About us

Morphomata as Käte Hamburger Center

The “Morphomata International Center for Advanced Studies – Genesis, Dynamics and Mediality of Cultural Figurations” is one of the international Käte Hamburger Centers sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research under the auspices of the initiative “Freedom for Research in the Humanities” (project number 01UK1505). Up to ten fellows from different countries and specialties cooperate with researchers from Cologne in the analysis of cultural change. This dialogue with international academics allows the Center to function as a new locus of research in the Humanities – a think tank where interdisciplinary and intercultural perspectives can be brought to the fore. The Center’s fellows further enrich university life through lectures open to the public, as well as their participation in conferences and publications. Besides the establishment of an international academic network, the Center also aims to foster the associations between cultural and educational institutions as well as the local media, and promoting this openness through exhibitions and events.

For further informations see also our information brochure:

Research Focus: Figurations of the Particular

Through the use of the name Morphomata, the Käte Hamburger Center Cologne signals that cultural manifestations are not merely a storage of knowledge and concepts but are involved in defining them more precisely and even enlarging their range of meaning. Morphomata derives from the Ancient Greek μορφώματα (morphómata), meaning form as the result of attaining or being given shape. In its second funding period from 2015 to 2021, the Center will focus on biography/life writing and portraiture as figurations of the particular. Both, biography and portraiture, are understood as descriptions of life from different perspectives. The emphasis lies on ‘life writing’ and ‘life imaging’ as principles of representation. Thus, biography/life writing and portraiture also embrace complementary figurations of the particular, such as systems of naming, biographical images, or objects such as rings, relics, memorabilia, and places of memory – with all of them understood as particular testimonies.

Together with our fellows, who cover a wide range of the Humanities, we work on cultural figurations of the particular, analyzing their emergence, their dynamics, their materials and discursivations. The basis of this is formed through the assumption that the history of cultural knowledge cannot be subsumed into a history of abstract notions and rational ideas; rather, knowledge can be found in potent aesthetic ideas, which are given shape, received, and passed on in works as well as practices of art and culture. With the fellows forming the core of a learning community, Morphomata attempts to transcend national borders, disciplines and theoretical frameworks by working on case studies exemplifying them in annual research themes:

  • 2015–2016: The Particular as the Exemplary?
  • 2016–2017: Competing Perspectives: Figures of Image Control
  • 2017–2018: Closed and Open Forms of Description
  • 2018–2019: The Particular – Between Exclusion and Distinction
  • 2019–2020: Contrast and Complementary Figures for Portraiture and Biography
  • 2020–2021: Conclusion: Morphomata’s Contribution to Comparative Cultural Studies in Portraiture and Biography

Call for Applications

Morphomata fellowships are publicly advertised each year in August/September. To be eligible for a fellowship, the applicant must have the status of at least assistant professor (or equivalent) and a strong research record in biography/life writing and/or portraiture. Scholars with particular interest in the theory of the formation, dynamics and mediality of cultural figurations are also invited to apply. You will find further information in our guidelines. Our call for applications are published on our homepage and spread via our Newsletter.