Un/doing DifferencesUn/doing Differences ist sowohl der Name der DFG Forschergruppe Un/doing Differences. Praktiken der Humandifferenzierung an der Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz als auch deren Ansatz zur Beschreibung und Analyse kultureller Kategorisierungs- und Differenzierungsprozesse. Vorläufer des Ansatzes lassen sich in den Genderstudies mit Doing Gender (vgl. West/ Zimmerman 1987) und in den Sozialwissenschaften mit Doing Differences (vgl. West/ Fenstermaker 1995) finden.

Differenzierungskategorien der sozialen Praxis

In beiden Fällen wird davon ausgegangen, dass Differenzierungskategorien, wie z. B. das Geschlecht, nicht unveränderlich in menschliche Subjekte eingeschrieben sind und diese ihre Differenzen als ‚Menschensorten‘ verkörpern, sondern Differenzierungen vielmehr das Ergebnis einer sozialen Praxis sind, dem Hervorbringen bzw. dem ‚Doing‘ von Differenzen (vgl. Hirschauer/ Boll 2017).

Der Ansatz Un/doing Differences geht davon aus, dass eine grundlegende Kontingenz von Humandifferenzierungen in ihrer prinzipiellen Negierbarkeit liegt: „Sie können gezogen oder zurückgezogen, aufrechterhalten oder unterlaufen werden. […] Der ambivalente Ausdruck un/doing differences versucht vor diesem Hintergrund, einen stets flüchtigen Schwebezustand begrifflich festzuhalten, einen fragilen Moment der Ununterschiedenheit, in dem Prozesse des doing oder undoing einsetzen.“ (Hirschauer/ Boll 2017, 11 f.)

Un/doing Differences und Mehrfachzugehörigkeiten

Der Ansatz meint, genauso wie alternative Konzepte zur Beschreibung von Humandifferenzierungen, dass menschliche Individuen niemals nur mit einer Kategorie beschrieben werden können. Es ist also nicht möglich, nur männlich, nur schwarz oder nur VertreterIn der Mittelschicht zu sein.

Während Intersektionalität beschreibt (vgl. Crenshaw 1991), dass sich Menschen auf der ‚(Straßen-)Kreuzung‘ verschiedener Differenzlinien befinden oder Theorien der Hybridität (vgl. Bhaba 1994) von einer Verschmelzung verschiedener Kulturen in (Einwanderer-)Biografien ausgehen, versteht Un/doing Differences Mehrfachzugehörigkeit als „eine dynamische Konkurrenz zwischen verschiedenen Differenzierungsprozessen, ein komplexes Spiel der wechselseitigen Überlagerung und Außerkraftsetzung von Humandifferenzierungen. Ein […] konkreter Fall von doing difference ist so immer eine sinnhafte Selektion aus einer Reihe konkurrierender Differenzierungen.“ (Hirschauer/ Boll 2017, 12)



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Hier geht es zum Überblick aller Lexikonartikel…



Bhabha, Homi K. (1994): The Location of Culture. London: Routledge.

Crenshaw, Kimberlé Williams (1994): Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color. Stanford Law Review 43, 1241–1299.

Hirschauer, Stefan/ Boll, Tobias (2017): Un/doing Differences. Zur Theorie und Empirie eines Forschungsprogramms. In: Hirschauer, Stefan (Hrsg.). Un/doing differences: Praktiken der Humandifferenzierung. Weilerswist: Velbrück Wissenschaft, 7–26.

West, Candace/ Zimmerman, Don H. (1987): Doing Gender. Gender & Society. Vol. 1, No. 2. In: West, Candace/ Fenstermaker, Sarah (Hrsg.) (1995): “Doing Difference”. Gender & Society. Vol. 9, No. 1, 125–151.

Un/doing Differences. Praktiken der Humandifferenzierung (uni-mainz.de)


Transkript zum Erklärfilm

Un/doing Differences ist sowohl der Name einer Forschergruppe als auch deren Ansatz zur Analyse kultureller Kategorisierungsprozesse. Es wird davon ausgegangen, dass Kategorien wie z. B. das Geschlecht keine unveränderlichen Sorten von Menschen beschreiben. Stattdessen sind sie das Ergebnis einer sozialen Praxis. Es findet also ein Hervorbringen bzw. ein ‚Doing‘ von Differenzen statt. Kategorien können demnach geformt, aufrechterhalten oder abgebaut werden. Außerdem lassen sich Individuen niemals mit nur einer Kategorie beschreiben. Es liegt vielmehr eine Mehrfachzugehörigkeit zu verschiedenen Kategorien vor, die sich gegenseitig überlagern und auch außer Kraft setzen können.


A true intercultural incident is described in the book Intercultural stories: Human encounters from all over the world – funny, instructive, true to life:

In 2008, I spent almost two weeks in England as part of a school exchange. I stayed with the family of my exchange partner, who was my age and who later joined my family in Germany. Over the days, I also got to know her friends and classmates at school. I also spent a lot of time with the other German exchange students from my school. We took lots of photos to remember them by. As was customary at the age of 14, many of the pictures showed the peace sign (actually the sign for „Victory“: index finger and middle finger stretched out to form a V). As it didn’t matter in Germany whether you held the back or front of your fingers up to the camera, some of us German students held the back of our fingers up to the camera. As a result, the English students gave us a nasty look. When we asked them what their problem was, they explained that in England the upside-down peace sign is the same as the outstretched middle finger, which is understood as a non-verbal swear word. We apologized and explained that this is not the case in Germany.

Camels for three daughters
A few years ago, I was in Egypt with my family – my father, my mother and us three daughters. We started our tour in Cairo and then drove to Giza, the third largest city in Egypt, where the famous pyramids and the Sphinx are located. We were taken there by a bus with a German guide, who also showed us around the site. My sisters and I were an attraction for the locals with our height and dark hair with light eyes. That’s what bothered me about this country: as a girl, you couldn’t move around the city without constant murmuring and whistling. This was also the case that day. It started with the usual murmuring and everywhere was swarming with camel drivers. Suddenly a man came up to us, completely ignored us women and asked my father something. The guide answered his question frantically and in the negative, but the camel dealer didn’t let up. My father wanted to know what the man was asking and the guide translated ashamedly: „He is trying to buy your wife and daughters. He’s offering them his whole herd of camels!“ At first we were all stunned and then we laughed, but the man wasn’t laughing, he was serious.

Dance of death in the Middle Kingdom

A friend of mine has a German mother and a Chinese father. When he was little, he visited his relatives in China a few times. However, he can no longer remember them.
One lunchtime, his father told him very sadly: „Your grandma has died.“ Although this was sad news for my friend, it was more because he felt sorry for his father and not because he was so shocked by the death. After all, he hardly knew this woman. As the family sat together in the evening, his parents told him that they were flying to China for the funeral. They left the decision to come with him. Because he hadn’t been there for so long and could barely remember the country, he agreed.
So they flew to China together, where they were warmly welcomed by other relatives. My friend was surprised by the joy and warmth everyone showed, even though one of their closest relatives had died. On the day of the funeral, everything was very hectic, everyone was shouting wildly, ordering cabs and squeezing into the remaining cars. When he arrived at the cemetery, his eyes almost fell out of his head. All the guests were dressed in colorful clothes, there was music and dancing right in front of the grave… Strippers!
He was completely shocked and horrified, but accepted the ceremony and when they got home he carefully asked his father. He explained to him that it was customary in China to celebrate funerals in a big way, because the more guests there were, the more popular the deceased person was. However, strippers are now banned from funerals.

Bubble of space
A few years ago, Anna completed a six-month internship abroad in Medellín, Colombia. She quickly noticed that the Colombians did not shy away from physical contact in conversations.
After six months in Medellín, Anna decided to combine her return trip to Germany with a stopover in the USA. In New York, she visited a friend who spontaneously took her to a work colleague’s party. There, Anna quickly struck up a conversation and was surprised that the people she was talking to seemed to be strangely avoiding her. Every time she approached someone in order to understand them better and not leave an impolite amount of space between them, the person would noticeably take a step backwards or to the side. At first, Anna worried about whether she smelled bad or had eaten something wrong. But then she realized that even in the USA there is a different concept of physical contact and personal space – known as the „bubble of space“.

Let the music play!
After a German tour group landed in the capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, they boarded a small coach to get to their hotel. The Ethiopians lifted the visitors‘ suitcases onto the roof of the minibus and secured them there with ropes and cords. When all the passengers were seated, the driver turned up the radio music very loudly and even sang along in places. The German visitors tolerated the volume for a while until a fellow passenger asked in English for the music to be turned down. The Ethiopian driver initially did not respond to the request and continued to play the music. After another request from a traveler, he turned the music down a little. The tourists now appeared visibly relaxed, while the driver drove on to the hotel with a petrified expression.
After the travelers had repeatedly experienced that the drivers of the minibuses always turned up the music as soon as tourists got in, one of the fellow travelers asked an Ethiopian why the music was always turned up as soon as a traveler got in. He explained that this was a hospitable gesture. They want to make the guest’s stay a pleasant one by turning up the music. They would also expect this if they were traveling with others or visiting friends.

9. September 2018

Un/doing Differences

  Un/doing Differences ist sowohl der Name der DFG Forschergruppe Un/doing Differences. Praktiken der Humandifferenzierung an der Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz als auch deren Ansatz zur Beschreibung […]