Doctoral Research Group Sociology & Cultural Organisation

In this Doctoral Research Group, PhD projects from the fields of sociology and the cultural sciences are prepared and supervised. They are all sociological or social scientific analyses of a variety of empirical cultural phenomena and issues relating to cultural theory; interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary perspectives also play a role.
This page provides an overview of the thematically, methodically and theoretically diverse areas of research covered by both supervisors and doctoral candidates. For the sake of clarity, only colleagues who have a leading role in the listed fields are mentioned here, however these names are not exclusive.
Every semester, the Doctoral Research Group organizes a colloquium (usually in the week after lectures have ended) where ongoing projects are presented. Guests are welcome to attend. Doctoral candidates may also attend a range of additional and method-related courses, which are recognized within the framework of the PhD program.

Areas of Research

At the Institute of Sociology and Cultural Organization (ISCO), cultural sociology is understood as a theoretical and research perspective of sociology which on principle includes "culture" in the analysis of social issues. Preoccupation with culture in the narrower sense produces, on the one hand, specific sociologies (e.g. the sociology of theatre, music and art), however, cultural-sociological reasoning and research also imply consideration of the social world from a certain ("cultural") perspective. This is what distinguishes Lüneburg's special profile in cultural sociology. It assumes that shared "meanings" are a constitutive element of the social world. Based on this premise, according to which the social world is always the result of culturally based perception and construction, cultural sociology can also be understood as a general sociological perspective. The work of all colleagues at ISCO considers this prerequisite of access to the social world and its methodological consequences.

Family, Couples, Love and Gender Relations (Prof. Burkart)

Family and love, sexuality and gender are often considered the course of nature. By contrast, sociology explores the private living conditions and relationships between the sexes as "social constructions", as manifestations of cultural relationships and as a consequence of social changes. This perspective can be identified both in an historic and an intercultural comparison, since these comparisons reveal a significant cultural variability of apparently natural realities.

Communication and Public Relations in the Cultural Sector (Prof. Bekmeier-Feuerhahn)

Prof. Sigrid Bekmeier-Feuerhahn's team explores all forms of interaction between cultural organizations and their environment. Starting with their connection to modern business administration, interdisciplinary theories and methods from the communication sciences, social and cultural sciences and psychology are also taken into account.

Culture in Urban Environments (Prof. Kirchberg)

This field of research focuses on the question of the significance of art and culture for urban development and conversely the effect of urban development on the culture of a city. This research field combines in an interdisciplinary way the theoretical considerations of urban sociology, urban geography, town history, urban policy research and urban planning with culture and art sociological theory, e.g. on cultural organization as an open system and an (elite) network. Theories and hypotheses on political-economic urban growth, creativity in the urban environment, governmentality and governance, among others, are considered. Other cultural scientific debates and theories on space and the city supplement this range of subjects (e.g. with the current continuation of Lefebvre's production of space theory, globalization theories on urbanization in the face of current and future mega-cities and the growing segregation of urban regions in response to social inequality).

Culture and Technology (Prof. Burkart)

It is commonly believed that "technology" continues to develop in a linear way in accordance with its own rationality ("technical progress"), and with every one of these developmental stages human life changes in an almost deterministic way. From this point of view, for example, the clock is a technical achievement of man "who always wanted to know what time it is". From the cultural-sociological perspective, however, we study technology from the opposite view: we ask how culture influences technical development and how technical innovations establish themselves often only when they are accepted in culture. The significance of the clock and timekeeping can therefore only be understood in the context of monastery discipline, the enforcement of modern industrial capitalism ("time clock") and the necessity of coordinating complex processes in social institutions.

Cultural Organization (Prof. Kirchberg)

Cultural organization can be divided into the areas of cultural production, cultural distribution and cultural reception or consumption. The sociology of the arts and culture in Lüneburg describes and analyzes interdependencies between these three fields and the influences of social, political and economic environments, also in intercultural contexts, on cultural contents and forms. The basis of these analyses are, specifically, Anglo-American theories of art worlds, neo-institutionalism and the production-of-culture approach as well as dependences and developments of the field theories of Bourdieu and post-structuralist concepts of design, control and the effectiveness of institutional structures. In this context, the empirical analysis of cultural organization refers primarily but not exclusively to exhibitions and museums of various kinds (from art to natural history), music genres between high and pop culture and institutions specializing in the performing arts, as well as cross-culture genres.

Culture, the Arts and Sustainability (Prof. Kirchberg)

This research into cultural organization focuses on the significance of art and culture for sustainable development on many levels. This has been prompted by the present short-sightedness of considering the arts merely as a medium in an ecological discourse or limiting the study of cultural sustainability to only a few cultural sectors. In a cultural-theoretical sense, "cultural sustainability" is emphasized in this context as a necessary value in contrast to non-sustainable developments in society and this conflict is analyzed. Alternatives are outlined and the use of the arts is correspondingly interpreted and evaluated.

Media Sociology (Dr. Yvonne Niekrenz)

Technical media has been assuming important social functions and shaping the everyday life of modern society not just since the advent of the internet, "interactive" formats and digitalization. Printing, copperplate, photography, newspapers, film, radio and television already produced new ways of communicating and perceiving things which are not dependent on the presence of humans and therefore allow the development of more complex forms of socialization. We are interested specifically in interactions between (technological) media innovations and their (social) use and in the way they influence the culture of the modern age, from the beginnings until the present day. One special interest lies in the comparative analysis of shifts in key media and the tension emerging between critical and functional media theories.

Reception and Audience Research (Prof. Kirchberg)

This research field covers empirical reception and audience research, especially in museums, but also social-scientifically complex studies on representative population studies of cultural consumption, including international comparisons, and the effect of cultural reception on production in the performing arts. Examples of these analyses are empirical studies on the assessment and criticism of exhibitions, reception by museum visitors and on the significance of cultural diversity at festivals of performing arts.

Sociology of Fields of Cultural Production (Prof. Wuggenig)

The focus is on cultural practice or production in fields such as art, literature, theatre, music, or science. This covers not only social organization and the institutional funding of production, its social use or consumption und distribution, but also the dynamics of the transformation of such fields (e.g. globalization, economization). Given the synthetic orientation of access, a wide range of possibilities are open to research: From a theoretical point of view, objectivistic analyses are possible, as are subjectivist or constructivist analyses in methodological research projects within the framework of the quantitative paradigm (e.g. survey, content analyses, etc.) as well as research within ethnographic or qualitative paradigms (e.g. interviews, observations, discourse analysis, etc.).

Sociological Dimensions of Cultural Mediation (Prof. Kirchberg)

Cultural mediation is understood sociologically in this research field as the institutionalization of cultural distribution. The spheres of distribution that mediate between cultural production and consumption are based on three competing or coexisting environments: Firstly cultural markets (market), secondly state support systems (state) and thirdly organizations from the non-profit field (public benefit). Each of these environments has its own creative motives, targets, political instrumentalizations and specific intrinsic values in cultural production. The social functions of culture-mediating institutions are the focus of these sociological analyses.

Doctoral degree

The respective faculty confers the doctoral degree Dr. phil.

Members of the Doctoral Research Group


Prof. Dr. Volker Kirchberg
Universitätsallee 1, C5.222
21335 Lüneburg
Fon +49.4131.677-2726