From the AICGS Bookshelf: Out of the Tower: Essays on Culture and Everyday Life
When was the last time you had a bit more than a “muggeseggele Zeit” to think about what really makes up our everyday cultural lives? For those familiar with German dialects, you might have heard this very Swabian expression “muggesegelle” to define a very small measure of something.
There are a lot of such local artifacts hidden in Germany’s rich cultural tapestry, and there is a particular place in Germany where hundreds of social scientists and cultural historians have enjoyed the privilege of living and studying: Tübingen, home of the Ludwig Uhland Institut für Kulturwissenschaft. The Institute, otherwise known as the Institute for Historical and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Tübingen, is a national headquarters for uncovering the gems of cultural history as well as a laboratory for probing their meaning.
Over the decades of groundbreaking research conducted at the Institute by many scholars during the past half century, the founder and director Herman Bausinger became the godfather of a school of analysis that crafted empirical research of cultural phenomena. In effect, Bausinger emancipated the traditional approach to Kulturwissenschaft in Germany and opened it up to the contemporary, everyday life in German culture, and well beyond its borders. Specialists seeking Bausinger’s insights came from all over the world to visit the “Empirische KultuHaspelturm,” the southwest tower of Tübingen Castle, where the Ludwig Uhland Institute is located.
Now, Out of the Tower – Essays on Culture and Everyday Life (2013), edited by Monique Scheer, Thomas Thiemeyer, Reinhard Johler, and Bernhard Tschofen, is the first English publication of the Tübinger Vereinigung für Volkskunde (TVV), the in-house publisher of the Ludwig Uhland Institute.
With this volume, the authors present an anthology of selected essays by the faculty. This collection of essays represents recent work covering three generations of faculty—retired, current, and advanced doctoral students—all of which demonstrate the spectrum of cultural research being conducted at the Institute today. Reflecting on the discipline’s overall “practical turn,” they highlight Tübingen’s ongoing interest in local ethnography, material culture, cultural diversity, and historical as well as ethnographic approaches. These are essays that have not only come out of the institute’s rooms in the tower, but encourage a study of culture that goes beyond the—ivory—tower and engages with the everyday lives of ordinary people.
They touch on folklore and culture; everyday life; perspectives on the history of the discipline; practices of regionality; cultural diversity; and migration. There are also ethnographic and historical approaches examining the meaning of museums as media of cultural analysis
Whether one is a scholar or a curious observer of today’s phenomena of cultural diversity, both the book and its sources offer refreshingly original perspectives on the way people speak about and shape their lives.
Once you start reading, you will want to spend a lot more than a just a “muggeseggele” moment to enjoy it.