Faculty of Humanities

Group Identity – Personal Identity

At the Department of Communication Studies, Dr. Robin Kurilla’s habilitation treatise explores Communicative and Pre-communicative Processes of the Construction of Group Identities. The investigation aims to create a consistent terminological architecture for problems in the field of communication analysis. Therefore, relations between communication and group identity are explored in terminological detail. Communication and observation are examined not only with respect to their role in the construction of identity: identities are also regarded as to their relevance for processes of communication and observation.

The construction of identity was also the focus of interest at the international symposium on The Linguistic Construction of Personal and Group Identity – Structure, Pragmatics, Cognition. Following the first symposium in Heidelberg in 2014, the second symposium took place in Essen in June 2015. This sequel offered an opportunity to discuss identity-related research in yet more breadth and depth. The conference proceedings bring together research by an international group of scholars strongly interested in the linguistic (co-)construction of identities. The complex conceptualisation of the role that linguistic choices play in the discursive construction and meta-discursive negotiation, i.e. genuinely relational construction, of identity across a wide range of online and offline contexts, goes beyond previous research and provides a valuable addition to the field of identity studies. The volume (to be published with John Benjamins, Amsterdam) is being edited by Prof. Birte Bös and Dr. Nuria Hernández (Anglophone Studies) and Prof. Sonja Kleinke and PD Dr. Sandra Mollin (Heidelberg).

Problems involving personal identity permeate the bioethical literature. They figure in discussions of advance directives, the definition of death, informed consent to certain brain interventions, etc. At first sight, it seems that these issues turn on persistence, our numerical identity through time. Many contemporary bioethicists, however, think that the relation that should ground our identity-related judgments is narrative identity – the stories people tell of their lives. This position is explained and challenged by Dr. Karsten Witt’s habilitation treatise (Philosophy), Grounding and Persistence. Personal Identity in Bioethics (sponsoring: DFG). The project aims to refurbish the role of numerical identity and personal ontology for ethics and to suggest alternative conceptions to selected bioethical problems.

In how far can the roots of supervision and coaching – that both arose from the Christian social work – be traced in the centuries old history of self-thematisation in confession? What are the differences and what the similarities between these different strategies of identity development? These questions are addressed by Prof. Hubertus Lutterbach at the Department of Catholic Theology. In mediaeval Europe (600 to 1500 AD) it was the cultural technique of confession that conserved and refined the knowledge about introspection and strategies of self-thematisation after almost all institutions that had developed as their carrier systems in the Axis Period had come to a standstill due to social change. The interdisciplinary project Introspection and Self-Thematisation in Confession, Supervision and Theme-Centred Interaction (TCI), by way of example, examines the transformation from religiously-motivated confessions of guilt to therapeutic forms of self-disclosure, and looks at how introspection and self-thematising are intertwined with the almost 2000-year-old tradition of confession as a generator for introspection in the context of modern consulting services.