Everyday culture in history and present
European Ethnology is a discipline of cultural studies that focuses on the cultural expressions of the population at large. The starting point is a broad concept of culture, which is concerned with the creation of culture as a specifically human ability to shape the world in which we live, and which is expressed in patterns of action and their production of things and symbols. The point of reference is the multiform, everyday life and experience spaces in the past and present.
The aim is to gain insight into the diversity of European cultures and their phenomena in their historical depth, their social conditions and their regional characteristics. In a nutshell, it is about the reciprocal relationship between culture - history - society - space. In so-called micro-studies a dynamic of cultural expressions can be recognized, whose processes are to be understood in their duration and change, their tradition (continuity) and transformation or discontinuity.
- oral, literary, visual forms of transmission
e.g. popular narrative and reading materials, pictures and signs, media and virtual worlds, proverbs, public register books, friendship books, fairy tales, votives, commercials, online forums
- behavioral patterns, courses of action and imaginary worlds
e.g. everyday, festive and leisure time behavior, ways of working, beliefs, values, tastes, conventions, rituals, customs, events, holidays, celebrations such as weddings or church fairs, pilgrimages and processions, festivals
- group-bound life "in handed-down orders"
e.g. institutions, ways of life and communities, family structures, club life
- material goods
e.g. buildings, dwelling, clothing, accessories, ceramics, utensils, pictures, house figures, furniture, clothing, object biographies, posters, votive pictures, wayside shrines
- Those who focus on enculturationand acculturation can ask: How are values of social groups (family, village, district, professional group) shaped? By mechanisms within the group itself, i.e. by internal socialization, or by emphatic influence from outside (e.g. organized folklore), by assimilation?
- What role do power relations play, e.g. between man and woman, landlord and subject, employee and employer? What influence do these have on norms and thus on behavior and lifestyles? The relationships between norm and behavior, domination and culture are addressed here.
- Questions about communication and diffusion trace the paths of normative ideas, value patterns and rules of behavior. In what ways are these communicated (catechesis, school, media, oral processes, etc.)? Do specific lifestyles find a diffusion through this?
- Do these forms of life in their spatial limitations offer patterns of identification that provide security and safety for the individual? How do these spatial limitations change in the course of globalization? How are cultural space and identity linked to each other?
- Within what framework is the individual with his cultural expressions subject to group-specific, social conditions? Which individual-creative possibilities are granted to him, i.e. how do group and individual influence each other?
- Is the individual also closely bound in his creativity to collective ideas of taste? Do product designers work with these ideas? How do creativity and the culture industry (problems of folklorism) relate to each other?
- What function and meaning for social, societal systems can one discern behind cultural objectivations and subjectivations?
- In which signs and symbols is the meaning of cultural value systems condensed?
We research everyday culture mainly by means of qualitative methods, such as
- analyze and interpret historical sources
- apply contemporary empirical methods of European Ethnology,
e.g. qualitative interview, participant observation/field research;
- other source and methodologies of folklore/European Ethnology/cultural anthropology,
e.g. film analysis, internet ethnography, narrative spatial maps.
All these approaches require an intense interest in people in all their ways and worlds of life. In order for us to reconstruct their everyday culture, a high degree of participation and empathy is necessary, as well as an exploratory engagement with the familiar and the unfamiliar. This reflective engagement ultimately leads to an understanding of "foreign," "other" ways of thinking and acting.