Main Content

Ph.D. projects

Photos: Dittrich, Hautmann, Kriszio, Reichert, Schwarz, Wiemer

In the following, some current dissertation projects at the institute are presented in more detail.

Postindustrial Water – Entanglements in Postindustrial Times (Arbeitstitel)

Juliana Lux


Juliana Lux's dissertation project focusses on the connection between water and (post-)industriality. She is particularly interested in what perspectives on possible futures, presents and pasts a view sharpened by "industrial water" might open up. What interconnections of (post-)industrialities become visible? Where can industrial water be found and where does it lead in times of a global climate crisis?

Industrial water describes the water that is used in industrial processes. Whether in the extraction of natural resources, in the manufacturing process or in post-landscapes, water surfaces in industry and in that what follows it. Nevertheless, in everyday life it is often not clear where water has already flowed, stood or evaporated. 
In her ethnographic research, Juliana Lux follows industrial water and, starting from Germany, tries to think global and temporal interdependencies through water. The question of what industriality or post-industriality can actually mean and what could come afterwards forms an anchor point.

Supervision: Prof. Dr Ina Dietzsch (University Marburg)

Learning Skills with Media Instructions (working title)

Jan Dittrich

Photo: Jan Dittrich

Jan Dittrich researches how people use instructions to acquire skills. To do this, he compares the use of recipes for gluten-free baking with the use of instructions for programming. Instead of assuming a separation between planning and execution, it is assumed that this skillful action requires the coordination of attention and situation (Ingold, 2001) as well as reflection in the action itself (Schön 1982).

Supervision: Prof. Dr. Götz Bachmann (University Bremen) 

Experiencing the Shoah Digitally? Memory Practice in Tension between Technology, Emotional Politics and Temporality (working title)

Janina Schwarz


Janina Schwarz's Ph.D. project deals with experiences of remembrance that have become possible/necessary through technological innovations, starting from the thesis that the Shoah is presented specifically at different times and in different media for different target groups.

Digital projects with their implicit and explicit basic assumptions, goals, claims, their conceptions, and implementations as well as their use serve as a basis. The focus is on the Lebenswelten that have already been constituted by digitalization processes, in which people now act, learn, feel, and also remember. This work is particularly dedicated to feeling, because hardly any other field acts, uses, and produces emotions as strongly as the field of remembering the Shoah.

The relevance of temporality for this research project opens up, on the one hand, through the death of contemporary witnesses and, on the other hand, through the speed of technical development, whereby different drafts of a digital culture of remembrance of the future are formulated. The field is constituted between the 'race against time' and the call to 'keep up with the times'. The high speed with which corresponding projects are developed and researched interdisciplinarily as well as the connection between past, present, and future are understood as influencing factors that must always be taken into account, both conceptually and in terms of content.

Supervision: Prof. Dr. Ina Dietzsch (University Marburg)

Unraveling NatureChildhoods with Young Humans and More-than-humans: Entangled Ethnographic Explorations based on Karen Barad’s Agential Realism (Working title)

Felizitas Juen

Photo: Felizitas Juen
Photograph from field research: grasshoppers, young humans, tarmac.

Following the concept of NatureCultures, Felizitas Juen deals in her dissertation with NatureChildhoods from a posthumanist/new-materialist perspective. How do connections between materialities, atmospheres, animals, plants and children unfold? To investigate this question, she has been conducting research at the Zurich University of Teacher Education since 2022 in an SNF project with young humans in institutional educational settings in German-speaking Switzerland.

The theoretical background of the dissertation project is the work of the physicist and philosopher Karen Barad, which sheds new light on material-discursive practices and ethics (Barad 2007). This raises new questions about how constellations, encounters or boundaries are unfolding when humans are not the central actors. The dissertation contributes to the analysis of the entanglement of childhood and nature, or young humans and more-than-humans, as children are actors that have received little attention in more-than-human approaches and multispecies ethnographies of Empirischer Kulturwissenschaft. The intraactions of young humans and more-than-humans will be explored ethnographically.

 Supervision: Prof. Dr. Ina Dietzsch (University Marburg)


An app between object of longing and beloved everyday companion – Ethnographic Explorations of the AI-based Chatapp Replika (working title) 

Annie Eckert


In her dissertation project, Annie Eckert examines  human-technology relationships using the example of the AI-based app ‘Replika’. This app enables users to create a digital "companion" that accompanies them in everyday life and can engage in conversation and make phone calls with them. It is not uncommon for users to develop feelings of affection for their digital companions, with some even describing their interactions as romantic.

The ethnographic analysis is centred on questions surrounding the familiarisation with new socialities and emotional scripts, as they can be found between replica users and their chatbots. This includes examining which familiar, culturally traditional patterns are followed by the empathic interaction between users and app. It also considers what makes a replica avatar a friend or a lover, and how similarity between a chatbot and the human users is generated. What insights can be gained on the social implications of the use of AI?

To answer this and other questions, the work will draw on a variety of methods from the discipline of cultural studies, including participant observation, qualitative research interviews, autoethnographic research episodes, and discourse analyses. These individual methods will be brought together under the approach of a ‘grounded theory’. It will be examined whether and how known methods of cultural anthropology need to be adapted for research in AI-influenced fields.

Supervision: Prof. Dr. Ina Dietzsch (University Marburg)