What is Gender Studies at Humboldt University?
Gender is one of the central categories that structures (among other things) perception, identities and judgments.
Gender studies investigates the significance, production, constitution, negotiation and relevance of gender and gender relations, the ways in which they work and their transformation. This comprehensive and complex claim can only be put into practice by means of an interplay between various disciplines and points of access. Only in this way can the relevance and variability of gender be fully encompassed in terms of content, epistemology and methodology.
This double movement – the simultaneous linking of various academic disciplines and critical reflection upon those very disciplines – is achieved at Humboldt Universität zu Berlin (HU) using a transdisciplinary approach. Transdisciplinarity means critical, theoretical reflection on the disciplines, combined with an interest in gender that cuts across the disciplines.
The category “gender” is understood as an interdependent category, and thus always investigated in its complex interplay with other categories such as sexuality, “race,” ethnicity, class, age, disability, faith and beliefs. Thus further perspectives, questions and fields of knowledge are continuously opened.
Gender studies thematize the significance of gender in various contexts: culture (i.e. in the media, in art and literature), the state, the economy and society, in religion and law, in medicine, technology and the sciences. Moreover, the field of gender studies at HU also includes queer studies, critical race studies, postcolonial studies, and other critical approaches in different disciplines. This research touches on subjects of political debate, as well as on the foundations of our culture. It inspects religious interpretations, as well as contemporary cultural phenomena, legal decisions and global social and economic trends.
Gender Studies is today a differentiated field of research, not only generating new knowledge, but also feeding back into the disciplines and traditional subjects of study. Gender is understood to be not just a category of identity, but also a category of analysis in dealing with various forms of knowledge production. Knowledge is inseparably linked with gender. Our psyches and our bodies, religion and politics, technology and the environment, states and corporations are all heavily influenced by gender – and themselves create notions of gender.
The production of knowledge has long been regarded as gender neutral. Research presenting itself as “general,” “objective” and “genderless” has been, in its various understandings of gender, an important subject of inquiry in gender studies. As a result, many disciplines now integrate this knowledge into their research and teaching.
Gender studies teaches students to critically reflect on knowledge formation, to ask new questions and open up complex contexts. Students of gender studies, just like the researchers teaching the subject, are therefore not confined to theory. They also put their questions and their knowledge into practice, considering problems ranging from developing new categories for personal identification documents, to much larger questions of federal policy.