Material Text Cultures

Goals & Central Ideas

The Collaborative Research Centre 933 (CRC 933) examines text that is written on things: text on pillars, portals, tombstones, potsherds, amulets, scrolls, on papyri, parchment, paper; to name only a few. Our main research interest focusses on the specific materiality, the evoked presence of the inscribed artefacts and the written texts themselves. The researchers involved investigate a lot of questions: How and under which circumstances were these artefacts produced? In which spacial arrangements were they located? Who had access to them? How and in which contexts were they used? The CRC's 933 main idea is that writing, script-bearing artefacts and related practices are bound by an irrevocable mutual connection, which has a huge explanatory power for the understanding of the transmitted texts and their cultural surroundings.

The CRC 933 chooses its examination objects first and foremost from cultures to which means of mass production for written texts were unknown or unavailable. This includes for example antique statue bases, clay tablets inscribed with cuneiform writing from Mesopotamia or graphic characters found on medieval buildings. This decision is based on the presumption that the connection of text, materiality, spatiality and on the practices linked to these changed fundamentally with book printing. Among other things, the materiality of the written seems of lessened significance for actors. Furthermore, with the development of an appropriate set of methodical tools the CRC contributes to raising attention to how the materiality of texts plays a major role for understanding them ¬– not only for texts from  societies long past, but also from today.

Since its beginning, the CRC aims for the following overarching goal: Interdisciplinary, systematic development and proving of a tableau of methods and its justification for the analysis of script-bearing artefacts as a theory of material text cultures. Moreover, its implementation in historical-archaeological and philological studies.

On the way to this goal, the CRC 933 became a ‘laboratory of the humanities’,  which enables us to creatively combine premises, epistemological interests, subject areas and methods that normally operate separately from one another. By doing so, we want to generate new fields of research, enhanced analytical methods and significant new knowledge.

One of the CRC's central goals is to gather and make available qualified data (TP INF, cf. for data base presentations). For us it is of upmost importance to systematically reflect possible future use cases (cf. the CRC’s data management plan). Also, systematically diffusing the CRC's research results to several target groups is a main objective which is planned and carried out by the subproject "Public Relations".

The CRC has been funded since 2011 by the German Research Foundation. Around 70 scientists coming from 18 different disciplines of the humanities at Heidelberg University and at Heidelberg College for Jewish Studies participate in the CRC's activities. In May 2019 the German Research Foundation granted a third funding period until 2023.