SFB 1095 Conference 2018 · June 28th to June 30th 2018 

Discourses of weakness and the futures of societies

Call for Papers

Reflecting one’s own weakness and putting it into words almost always includes a certain amount of willingness to change. Or, to put it the other way round: for a historical formation, the willingness to develop its own abilities or to find new orientations towards the future quite often is linked to the establishment of a variety of discourses of weakness. 

Adopting such a perspective has an impact on assessing processes of social innovation: the motivation to employ something “new” is less related to the question of genuine innovation but much more to the wish to change a social formation, since one’s own current status has been recognized as “being weak” in one or several respects. Innovation thus needs to be related not only to ingenuity but rather to the willingness to change oneself or the social formation to which one belongs, which in turn often is a consequence of perceived weakness.

In order to better understand how societies prepare themselves for the future, how they deploy and adjust resources and the role of assessments of weaknesses in this process, the conference will discuss the following topics:

  1. Regional specifities and global entanglements.
  2. How are discourses of weakness articulated in the domains of politics, economics, law, knowledge and other fields of the humanities?
  3. How were discourses of weakness articulated in different historical periods including the distant past?
  4. How are discourses of weakness related to cultural heritage, memory and imaginations of futures (past and present)?

We especially would like to encourage junior scholars from all region and affiliations to apply. We will provide reimbursement of traveling expenses and provide accommodation for researchers without financial support from their home institutions. 

Proposals in German or English (max. 2500 characters) should be sent together with a brief CV by February 16, 2018 to:

Prof. Dr. Iwo Amelung ( OR
Prof. Dr. Moritz Epple ( OR
Prof. Dr. Hans Peter Hahn (

Selected presenters will be informed by March 16, 2018. Working languages of the conference will be German and English.

Download Call for Papers

Researchers at the CRC

Who among us has not thought of knowledge about the weather as weak? We depend on weather knowledge for so many endeavours - to make plans for the weekend, to raise crops, or to fight wars - yet meteorological forecasts fail us time and time again.
In our project we analyse different ways of knowing about the weather in a time before meteorology was a scientific discipline, between 1750 and 1850. Before the European nations founded state-run meteorological research institutions a wide variety of knowledge claims circulated. Doctors, gardeners, farmers, priests, astrologers, mathematicians, naturalists all believed they had something insightful to contribute, and where not necessarily convinced that claims voiced by the other groups were equally valid. The resource weather knowledge thus lends itself perfectly to studying the complex interactions of mutual ascriptions of epistemic, sociocultural, and practical weakness as well as the situatedness of knowledge.

Linda Richter, Situated Knowledge: Forms and Functions of Weak Bodies of Knowledge (A 06)

SFB 1095 "Discourses of Weakness and Resource Regimes"

The transformation in the treatment of resources gives rise to the question as to the power of agency of the actors and is thus not only a core issue within historical research but is of major relevance for today’s societies. The Collaborative Research Centre 1095 Discourses of Weakness and Resource Regimes approaches this question by working on the assumption that discourses of weakness may have indicative and mobilising functions with respect to the problems in the handling and treatment of resources, whether they be material or non-material thus significantly influencing the behaviour of the players involved. Communication on the topic of weakness can impart that resources are lacking or will be required in the future in order to guarantee the reaching of goals. 

However, individual resources may not be considered in isolation: hence the use of the term resource regimes puts an emphasis on those sections of historical formations which take the shape of power, so that the Frankfurt research group also always takes into account the norms and practices which organise the, on the whole contentious, access to resources. Into the research scope of the various sub-projects fall historical and current constellations in which the use of resources becomes a collective action problem. This is of great significance for a deeper understanding of processes of transformation.



Frank Uekötter: Von Seeschildkröten, Tiefkühlhühnern und der Bedeutung der Freiheit: Perspektiven einer Ressourcengeschichte


Joseph Esherick: Defining 'China' in the Empire-to-Nation Transition. Chinese debates on the territory of the new Republic of China, 1904–1915


Rudolf Schlögl: "Defekte" Erfolgsmedien in der Gesellschaft der Frühen Neuzeit