The Formation and Transformation of Space and Knowledge in Ancient Civilisations


Space and Collective Identities

As globalization has become an universal topic, in the light of migration and mass tourism, everyone uses the terms ‘identity’ and ‘space’. In the politics of science, these expressions are practically developing into a magic formula. The frequency of their use is inversely proportional to their accuracy though. Concepts of identity as well as space have already gone through various cycles in the different humanities. Still, an intensive discussion about the contemporary definition as well as the possibilities and limitations of their use is barely taking place in the classical studies.

The Cross Sectional Group V provides a platform for communication regarding these topics. The Group’s main aim is to methodologically and conceptually investigate the core problem of the connection between spatially bound material culture and collective identities − especially ethnic groups −, as preserved in written records. In this field, unconsidered and not infrequently ideologically and politically charged identifications have been made. Furthermore, the humanities have to react to the progress in the natural sciences, for example in genetics or isotopic analysis.

The new results have to be integrated into the humanistic research in a methodologically critical manner, also to be able to constructively encounter the biologistic notions which are increasingly reappearing at present. In order to do so, it is also necessary to deal with the questions that the history of science has raised, as well as with the contemporary formation of identities based on archaeological sites and observations. In addition, the study of intercultural exchange which illustrates the dynamics of identities and space, as well as linguistic and narrative discourses of identity, for example in the shape of eponyms or myths, are key aspects of the Group’s research.

The following central questions are being discussed by the Cross Sectional Group V, with respect to their relative references:

  • How have ‘space’ and ‘collective identities’ been constructed in previous research?
  • How are archaeological places constructed in modern times, and do these constructs affect the formation of identities?
  • What can spatially bound material culture tell us about collective identities?
  • What significance does space have for the formation of identities?
  • How do collective identities make an impact on space?
  • In what way do the concepts of space vary in different socio-cultural groups?

Related outputs

  • Ulrike Sommer is a member of this think-tank. In this capacity she has peer-reviewed papers (Bernbeck in press) and organised a conference on 'Between Memory Sites and Memory Networks' with Prof Reinhard Bernbeck in November 2011 which will be published.


  • DFG

Network Members:

The Excellence Cluster Topoi is hosted by two universities:

  • Freie Universität Berlin
  • Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

The Cluster is based upon a concentration of research capacity in Classical Studies to be created by the close cooperation of both universities with the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities (BBAW), the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut (DAI), the Max Planck Institute (MPI) for the History of Science, the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz (SPK), and further partners.


Further information:

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