Deutsch Intern
Junior Research Group "Dominion & Power"

Research Projects

Dr. Katharina Ebner

The private between religious and secular power claims - history of an emancipation? (working title) 

Today, the private, usually in distinction to the public sphere, is a category of the social, and thus initially has a descriptive, analytical function. The public sphere is accessible to all members of a particular group, while for the private sphere there are limits and restrictions that can only be removed by the subject of the private sphere itself. These categories have grown historically and contain normative elements concerning the image of man and society.

In a first step, therefore, it will be carved out genealogically how the private sphere evolved as a privilege. The starting point is that the private sphere developed into a protective space against state and ecclesiastical claims to power, in contrast to which the free and equal citizen won freedoms. The focus (besides the political and cultural-historical dimensions) is on the religious self-understanding of the people and the changes in theological thinking (immediacy of the relationship to God, profiling of the conscience). Is the private sphere the space for the development of lifestyle and (individual) religiosity, which is distinguished from external claims to rule and interpretation?   

In political theory and social philosophy, a powerful model of the bourgeois public sphere emerges as a sphere emancipated from domination. The private sphere then becomes the refuge of modern society, which provides the resources for it. In a second step, this model will first be critically reconstructed and analysed against the background of (among other things) digital transformations.   

Finally, the focus will be on the individual in their familial reality of life. From the perspective of identity and personality development, are there not rather subtle structures of domination? How do dependence, integration and autonomy relate to each other? So doing, it will be possible to determine what the ethical character of the private sphere consists of.  

Mag. Theol. Sebastian Dietz

Deliberation in Digital Space (working title)

Digital space not only embraces our individual everyday lives, but has long since entered into an intense interaction with political and social processes. Its role is not limited to coordinating practices in the physical world, but has itself become a site of "political spaces" (cf. Forestal, Bringing the Site Back In, 2015.). A key position in this regard is occupied by those platforms that are grouped together under the umbrella term of social media. In observing social media as political spaces, three fundamental shifts stand out in comparison to other discourse spaces that must be considered in this project: First, they provide a form of communication that differs from communication by means of other media semiotically and aesthetically, in the frequency and scope of individual messages, and with respect to the relationship between senders and recipients. Second, they fundamentally change the possibility of exercising, or at least appearing to exercise, power. Third, all relevant platforms are offerings of private companies. Accordingly, they follow a market economy rationality, in contrast to the traditional spaces of discourse, which are ultimately to be guaranteed by the state. At the same time, the scale of the spheres of action of such Internet corporations calls into question a clear division of roles between the state and corporations.  

The guiding question of this project is under which conditions the forms of communication and interaction of social media have a strengthening effect on democratic-deliberative practices. To this end, it must first be clarified why and to what extent the strengthening of deliberative practices in particular can be considered desirable. Subsequently, the formation and figuration of discourses will be examined on the basis of the three shifts mentioned above - the shift regarding the mode of communication, the appearance space of power, and the institutional framework. In particular, the focus will be on the conditions under which the much-lamented moral pathologies that they invariably produce can be avoided. Instead, criteria are to be developed on the basis of which an added value for democratic-deliberative practices can be established.  

Since the fulfillment of these criteria can presumably not be achieved individually, the operators of the platforms will also be considered. Their design of the communicative framework of the platforms can be understood as a claim to power, which can be criticized and/or legitimized on the basis of the criteria.