Dresden, Germany

Materiality: New Perspectives on Culture and Technology

when 18 September 2017 - 29 September 2017
language German
duration 2 weeks
fee EUR 250


Against the backdrop of continual technological innovations, the question of what constitutes ‘material’ has gained fundamental significance. How does the perception of materials, colours, bodies, texts, and objects change when the materiality is transformed, loses or gains substance, and emerges in an ever-changing variety of new forms? The question of materiality goes to the very heart of the natural sciences and humanities. After all, the way we look at material things is not only influenced by cultural and historical factors, but is also weighted with meaning and significance: nature, culture, and technology all have their own individual relationship to ‘material things’, with each creating its own conceptual framework and ways of accessing the physical world.

Materiality is a subject area that stages intriguing encounters between the sciences and humanities. Note, for example, how the material sciences and nanosciences are researching and developing increasingly small and versatile materials. Research in microelectronics is working with materials at the very limits of their physical tangibility, thereby creating the basis for virtual worlds. In this digital realm, it seems as though materiality is vanishing into the ether. By contrast, there is an increased focus in the humanities on questions relating to the physical and material quality of things, as is evident for example in researchers’ investigations into the extent to which physical entities are effective at establishing new conceptions of human identity and creating culture. Scientific research, technological development, and discussions pursued in the humanities, have formed a tightly knit interrelationship in contemporary discourse(s), which is characterized both by tensions and synergies.

The aim of the Henry Arnhold Dresden Summer School 2017 is to create space for the various perspectives on the theme of materiality that have emerged from culture, the natural world, and technology, while fostering an extensive exchange of ideas between them. Thus, the Summer School will investigate those areas that exemplify the perspectives developed over the course of research undertaken by the various participating institutions. Hence, the programme includes discussions relating to the concept of corporeality at the intersection of nature and technology – a theme given particular prominence by the Deutsches Hygiene-Museum. The Sächsische Landesbibliothek will be offering its insights in a discussion on the relationship between textuality, materiality, and digitality. The Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden will be lending its own perspective by using the scientific methods applied in the technical analysis and restoration-conservation of cultural artefacts to ask what significance can be given to the interdisciplinary analysis of artworks’ materiality in the context of art-historical research. A discussion on the way museums can communicate the materiality of these objects is then scheduled to take place at the Militärhistorisches Museum. The involvement of various research specializations at the TU Dresden will then finally make it possible to connect these perspectives with the latest research in the fields of nanotechnology and material sciences.

The Henry Arnhold Dresden Summer School 2017 will illuminate the theme of materiality from a wide variety of different perspectives that reflect the multidisciplinary nature of the joint project between a university (the TU Dresden), a state library (Sächsische Landesbibliothek), and three major museum institutions with an international reach (the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Deutsches Hygiene-Museum, and Militärhistorisches Museum). As such, the Summer School offers the unique opportunity for participants to consider underlying theoretical concepts and practical applications in equal measure. In a series of tours and interdisciplinary workshops, participants discuss real challenges currently faced by the various participating institutions in their work and can draw up proposals outlining how they might best be tackled. In addition, the Henry Arnhold Dresden Summer School’s two-week programme is an opportunity to engage in in-depth discussions with the various participating institutions and their representatives and to exchange ideas with renowned experts, scholars, and museum professionals.


The working language of the Summer School is German although some segments of the programme and individual discussions may be held in English. We expressly welcome applications from abroad, though advise that candidates should be able to follow lectures in German.

Accompanying the Summer School is a blog written by participants (http://dss.hypotheses.org/). Applicants to this year’s Summer School should be willing to compose a few blog posts during the two weeks in September.

Please send your application per email to: felicitas.von_mallinckrodt@tu-dresden.de. The application should consist of a personal statement and a current CV. The personal statement should be no longer than a page and relate directly to the topic of this year’s Henry Arnhold Dresden Summer School. We expect to have processed all applications by late June.

Course leader


Prof. Dr. Hans Vorländer
Institute for Political Science
Chair for Political Theory and History of Ideas
Dresden University of Technology (TU Dresden)

Scientific Coordinator:

Felicitas von Mallinckrodt
Dresden University of Technology

Target group

Humanities, social sciences and cultural studies; natural sciences and engineering

Participation in the Henry Arnhold Dresden Summer School is open to young postgraduates (esp. PhD students, post-docs) from the relevant disciplines, as well as young museum, archive or library professionals.

Fee info

EUR 250: The fee for taking part in the Dresden Summer School is €250 per person. Travel expenses will be covered and accommodation and catering provided.