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Master’s programme projects

The two-semester study project is a central component of the four-semester master's programme in European Ethnology. A common research process addresses individual topics in a way that generates publications, exhibitions, films, websites or similar outcomes. In learning by doing, students acquire knowledge of methodologies from ethnography and the cultural sciences as well as for the purposes of interpretation, reflection and establishing a command of theory. Students acquire important professional skills by developing their idea and project, as well as subsequently implementing their research and disseminating the results in public.

Study projects


The Street: A Moving Urban Space
Led by Associate Professor Johanna Rolshoven and Assistant Professor Judith Laister

Streets are moving spaces. All around the world, they are locations of central importance for urban life. They provide space for traffic, trade and consumption, for communication and interaction, for festivals, demonstrations and all sorts of diverse events. In a democracy, streets are spaces of central importance for the public sphere. Societal power relations and everyday conflicts can be seen “on the street”, both in the built environment and in the social use made of the street. Films, songs, literature and images represent various facets of this dynamic cultural space.

In the summer semester, the project seminar entitled “The Street: A Moving Urban Space” conveys the theoretical and methodological foundations of cultural analysis and provides support for individual empirical research that is embedded in the group, from topic selection to implementation in visual, acoustic and textual form. The aim of the work done during the summer semester is to create, with professional assistance, a wall newspaper for presentation at a public conference at the End of June. In the second part of the seminar during WS 18/19, we work together on a written format that is to be incorporated into a multimedia presentation of the research results.

In the context of the topic of the year for 2018: SOCIAL MOBILITIES: PEOPLE IN MOTION


Inherited Things: Between Symbolic and Economic Practice     
Led by Associate Professor Burkhard Pöttler

The core content of this project concerns inheritance as a cultural process against the background of economic, legal and social conditions; or, in other words, the “emotions and interests” associated with the process of inheriting. Both current sensitivities and historic aspects are therefore of significance – in material as well as symbolic terms. Inherited things that do not have a high material value can be of great non-material significance to the heir; they can prompt close social relations or a lifelong process of inheritance where, for example, the transfer of knowledge and skills is concerned. However, inherited things can also symbolize negative experiences or forms of suppression.
There is a political debate about how to tax an “undeserved fortune” in cases of large inheritances that contribute to the reproduction of and increase in social inequality. On the other hand, inheritances can give rise to costs that are unaffordable, as in the case of an abandoned house for example, and complicate relations between family members. Unwanted inheritances, such as those requiring the disposal of domestic furnishings, add another facet to the subject. During the course of the one-year project, the plan evolves for presenting research results to the public in the form of a scientific print publication and an exhibition. The exhibition’s design concept and implementation is supervised by the professional conservator Erika Thümmel. The book, which is to be presented at the exhibition opening, appears as a special issue in the series “Grazer Beiträge zur Europäischen Ethnologie” [Graz Essays on European Ethnology] published by the University of Graz’s Institute for Cultural Anthropology and European Ethnology.

Burkhard Pöttler / Lisa Erlenbusch (eds.), ERBE_N. Macht - Emotion - Gedächtnis [IHERITANCE_INHERITING. Power - Emotion - Memory], Graz: Bibliothek der Provinz 2018.

In the context of the topic of the year for 2017: IHERITANCE_INHERITING: POWER. EMOTION. MEMORY.


Heroes: Representations of Lone Male Warriors
Led by Associate Professor Johanna Rolshoven

“Representations of Lone Male Warriors” falls into the Institute’s topic of the year for 2016: “Critique of Representation.” The point of departure for examining the theme is empirical and concrete, namely, to deal with current social questions. The attacks carried out worldwide in the name of Jihad construed as “holy war” entail the confrontation with the figure of the lone male warrior and hero: the suicide bomber is a social figure who has already made an appearance in the history of the twentieth century in the form of the kamikaze, the guerillero, the terrorist and the resistance fighter or partisan, among others. The figure embodies a repertoire of visual and archetypal attributes that are deeply rooted in culture and are of major functional significance here. Critical analyses of various representations provide the basis for decoding male images and self-images using the methods of semiotics, hermeneutics and visual analysis, such that the history, contexts, functions and interpretations of these representations are taken into account. In the process, the course conveys the theoretical and methodological foundations of cultural analysis. The outcome was the creation and public display of the exhibition “Heroes: Representations of Gender, Powerlessness and Power” as well as the publication of a book.

Johanna Rolshoven / Toni Janosch Krause / Justin Winkler (eds.), Heroes – Repräsentationen des Heroischen in Geschichte, Literatur und Alltag [Heroes: Representations of the Heroic in History, Literature and Everyday Life], Bielefeld: transcript 2018.

In the context of the topic of the year for 2016: CRITIQUE OF REPRESENTATION


The Styrian Gaze: Aesthetic Performance and Folklore
Led by Associate Professor Katharina Eisch-Angus

42 wooden pairs of eyes confront us – and stare through us. Graz's Folk Costume Hall, the last of its kind, unsettles, fascinates, polarizes visitors. From the ambiguous line-up of costume-wearers to the horror of each artificial yet soulful figure, it captures the uncannily familiar within a museal setting in our time. The Hall provides a space for the interplay between the contradictory inheritance of bourgeois desires, discourses of modernity and anti-modernity, and the collective memory of war and fascism, as well as giving polyphonic expression to the ambivalence of the cultural.

The research group examined the historic “Costume Hall” in Graz’s Joanneum Folk Life Museum as a polyvalent spatial installation situated between applied science and art. The point of departure was the ambivalent tension that emerges on the one hand from the folkloric approach to presenting Styrian folk costumes (as “familiar”) and, on the other, from the impression transmitted by the sculpted figurines (the “uncanny”).  This opened up new perspectives on the interrelation between Volkskunde and art as well as on questions of the social and cultural search for identity. Research results and associated reflections were presented to regional and supraregional publics, as well as to discipline-specific and professional experts. This ensued in book form, at various specialist fora (e.g. in conference lectures) as well as in the form of an intervention/exhibition entitled “Uncannily Familiar: Routes to the Costume Hall” and participative actions.

Exhibition “Uncannily Familiar: Routes to the Costume Hall” in the Folk Life Museum under the leadership of professional conservator Erika Thümmel, Joanneum University of Applied Sciences, Graz.

Katharina Eisch-Angus (ed.), Unheimlich heimisch: Kulturwissenschaftliche BeTRACHTungen zur volkskundlich-musealen Inszenierung [Uncannily Familiar: Observing Displays in Folk Life Museums from the Perspective of the Cultural Sciences] (= Grazer Beiträge zur Europäischen Ethnologie, special issue). Vienna: Löcker, 2016.

268 pages ǀ 175 colour illustrations ǀ €29.80 ǀ ISBN: 978-3-85409-806-5

In the context of topic of the year for 2015 DIMENSIONS OF THE POLITICAL


The Petrol Station as a Site of Encounter
Led by Associate Professor Helmut Eberhart

This course was to test the hypothesis that petrol stations fulfil a social function that extends well beyond their primary function. It was therefore duly noted that petrol stations are also sites of encounter, serve as shops (particularly on Sundays) and operate as communication hubs. Petrol stations, once conceived of this way, do not only serve the purposes of mobility but, in addition, constitute a site of stability for people living in the surrounding area. In urban and rural areas, petrol stations sometimes proved to be a fully functioning substitute for inns that were closed for business. The rise of the petrol station as communication hub is therefore directly linked to the so-called “death of the pub.” In the interim, further related seminars and a working group on the topic were held. On 12 April 2019, the annual exhibition on this topic opens at the Styrian Folk Life Museum.



Open City          
Led by Associate Professor Johanna Rolshoven

The topic of the “open city” stems from the debate surrounding the urban public sphere and the loss of public space, which currently raises some of the most urgent spatial questions in science and planning. Spatial questions are always social questions: they concern social, cultural, political, economic and legal participation – as well as processes of inclusion and exclusion in cities and thus the fundamental questions of cultural anthropology.
The course dealt with the concept of the open city as it arises from the perspective of various disciplines dealing with the city. To describe the city as an open city is to conceive of the city first and foremost in terms of peripheral phenomena, that is, to orient oneself in relation to urgent social agendas.
The open city designates “city” as a space of possibility in which individuals and groups participate in the development and use of urban space. It raises the question of individual access to space, networks and resources within the city environment, as well as the question about the sort of contribution that architecture and urban development can make to solving social problems.

“Open City” exhibition in GrazMuseum in cooperation with Sibylle Dienesch and Astrid Kury.

The project generated two publications:

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