure” syntheses or objective representations of the character or essence of an object or even a person. Rather, they are modelled and can be highly influenced by our prior beliefs and thus always entail some form of value judgement. They reflect collective and individual experiences, social labels, political positions and expectations - in short stereotypes are not objective, reliable or precise formulas. Because they operate at a deep cognitive level, they are often accepted uncritically and act as powerful and unquestioned categories. They create distinctions systemically and systematically - between genders, age and occupational groups, nationalities, cultural traits, traditions and behaviours, modes of communication and mediation, and much more.
“Spot the Stereotype!” is an interdisciplinary conference focusing on understanding the creation of different recognition patterns in several spheres of life, including politics, society, art, and science. The goal is to find stereotypes exactly where one would not expect them. To this end, we invite scientists from disciplines such as literature, linguistics, ancient studies, art, culture, media studies, history, and sociology to examine potential stereotypes within their subjects, research questions and methods, and to be ready to be surprised by their findings and discuss them in an inter/trans-disciplinary context. We encourage young researchers as well as established colleagues to engage with stereotypes in their fields, to challenge concepts which by now may appear very familiar and to gain a completely new perspective.
In order to tackle the underlying role of stereotypes within research, the conference focuses on two closely interlinked “sounding areas”: 1) Stereotypes in history and history of science: Where do powerful stereotypes, i.e. those that have reached full maturity throughout the history of these academic fields, tend to “hide” in their respective research questions and methods? How do we as scientists come to terms with them? 2) Stereotypes and forms of representation: How do such concepts arise and how are they transmitted into different forms? What (or who) promotes these transfers, how can we describe them critically and evaluate them? How can we counteract these processes in terms of structure and content?
In general, we invite you to question explicitly traditional patterns of thinking and to look for stereotypes where you would not expect to find them: Spot the Stereotype!
Jun 06, 2019 - Jun 07, 2019
TOPOI Haus Dahlem
The conference “Spot the Stereotype!” is a joint initiative of seven inter-institutional research networks: the Berlin Antiquity College with the Berlin Graduate School of Ancient Studies and the Cluster of Excellence "Topoi. The Formation and Transformation of Space and Knowledge in Ancient Civilizations”, the research group “Discursivisations of the New. Tradition and Innovation in Medieval and Early Modern Texts and Images", the Friedrich Schlegel Graduate School of Literary Studies, the Collaborative Research Centre “Episteme in Motion. Transfer of Knowledge from the Ancient World to the Early Modern Period”, the Centre for Advanced Studies “BildEvidenz. History and Aesthetics”, and the Cluster of Excellence “Temporal Communities. Doing Literature in a Global Perspective”.
Organizers: Regina Attula-Ruetz, Helen Dawson, Sabine Greiner, Kristiane Hasselmann, Christin Keller, Rebecca Mak, Henrike Simon, Hauke Ziemssen
There is an open call for papers. Please, do not hesitate to send proposals until March 24, 2019!