Call for Participation

‘Discomforting Objects –

Interdisciplinary Approaches to Investigating and Exhibiting Contested Pasts’

Tübingen-Durham International Postgraduate Summer School Eberhard-Karls University, Tübingen, 17-24 September 2018


Applications are open for the ‘Discomforting Objects’ International Summer School to be held from 17-24 September 2018 at Tübingen University, Ludwig-Uhland-Institut für Empirische Kulturwissenschaft.


The Tübingen-Durham International Postgraduate Summer School focuses on material artefacts as socio-cultural “triggers”. It aims to enhance research on the dynamics of discomforting pasts and narratives and the difficulties of putting discomforting objects on display.


Discomforting objects materialize societal conflicts and therefore initiate debates in the fields of research and public policy. Discomforting pasts are unavoidable, regardless of how much societies seek to suppress, ignore or forget them. The legacies of colonialism and the National Socialist regime, as well as more recent histories of terrorism, division, persecution, and migration, trouble national narratives and self-understandings. The discomforting pasts, which societies and museums must come to terms with, are as complex as the range of discomforting objects in which these pasts are embodied.


Taking into account empirical studies of the past and present, as well as exhibitions, institutions, collections and the objects themselves, the Summer School will highlight different dimensions of studying and exhibiting discomforting objects. The focus will be on three disciplines involved in the research of discomforting objects and their theoretical and methodological approaches: literary studies, anthropology and archaeology. By exploring the overlapping ways in which these disciplines contribute to the shared goals of material culture studies, the Summer School will expand participants’ horizons through the process of interdisciplinary dialogue. The aim will be to map out the research field of studying discomforting objects and its methodological and theoretical implications for the participating disciplines. Interest will primarily be focussed on objects as important sources for the understanding of the complex discourses on discomforting pasts.


Bringing together Masters and PhD students, academic faculty, postdocs and museum professionals, the Summer School will provide experience and training in the analysis of objects as key players in the materialisation of discomforting heritage.



Aims and Research Questions

The goal of the Summer School is to emphasize the role of objects as key players in the materialisation of contested heritage. It will be structured around the following questions:

  • What makes objects discomforting?
  • Do established discourses and narratives on discomforting heritage develop new significance when viewed via ‘things’?
  • How can researchers make these things speak and bring them to life as ambassadors of complex and rarely publicly discussed narratives of discomforting heritage?
  • How do museums and other institutions of remembrance exhibit discomforting objects?




The Summer School will involve keynote lectures from distinguished academics and museum professionals, follow-up workshops and field trips to a variety of heritage sites and museums in the Tübingen area, including the Museum of Modern Literature in Marbach am Neckar (Literaturmuseum der Moderne), the Blautopf Caves (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and the Museum of Prehistory at Blaubeuren. These will feed into the work of the action-based learning groups, in which participants will have the opportunity to put into practice the theoretical and methodological issues raised in the lectures and workshops. They will discuss the practical problems involved in exhibiting discomforting objects of their own choosing and develop a mini-exhibition of these objects as the closing outcome of the Summer School.


Note: Participants are invited to bring with them an object which plays a central role in their research (photos, paintings, replicas or symbols are also permitted). These objects or representations of objects will form the basis for the activities of the workshops and for the concluding mini-exhibition. Alternatively, the Museum of the University of Tübingen and the small collection belonging to the Ludwig-Uhland-Institut may be used for research. (Tübingen University E-Museum:


Confirmed speakers include: Prof. Gabriele Alex (Tübingen), Dr Jan Hinrichsen (Tübingen), Prof. Jonathan Long (Durham), Prof. Bénédicte Savoy (Prof. of History of Art at the Collége de France), Prof. Robin Skeates (Durham), Prof. Thomas Thiemeyer (Tübingen)




The University of Tübingen will provide up to ten funded places for international applicants. This will include accommodation and partial subsistence. Applicants will be responsible for their own travel costs and out-of-pocket expenses.



Application Process

Applications should be submitted by filling out the application form and including a short CV not exceeding two sides of A4 at 11 pt font. Completed forms and CVs should be sent to Karin Bürkert (Karin.Buerkert[at] by 18.05.2018.

Applicants will be notified of the outcome of their application in the middle of June 2018.




Informal enquiries about the summer school may be addressed to: Karin.Buerkert[at]