Methodological Assemblage - Experiences from an Interdisciplinary Project on Artists and Cities

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Volker Kirchberg - Speaker

Methodological assemblage is a melange of disciplinary and methodologcial perspectives that are applied at once, at one research subject. Since 2016 a team of sociologists of the city and the arts, and of political philosophers, are studying artists who are critically involved in issues of political importance in their city. The studied artists are living and working in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Hamburg or Hanover. The research question of this study is: How much does each of these cities, with their very specific social, cultural and political city characteristics, influence the intensity and the mode of the artists' political activism? Urban sociologists use the concept of the “intrinsic logic of cities" instead of "specific city characteristics". The intrinsic logic or texture of a city is the array of perceptible and mutually agreed structures that give a meaning to the city. Differently, political philosophers speak of the “spirit of the city." This spirit or ethos is a a set of images that is generally acknowledged by the inhabitants. Although similar in the objective (to find the one narrative of a city that affects artists), both concepts, the "spririt" and the "logic of the city" are embedded in different disciplines with different methodological foundations and different applications of data gathering methods. How can we conflate these two disciplinary concepts in such a way that both perspectives can mutually enrich each other? The “assemblage of methodologies” allows us to complement the different ways of thinking and methodological practice to achieve a more comprehensive understanding of the significance of a specific narrative of a city for patterns of urban behavior, i.e. in this study the political activism of artists.