Towards a sociology of social sciences and humanities

Higher education research and, even more so, science studies, have the tendency to focus on the natural and life sciences and engineering. Social sciences and the humanities (SSH) tend to be overlooked. This has changed only slowly in recent years. My research contributes to the growing field of sociology of SSH. Two major research topics have evolved from this:

A first body of my work is concerned with a sociology of the humanities. This line of work began with my PhD, in which I studied how the notion of “Bildung” is discursively constructed in the humanities, and how it develops from the 19th century to the present. In other studies on the humanities, I have examined how the humanities are anchored in national contexts and produce national narratives, traditions, and ideologies. This contribution to national narratives is a remarkable “social impact” of the humanities since the 19th century. In yet other work on the humanities, I have looked at symbolic boundary work in which the humanities and the natural sciences negotiate their relation to each other.

A second line of work on the SSH is concerned with the methods and methodologies mobilized in the social sciences. What role do methods play for the way we conduct our research? How do they shape and bring about the things that we study? How do we decide what is a ‘method’ and what is not? My attempts to address these questions draw on current debates in science studies and the sociology of scientific knowledge that are interested in knowledge practices in the social sciences. Currently, my work on this topic has two foci: One are practices of qualitative inquiry, i.e., the daily routines of developing, applying, and modifying qualitative methods. A second focus is the nexus of methods and power, i.e., the way power relations are built into and reproduced by sociological methods and methodologies.