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Dispensa al corso di Sociologia delle relazioni interculturali della Prof.ssa Enrica Tedeschi. Trattasi del saggio di Iris Rittenhofer sull'interculturalità e sul lavoro dei ricercatori all'estero. Esso verte parzialmente sul resoconto autobiografico dell'autrice, in parte su interviste ad altri ricercatori. Lo scopo del lavoro è evidenziare... Vedi di più

Esame di Sociologia delle relazioni interculturali docente Prof. E. Tedeschi



FQS 3(3), Art. 17, Iris Rittenhofer: Aftermath. A Scientist's Narratives on Self and Presence

this disruption as the origin of both, what happens in and results from this second

country. Thus, a chronological presentation would be inconsistent to the develop-

ments and the argumentations which I intend to show and to explain here. [3]

A further theme is the presentation and the analysis of those reflections which

concern the projects and which I narrated both as a stay abroad and with a stay

abroad. This analysis is followed by a discussion of the consequences of these

narratives for the projects. Finally, I discuss in detail the concept of cultural

interviewing which is one of the outcomes of these processes. I am going to

exemplify the consequences for my studies by using the example of an excerpt of

a transcript, which is a product of cultural interviewing. This excerpt illustrates that

being a guest as well as its significations is rooted in a respective presence, and

that it is multiplied by the fugacity of a respective presence as well as by the

potentials for positioning, which are contained in the presence. Signifiers as for

instance gender, ethnicity and science, which are at the center of my research

interests, subjectivize multiple positioning of an always fugacious presence.

Moreover, the excerpt illustrates the parallelism of subjectivizing signifiers or

categories. In a final conclusion I briefly sum up on the relationship between the

long-term stay in a second country and my occupation as a scientist. [4]

1.1 The term "parallel category"

The term parallel category is a result of what I researched interweaving with what

I experienced and vice versa. It is one aim of this contribution to show how I

developed this term and what I mean by it. A major part of this piece is organized

around this term. Despite the fact that the explanation of the parallelism of the

categories of my interest is a recurring topic here, I will give a brief core definition.

In order to facilitate my readers' understanding, this explanation will also be

illustrated by an example. I partly follow in this the definition and the examples in

RITTENHOFER (2001, p.183). [5]

I first want to explain the term parallel category with the perceptions of systems of

difference. These systems of difference are perceived in specific ways and are

identified with certain categories. These categories become constituted, that is

that they acquire contents and meanings specific to the respective con-text. In

FOUCAULT-inspired discourse analysis this perception and the constitution of

categories, which follows from that is an effect which may be obtained within a

discursively determined frame (MILLS 1997). Parallel category means that

categories are comparable on the premise that they are constituted as a

consequence of diverse perceptions and identifications of bipolar hierarchical

differences. This also applies to categories, which are commonly understood as

being completely different, as is the case with for example quality and

qualification, or publication lists and scientist. What is defined as one category

and constituted as its contents, therefore cannot be characteristic, cannot be

essential for this category. Furthermore, all categories have in common that they

embody systems of difference. Their compatibility rests on this. [6]

© 2002 FQS

FQS 3(3), Art. 17, Iris Rittenhofer: Aftermath. A Scientist's Narratives on Self and Presence

As an example for one of those categories embodying difference I choose

productive/ unproductive. I take outset in macroeconomic discourses, which form

the frame for Danish research politics between 1970-1990. High productivity and

the production of something new are very highly valued as compared to zero-

productivity and other products of scientific practices. Those values of high

productivity and production of something new appear in the shape of various

categorizations. For example, productivity is identified with the category

publication and the category highly qualified scientist. The production of

something new may be upgraded as the determining benchmark of the quality of

scientific practices. The quantity, not the quality of those products become the

central marker of the productivity of a scientist. The quantity signified with

publication lists thus turn into the definite quality of a scientist. The qualitatively

best or the most qualified scientists, then, is the person who produced the largest

amount of new, in the sense of further, publications. The quantity (of products)

thus becomes comparable to the essential quality of the scientist. The scientist

with the most extensive publication list thus may count as the very best, the

extensive publications of minor things like working papers may count more than

the minor number of written and edited monographs. [7]

Parallel category means that the same possible positioning (for example

productivity) may be labeled with a diversity of signifiers. Further examples for

parallel categories are time and space. I may narrate my life with time (presence,

past) but as well as nation (home country, stay abroad). As LATHER and

SMITHIES (1997) argue, labeling signifying practices enforce a changed

relationship to past and present. I reflect on what I at first understood as

consequences of a stay abroad in order to explore what I had signified with the

narrative on a stay abroad. This makes possible the proliferation of what I may

narrate as my presence, my past. Second, the parallelism of signifiers as gender

or ethnicity consists in that they always and ultimately are essentializations of the

dichotomies basic to Western modernity such as nature versus culture, us versus

them, mind versus body. This I want to show below, too. Significations and their

sources are parallel to each other. So are the diversities of the narrations on the

present, which is at the heart of their fugacity. Presence itself essentializes both,

a perception which is conditioned by a respective context, and the chosen, a

respective possibility for positioning and labeling. Since what I perceive, narrate,

signify as or with present is both, heterogeneous as well as fugacious, I also

speak of the present below. [8]

The parallelism of signifiers as gender and ethnicity consists in that they always

are essentializations of dichotomies central to modern western thought, such as

culture/nature, us/them, mind/body. This, too, I want to show below. The

meanings and their sources are as parallel to each other as are the multiple

narratives of the presence, which due to their diversity bring about fugacity.

Presence is an essentialization of the respective perceived possibilities for

labeling and for signifying taken into consideration. Since what I identify with

presence and constitute as such, as well as what I narrate as presence and the

meanings I give, always is both, heterogeneous and elusive, I speak below

instead of presence of the respective present. One of my intentions is to show

© 2002 FQS

FQS 3(3), Art. 17, Iris Rittenhofer: Aftermath. A Scientist's Narratives on Self and Presence

here that that what may be experienced as a shared experience, or as an

experience had before, is but a repetition of themes, which may be identified with

and embodied in the term. I labeled my experience as the re-cognitions of

themes. These "reiterations of themes" (LATHER 1995) are both, subjectivized

and essentialized. It is this parallel embodiment in an experience, in a self, which

makes it possible both, to invent the validity of an experience, and to protect it

against queries. [9]

What I researched and what I experienced go hand in hand, but I no longer

consider them a consequence of my occupation abroad. It is also due to my

interest in poststructuralist literature, mainly in the fields of gender studies and

history, that I want to describe this development in a language of

poststructuralism. A brief introduction to the language use in this article might

facilitate the comprehension of my argumentations. My interest in poststructuralist

conceptualization and argumentations has developed as a consequence of my

reflections on my stay abroad. This was my access to poststructuralism. In this

sense, lived poststructuralism became a necessity of the realities of my everyday

life . Lived poststructuralism means that I am sensitized and therefore able to


easily spot the structures of binaries and their significations. Lived

poststructuralism expresses itself in that I try to recognize and to question

dualism, as well as to replace them by a diverse other or a non-dualistic structure.

Lived poststructuralism also expresses itself in that I scrutinize the absoluteness,

the apparent exclusivity of dual significations and contents and try to put some

diverse third in their places. Lived poststructuralism leads to multiple

understandings. Having cleared up the usage of the terms, I would now like to

briefly explain my language use. [10]

The terms experience, research, and understanding are polarized signifiers which

signal homogeneity, lack of ambiguity and absolute exclusiveness, and which

apparently contain the possibility for their accumulation. In this article, I

particularly concentrate on the aspect that these terms always are positioned,

situated, and parallel to each other. Moreover, since this article also concentrates

on the query of matters of cause not scrutinized by many scientists, my

argumentation and its presentation would become implicitly contradictory if I

would maintain the common usage of these terms. This makes the attempt to de-

homogenize and to denaturalize these terms a necessity. In order to be able to

adhere to the fugacity of significations of contents and contained significations, I

write below what I experienced instead of experience, the known instead of

knowledge, what I researched instead of research, the understood instead of

understanding. This language use, I hope, continues to make it apparent that

these terms always are positioned and situated and ought to be seen as an

attempt to avoid the essentializations of what I try to express with these words.

Those terms are process-oriented and, as categories, do signal relatedness,

2 One of the scientists who I interviewed for an ongoing research project put his long lasting

experience with extensive international cooperation with colleagues within his field into the

following words (my translation): Poststructuralism is something, so to speak, which becomes a

necessity, with outset in an every day reality of mingling with a variety of scientific communities

of which one becomes an integrated part." This quotation also serves as a source for the

argument I am going to make below that what I experienced is not essential to a stay abroad.

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FQS 3(3), Art. 17, Iris Rittenhofer: Aftermath. A Scientist's Narratives on Self and Presence

mutability, diversity, ambiguity. It will be up to the interested reader to deem of my

attempt. As SCOTT (1991) argues, language and experience cannot be

separated from each other. What I knew, researched, and experienced is spoken

of in language, but does not only happen as language, but as well by what

possibly can be made a subject-matter of language and be put into words. This

has conditioned as well as influenced my projects. [11]

2. The Emigration and the Projects. A Description of Processes

In 1991 I moved from the Federal Republic of Germany to Denmark. I brought

with me a master's degree in history, philosophy as well as in German language

and literature studies. I also brought with me what I used to relate to as one year

of graduate studies in the US (1987-1988). In the course of a one-year

supplementary education program in gender studies at the University of Aarhus I

started to learn Danish. In 1994 then began what, from the position of a selective

(retro-) perspective may be narrated as a scientific career. I deliberately chose

the term selective in order to stress that the disposition and the partial

categorization of what I have done, experienced, lived and underwent in

Denmark, is homogenized in this categorization as a career, embodied in the

category career, and thus can achieve meanings like for example achievement or

success. [12]

Categories as signifiers determine how we understand the world (BELSEY 2001,

p.302). Signifiers as my employment abroad determine how I may narrate for

instance Denmark and Germany, my past and my present. This is also true for

the understood, which by no means is a given, equivocal and immutable factor,

and which is homogenized and naturalized when constituted as self. It is not the

long term stay abroad itself which facilitated the specification and extension of my

view on the multitude of possible meanings. Rather it is the reflections expressed

in terms like a stay abroad, the reflections on what I have experienced and

understood as a stay abroad that led me to the cogitation of the diversities of that

what I—always situated and positioned—understood. [13]

The positioning in the emigration, that is in a movement into an other, as well as

the positioning in the stay abroad, that is a stay in the other, did for the time being

result in a connection of what already was known and familiar to me, with the stay

abroad. That way, I apparently re-experienced and re-understood the already

known and familiar, which turned into that which had yet to become known. What

I hitherto had perceived as self-evident and accepted as taken for granted thus

got scrutinized over again. My research-interest has not only been born out of

those situated and positioned understandings of self. However, it is those facets

of my research interests on which I will concentrate in the following. Science and

research are part of those processes in which I attempt to gain meanings of what

I experienced, try to understand those meanings. This does not imply, however,

that the results of my research are due to what I experienced. Rather, they are the

results of reflection processes which I express in terms like the experienced. [14]

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FQS 3(3), Art. 17, Iris Rittenhofer: Aftermath. A Scientist's Narratives on Self and Presence

That which I at first came to know as a disruption changed in the course of time

into an understanding of constant movements into a respective other and from a

respective other. I believe that the reason for that I at first understood and

experienced the emigration in terms of disruption has to be found in first, that I

wanted change. Second, that I believed that change could be achieved by

emigration alone. And last, I already created pre-existing possibilities for

positioning as for instance foreign country or emigration my own in order to be

able to constitute the modification as a disruption. As BELSEY (2001, p.299)

depicts in an impressive way, so became my own presence an element in the

construction of the past. However, what I want to concentrate on here is a slightly

different aspect: because I experienced the emigration as a disruption and thus

enabled myself to understand Denmark as the other, it became possible for me

partly to distance myself from what respectively was present to me. The thus

excluded, that from which I could, wanted to distance myself became an

important element in the construction of the past. What I dismissed and

disclaimed became invisible in my narratives on my life and doings in Denmark,

but got a prominent place where I narrated about Germany and past. What I

actually did was that I equated the past and Germany, used the categories of

nation and time parallel in order to be able to tell with nation and time what I

wanted to dissociate from. As a consequence, I did not extend my repertoire of

narratives. Instead, I modified the old narratives. However, neither alteration, nor

change is evoked by the movement into a respective other. Rather, they are

processes, which are made possible in the formulation of my trains of thought in

varying words and in several languages. Below I would like to exemplify how

these alterations occurred and what their impact was on my research and vice

versa. [15]

With outset in difference, which I positioned made a possible experience with

nationality, the second past, that is the past of the second country, was not my

own past. Though inhabiting the present, I only saw myself as a guest in my own

presence. That means, that I in the beginning understood myself as a German

living in Denmark. As I came to understand later on, being a guest was not

restricted to staying abroad. Being a guest can be embodied in multiple relational

signifiers as nation, time or gender: as German scholar at a Danish University, as

a scholarship holder with temporary employment in a scientific community of

permanently employed scientists, as a woman at men's university, there are

uncountable possibilities. Reflections on living and working in a space which I at

first categorized as abroad and understood as the other have been the outset and

the source of what I wanted to know (the research proposal), what I could know

(a source for the known), how I acquired the known (research strategy) and for

the extended moldings of the newly understood. This has consequences for what

I may know, because it has consequences for how the known is molded and how

I may understand it. [16]

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FQS 3(3), Art. 17, Iris Rittenhofer: Aftermath. A Scientist's Narratives on Self and Presence

2.1 Difference narrated as being-a-foreigner and gender

My first project (p1 below) was a comparative analysis of presentations of

leadership within as well as of economy published in German and Danish media

1960-1990 (RITTENHOFER 1999a). The media of this time period was treated as

sources of discursive knowledge. Composed in German language, the effort to

make my own in the foreign and the foreign in my own comprehensible was still

central to the analysis in p1. This effort was at the time of the beginning of the

project already for three years an essential component of lived realities. Deduced

form what I experienced, especially from on the one hand an understanding of my

self as the other as well as from being perceived as the other, and on the other

hand from an understanding of my self as part of the foreign as well as of the

foreign as part of my self, I positioned myself between both cultures. When I look

at it today, the characteristic feature of p1 is this duality. [17]

My starting point in p1 was, that conceptions of leadership and gender are

expressed in language. This led me to the analysis of language as being at the

core of whatever contiguity between gender and leadership might exist. This

comparative dissertation project which proved to be worthy of a scholarship three

years after my migration, accrued from an everyday activity: the always prevailing

comparison of what at this time still meant to me the country of my origin and the

foreign country of my choice. It often attracted my attention how much these two

countries are alike. I felt that the societies might appear to be different, but when

it came to the bottom line, they were not that different after all. Despite of the

declared goal of my epistemological interest, I found it difficult to point at the

similarities of those differences, that is the inter-community of what I at the

beginning perceived as a difference between Denmark and Germany. To give an

example, I took it for granted that Denmark as one of the Scandinavian countries

had carried gender equality into effect, while Germany in this regard clearly was

behind. In Denmark, not only most fathers, but also most mothers of preschool

children are gainfully employed. This definitely is a difference. However, I could

not make this fit with the fact that in both countries, women hold the main

responsibility for both, the household and the children, and that this is once

perceived as factual gender equality, and once as the very reason for the lack of

gender equality. The problem in p1 was on the one hand, that I in the very outset

of my project conceived both countries as being different. On the other hand, I did

not recognize this assumption of difference as a position, which already existed

prior to and independent of the source material compiled by me. Thus, the source

material was right from the very beginning as compiled and edited as a

documentation of this difference and analyzed from this perspective. Finally, this

outset of the respective difference in these countries was reproduced in the

analysis and in the phrasing of the results. Here, to the preexisting contents and

meanings of this difference, further contents and meanings were added. I had

neither thought of the fact that what I identified as the difference between two

countries existed as well outside and independent of what I understood as my

self. Here, this means independent of the constitution of my self as a foreigner

that is as a German in Denmark, as well as independent of the constitution of the

materials as foreign-Danish and as familiar-German material. [18]

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FQS 3(3), Art. 17, Iris Rittenhofer: Aftermath. A Scientist's Narratives on Self and Presence

In p1 I compared the change of meaning, which the relations between leader and

gender had undergone. Since in p1 I moved back and forth between two

languages my attention was drawn towards the shifting meanings of positioning

and their possible diversities. My attention, too, was drawn to the possible

positioning of signifying categories as for instance gender, foreigner, nation,

science or leader and thus towards those categories being "situated"

(HARRAWAY 1991). What I then was able to put into words as my results was as

much rooted in my everyday thinking as in my scientific work. My results signified

as much what I understood in every day life as what I researched. The diverse

meanings of those societal changes in both countries narrated as gender on the

one hand and as leader on the other hand are due to diversities in the

predominant language use: In the Danish material it is the language of equality,

while it is the language of difference that is predominant in the material from the

former Federal Republic of Germany (RITTENHOFER 1999a, 2000). [19]

Divergent meanings can be ascribed to the diversity of predominant significations

of relations to a respective other. This other is in the material of both countries

embodied in identical categories. However, diverse meanings are constituted

from it: those of equality or of inequality, respectively of superiority and inferiority.

In the language of equality the other is embodied in gradual dissimilarities. In the

language of difference, however, the inequality and inferiority of the respective

other is legitimated by this otherness. Equality, then, exists within that which is

embodied in a respective other. It could be that the coworkers are different from

their bosses, or both, bosses and coworkers, are referred to as employees; in this

case, bosses are signified as coworkers as well. Both languages, however, do

have in common the basic structure of bipolar hierarchical oppositions. They

differ from each other in the ways that these bipolar hierarchical oppositions are

expressed or embodied in words. Those oppositions then either implicitly turn into a

minor mater, or they appear to be the explicit core of the matters at stake. [20]

I want to illustrate this by using woman as an example. In the German material,

woman embodies an explicit other, which then, for instance, legitimates unequal

access to top leadership positions. In the Danish material, woman is present as

an integral part of leadership and as such appears as being equal to man. As

embodiment of an otherness, woman legitimates gradual differences within

leadership, for instance between single owner entrepreneurs (including the

owners of a corner shop) and the managing director of a large-scale enterprise;

both are present as bosses of enterprises. The thus constituted community of

business leaders suggests equality even of the sexes. As patterns of thought,

these categories of commune equality and equal communities make it difficult to

inquire into inequality and unequal opportunity and the reasons for it. [21]

In the comparative p1 I started with the analysis of the German material and then

turned to the analysis of the Danish material. German was my guide, when I first

moved into the Danish society. Thus, I analyzed the Danish material through the

insights gained from a preliminary analysis of the German sources; I understood

the Danish language only by translating it into German. This implies, that I read

the Danish material in order to recognize the already known. To give an example:

© 2002 FQS

FQS 3(3), Art. 17, Iris Rittenhofer: Aftermath. A Scientist's Narratives on Self and Presence

I read the Danish material in order to find simultaneous changes in the

appreciation of criteria constituting the good leader or the components of a

successful career. What I found were far-reaching consonance in the

developments, even if often deferred, that is, in the comparison they emerged in

the Danish material with some delay. [22]

The dialectical nature of the self-positioning in my presence, which was the point

of departure for the analysis, however, resulted into that the interpretations of the

texts became unclear. Because I understood the material with outset in their a

priori difference, like for instance as texts of my original home country and the

home country of my choice. This was especially true with regard to the similarities

of the differences, which I then perceived as time displacement of the treatment

of identical themes. For instance, from the mid 1980s the term "glass-ceiling"

served as an widely used explanation for limited access to leadership positions.

In the German sources, however, and right from the beginning of the time period

at question, the most common explanation was that of a equally not permeable

ceiling of concrete ("Betondecke") within organizations. This means that they

were impenetrable for the self-made-men (RITTENHOFER 1999a). Family

descent as requirement for access to a top leader position in free enterprises,

however, was no topic in the Danish sources before 1967, and the theme was

exclusively touched upon as a minor topic in one single text (AUDE in

RITTENHOFER 1999a, p.302). The problem was, that my focus on similarities

presumed the differentness of the other, even though when this differentness

became a gradual one, for instance when phrased as time displacement. This

difference seen as time displacement, then, was verbalized as a hierarchy: that

the concrete ceiling first was discussed in Germany, that it was more thoroughly

discussed in Germany, that Germany in this sense was more modern then

Denmark. [23]

Throughout the work on this comparative project the similarities of both countries

were in the foreground of my everyday and analytical interests. While I stressed

similarities in the Danish material and explicitly phrased differences as variations

of the same, I stressed the differences of the unequal in the German material. In

this regard, I reproduced in my results the contents and the meanings which had

been produced in the language of the sources: while privileged positions are

explicitly legitimated in the German sources, privileges are invisible and

unthinkable in the Danish sources and therefore are not in need of an explicit

legitimization. However both, similarities and differences, presuppose bipolar

hierarchical difference. Thus arose my interest in possible positioning which may

be found in some place, which may neither be experienced through otherness nor

be narrated as otherness, and which therefore cannot be taken up as proof for

some fixed essential foreign or gender. This was one factor, which in my ongoing

project (p3 in what follows) leads me to search for positioning which may not be

displaced on to being foreign, on a specific gender, as two totally different

reasons and phenomenology of this otherness. Categories are never absolute,

never fixed, they are always relative, that means, to be understood in relation to

each other and are as such multi-relational. These relations are often exclusively

analyzed for seemingly fixed dichotomies, as for example man/woman,

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FQS 3(3), Art. 17, Iris Rittenhofer: Aftermath. A Scientist's Narratives on Self and Presence

inland/foreign country etc. However, this way neither the fixity nor the absolute-

ness of the central categories like gender or nation is disrupted. Therefore, I

began to gain an interest into categories seemingly very far apart from each

other, like foreign and gender, and here not only on their apparent exclusivity, but

on what they actually have in common. In p3 one of the questions that interests

me is what the categories of foreigner, of gender do have in common, and what

makes them comparable. What might it be that, in a respective context like for

instance research politics that may be identified both, with gender and with

foreigner, and thus becomes constitutive for both of them? [24]

2.2 Foreignness and gender as parallel categories

My second project (p2 below) was conditioned by my reflections on what I had

phrased in terms of difference as the experience of myself as a foreign scientist

at Danish universities. Furthermore, p2 was conditioned by the comparison of

what I narrated as the differentness of US- and West-German universities from

those Danish universities where I was employed. In this two-year project I looked

at published Danish research politics (1970-1990) from the perspective of cultural

analysis. Due to the fact that by now I was able to express my thoughts in both,

German and Danish, a change of thought asserted itself in this project. As a

consequence, my interest was no longer formulated as an understanding of my

own as the other, the German in Denmark. My curiosity now oriented itself at an

attempt to understand those worlds as part of which I saw myself, and which I

had integrated into those stories, which I narrated as "my own" history. [25]

The work on p2 made me realize a problem I had confronted in every day life: No

matter how much effort I had put into in those first years into distancing myself

from the image of the Germans with which I was frequently confronted, the

respective perception of Denmark as a homogeneous unity remained untouched.

In p2 I tried to meet this problem, that the deconstruction of one category, like for

instance the categorization of quality criterion as woman, every single time

implied the reproduction of the absolute and unquestionable reality of another

category, like for instance those quality criteria, which are categorized as

sciences. To explore the essence of this differentness generated by categories

became my central concern. It resulted into the definition of categories apparently

very far apart from each other by their common characteristics, as well as into the

definition of their respective relations as the parallelism of those signifiers

(RITTENHOFER 2001b, 2003). [26]

Media was also the source of p2, but this time as source of remembered culture

and of the culturally remembered. The project was limited to the Danish material.

The reason for this choice was not a loss of my interest in comparative work.

Rather, this was due to Danish research politics and the resulting formulation of a

research program , which wanted the problems of selection processes at


3 This interdisciplinary program lasted for five years. It was a frame for several independent

projects, covered by the title (my translation) "Gender barriers in higher education and in

research." The program was concluded by a two-days research conference in spring 2002.

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FQS 3(3), Art. 17, Iris Rittenhofer: Aftermath. A Scientist's Narratives on Self and Presence

universities and their causes to be understood and analyzed at national, social

and gender level. [27]

In p2 the dissociations emerging from difference as a mode of thought were put

aside. Now gender—and no longer woman—and research politics were at the

center of my research interest, and thus necessarily scientists and research as

well. Chronology became nothing but a mere tool for locating and a primary

organization of the source material. Chronology no longer meant a self-

reproducing causality. Following Joan SCOTT's definition of history (1991), the

contents of the sources were understood as parallel narratives. Even the distance

between the subject of the researcher and the research object became less

distinct; since the presentation of both, research as well as of scientists and their

conditions became a subject-matter of analysis. [28]

I started to work on p2 in 1998. I analyzed, what perceptions were at the bottom

of Danish research politics, and what these perceptions consisted of. Important

was my interest in the mutual constituting relations between gender and research

politics. The interest in the similarities of the differences and the different-nesses

of the similar continued to be central to my scientific work. This time, however, it

was not the transgression of a difference embodied in nation, but the

transgression of difference of categories apparently very far apart from each

other—like gender and university, man and woman. Not only did I concentrate on

the similarities of identical categories, like for instance those of nation. Primarily I

focused on the points of contact and similarities of categories apparently very far

apart from each other, on where and how they merged (RITTENHOFER 2001a).

Among other results, I ended up looking for a third position, that is a position

which did not exist in this form prior to its categorization and which offered

alternatives to the thinking in differences. [29]

In p2 I developed the term the magnet gender. The term decentralizes gender

and visualizes that not everything and all the time is narrated with or as gender.

Only under certain conditions, the presuppositions and consequences of research

politics either may be thought as gender or narrated with gender. Those

conditions are described in RITTENHOFER (2001). If research politics are

narrated with gender, preconditions and consequences of this research politics

are categorized with gender—but this is by no means an exclusive categorization.

If research politics is thought as gender, these politics are provided with an origin,

an unalterable and ultimate cause. This does not mean that research politics are

rooted in gender, that research politics are an outcome of gender difference.

Even gender being at the heart of my scientific interest, it became apparent that

gender was not central to research politics in the time period at question. Just as

the analysis of and the writings on the relations between the long term scientific

work in a second country and what I researched and experienced are central to

this contribution. This equals, that the stay in a second country is central to what I

experienced and researched. The parallelism of the categories became

rephrased. [30]

© 2002 FQS

FQS 3(3), Art. 17, Iris Rittenhofer: Aftermath. A Scientist's Narratives on Self and Presence

I want to illustrate this with an outset in the example of gender. A limitation of the

analysis to the question what is narrated as gender, would not give the

opportunity to abolish the meaning of gender being at the core, being the origin of

the problem at stake. Thus, it would merely open the eyes of the scholar for the

diversity of the possible contents of this category. I became aware that what is

narrated as gender, not exclusively is narrated as gender. University fields, which

by the end of my time period were thought as women's fields, were by the

beginning of the 1980s still mentioned as unemployment fields, and by the end of

the 1970s as fields of mass education. This led me to describe the relation of

categories like woman, unemployed and mass as parallel. Those categories are

the result of a development, as a consequence of which fields like the humanities

in the 1970s only were perceived as mass subjects. In the course of the 1980s,

those fields were perceived as both, mass subjects, unemployment subjects and

women's subjects. I modified my problem, which, too, changed my view on my

stay abroad. If something was told as, for instance, gender, then the next

question is what it is that is narrated with categories like for instance gender,

what is made understandable this way? If productivity is narrated as gender, then

gender productivity becomes the core, the essence of gender. If, however,

productivity is told with gender, then gender may be analyzed as one out of a

number of possible identifications of such productivity within a certain context.

What is labeled as gender, as mass, as unemployed in the narratives on the

mass universities, thus turn out to be metamorphosis of a narrative at the core of

the Danish research politics: the narrative on the ivory tower university. What is

told with gender, but not with gender alone, I labeled "engendered modernities"

(RITTENHOFER 2001b). [31]

The reformulation of my research problem had further consequences. I had to

rethink my self-perception, the conception of my self. I was forced to differentiate

between a construction of my self as for instance an emigrant, which implied

some sort of essence in terms of being a German, the other German or the other

foreigner, and between a construction of my self with emigrant. With the

processes discussed here I attempt to show that it was this that made it possible

for me to reflect on what it was I had labeled with emigrant, and what this meant

for my relationship with what I experienced and researched. I began as well to

differentiate between the subject (to narrate as self) and subjectivization (to

narrate with self) as well as between possible subjectivization (what I perceive

and may narrate with self, but not exclusively with self). As memory is embodied

language (DAVIES 2001), so is what is narrated as self language embodied in

the self. This language, however, is not embodied in this self alone.

Considerations as these had consequences for the development of the concept

of cultural interviewing. They made it necessary as well to change the original

design of an ongoing research project. [32]


Feruh YILMAZ (1999, p.177) describes in terms of ethnicity, how the binary

opposition us and them constructs a certain reality in the Danish media.

4 I am very grateful to my colleague Kirsten GOMARD for her fruitful comments on an early

version of this essay, and especially for her very inspiring metaphor of the "fugacity" of the


© 2002 FQS

FQS 3(3), Art. 17, Iris Rittenhofer: Aftermath. A Scientist's Narratives on Self and Presence

According to him, subject positions are defined prior to the subject in question.

Thus, in the Danish media the foreigner in question appears to be identical with a

subject position foreigner which, however, does exist prior as well as

independently to a specific person. However, the exclusivity of YILMAZ

argumentation turns this fact into an essential characteristic of ethnicity. Ethnicity,

then, is a subject position which can only and exclusively be mounted in the guise

of ethnicity. That this, however, cannot be the case, can be exemplified with

cases where the category of foreigner is brought to a person within its home

country who is not foreign at all, but whose looks are perceived as being foreign,

ethnic, the other. Examples like these may show that it is possible to subjectivize

as ethnic or national even then when the respective person at question cannot be

spoken about as ethnic or national. YILMAZ argumentation reproduces cultural

essentialization. [33]

As for me, YILMAZ argument is a valuable one, if I do rethink it from the

perspective of the parallel category. In this case, the possibilities for positioning

have to be seen independent of the subject of interest. Both, subject and ethnicity

would have to be rethought as possible subjectivizations. However, perceptions 5

of discursive formations (FAIRCLOUGH 1984) determine the possibilities for

positioning which do exist independently of those possible subjectivizations.

Furthermore, the exclusivity of subjectivizations as subject, as ethnicity, as nation,

as one gender has to be abandoned and to be extended by a diversity of

possibilities, which might as well emerge in the shape of subjectivizations like

those being at the heart of my interest, i.e. gender, self, etc. [34]

What my reflections on the results defined for p2 made clear to me was that

those positions I re-cognized were subjectivized positions. However, neither could

I identify with the subjectivization itself, nor could I construct it as my self. The

subject position had been defined ahead of the subject. This means as well, that

the subject could adopt diverse moldings of which some, but not all corresponded

with the moldings of my self. This was the case where categories were brought to

me or offered to me. However, this is by no means limited to the categories of

gender alone. Dorte Marie SØNDERGAARD (1996) makes this way of

categorizing the sole definition of gender. She describes this categorization as a

consequence of the sign on the body. However, since this perception always is

selective, positioned and situated, I instead speak of the sign as body, in terms of

the sign being embodied in the unifying category of the body. I speak here with

reference to my argumentation on embodiment. In order to avoid the predefinition

of positions, for instance, as a subject or as gender, in order to make the

diversities of possible essentializations subject for reflections, I speak of sub-

5 I want to provide a brief remark on the term perception. It has to be said that MERLEAU-PONTY

(1982, p.12) described the perceived world as an always anticipated formation of all rationality. I

am familiar with this definition only in the version of Joan SCOTT's 1986 (1988) definition of

gender as "perceived differences of the sexes". Here, it is altered from the perspective of

poststructuralist principles; SCOTT rethinks this definition with outset in the works of Michel

FOUCAULT and JAQUES DERRIDA. In other words, I understood this line of thought at first

with outset in my knowledge of gender studies. In p1, I still applied it exclusively on gender. The

central question of p1 where inquire into diverse attitudes towards business leaders can also be

understood against this background.

© 2002 FQS

FQS 3(3), Art. 17, Iris Rittenhofer: Aftermath. A Scientist's Narratives on Self and Presence

jectivizations. In this definition, engendering is one out of many possible

subjectivizations. [35]

Already in my first project it was one aim of the analysis to avoid the naturalizing

reproduction of categories. As I can see now, I did not succeed with that. In p2 I

concentrate on those aspects where the categories of my interest merge, as it is

the case in the example on quality mentioned above (RITTENHOFER 2003). The

question of what categories apparently very far apart, as, for instance, gender

and university, might have in common cannot clearly be separated from what I

experienced and realized, that is to be an ethnic non-Dane and a woman and

being employed in the Danish scientific community. Since the end of the 1970s,

this scientific community has both generally and more specific for certain

branches within women's studies been spoken of as men' university or as male

space (GOMARD & REISBY 2001). In published research politics, this scientific

community has been almost exclusively displayed as Danish. In other words, I

was an integrated part of something I could constitute as the other in diverse

ways. [36]

Thus, it was a given possibility to narrate my self as other for then to be able to

continue with distancing my self from what I despite of everything had become an

integrated part of. To give an example, I could continue to constitute my self as

an inter-disciplinary scholar that applies for research funding within disciplinary

financing systems or who applies for university positions explicitly advertised and

outlined within a traditional field. Additionally, in some of these ads knowledge

displayed as national knowledge is explicitly required (for instance Danish history,

Danish literature, Danish law, Danish labor market etc.). This required knowl-

edge, then, obtains the meaning of something outstanding and is signified as

qualification of excellence required for a successful candidature. That means,

that I could continue to position my self in a positioned otherness and in the

gradual exclusion. Gender, expertise or emigration labeled as the experienced,

then, had to be the cause and the origin for this otherness. This positioning of my

self generated the original outset for the design of p3. The perception of this

positioning of my self changed from a view on my positioning as self-conception

to an understanding of what I narrated with self. This contributed to the changes

made in the design of p3. [37]

2.3 Culture as gender and ethnicity

In 2000 I started to work on my ongoing research project (p3 in what follows)

dealing with interviews. At the center of the original project design was the

analysis of what it means to emigrate as a scholar and to be occupied in a

scientific position in Denmark. In the original design, gender, expertise and being

a foreigner were made the center of otherness: as the woman at the men's

university, as the scholar in the social sciences, as the German in Denmark. The

original core was that I had looked at my gradual otherness not only as a con-

sequence of what I understood as self. I, too, looked for the origins of this gradual

otherness in a collective other. This collective other was not considered to be a

factual community; rather, it was defined as a perception for common traits

© 2002 FQS

FQS 3(3), Art. 17, Iris Rittenhofer: Aftermath. A Scientist's Narratives on Self and Presence

constituted by a collective other. This definition was inspired by Benedict

ANDERSSON's (1991) book, in which nations were defined as "Imagined

communities." This homogenizing perception of common traits, then, allows the

gradual exclusion of individuals on the basis of the imagination of a community of

women, of researchers in gender studies, of scientists, of Danes, whatever. This

imagination of a community is supported by the fact that gender, ethnicity, and

professions are thought of in the language of equality. Thus, later on the working

title of the project was modified into: Cultures of Imagined Communities. One

reason among others was that the original working title implied a relation between

a cultural essence of gender and ethnicity towards research which commonly is

not understood as a subjectivizing category and therefore not as an essence,

however defined. [38]

At this place, I believe there is a need for a brief explanation of why I in p3 relate

the categories of research and of the scientist to gender, ethnicity and culture. As

I have mentioned above, the distinction between science and research is of

central importance for Danish research politics between 1970 and 1990 as well

as for recent research politics in Denmark. In this regard, science has been

devalued in a double sense: as elitist publicly financed sector for not being close

enough to the people, and as not being people-friendly for not being worthy of a

democracy. Bounded against research, science is perceived as useless, as being of

no use for Danish economy, especially not for exports. A limited recognition is

given to those sciences whose basic research results can be used by research and

be turned into products suitable for export. It also has to be mentioned that university

and science to a large extent are equated. [39]

The results of p2 got into their recent shape after p3 originally was designed

(autumn 1999), and after I had started on the preliminary work with p3. Now I saw

myself confronted with the consideration that both, abroad and the status as a

foreigner, neither was necessarily central for what I experienced, nor for what my

future interview partners had experienced. In this case the question had to be

whether my future interview partners would narrate what they experienced with

the categories of my interest, and given that, what it actually was that was

narrated with ethnicity, gender, research and science. [40]

The choice of these categories is conditioned by the categories through which I

have experienced my worlds. This choice is as well the result of what I

researched in p1 and p2: first the parallelism of categories apparently very far

apart from each other. Second, the fact which has been researched in both

projects, namely that it is quite common in this country to discuss the allocation

and the spreading of top positions in terms of gradual differences between both

sexes as well as between fields (scholars, natural scientists, technologists).

When it comes to universities, those differences in the allocation of top positions

between the fields, too, are discussed as a difference between science and

research. The parallelism of gender and ethnicity, which is the outset of p3, is

based on considerations on whether, how and when I construct foreigner as self,

and vice versa, whether, how and when I construct my self with foreigner. Those

© 2002 FQS

FQS 3(3), Art. 17, Iris Rittenhofer: Aftermath. A Scientist's Narratives on Self and Presence

reflections are similar to those on the re-cognition of positions displayed as

gender. [41]

In p3, to explore the relation between ethnicity, gender and science as constituted

in language was at the center of my research interest. The question is not, what

the consequences of being a foreigner are for research and science, or other way

around, what science and research mean to the self-image of a foreigner.

Instead, the relevant question is what respectively is narrated as ethnicity, as

gender, as science, and what it is that makes those categories look like being the

precondition for the narratives. Furthermore, what it is that under which

circumstances is narrated with those three categories, what it is that is preserved

in, for instance, the contents of these categories. In p3, my sources are

interviews with sixteen scientists with permanent residence in Denmark. I will

discuss the composition of this group more extensively below. In the second part

of this contribution, p3 will be extensively discussed as an example for two main

points of interest: how the reflections made possible by the long term stay in a

second language have influenced my research, and how they are intertwined


with what I already had researched. What I researched, too, is elusive—it

changes its meanings in the course of further scholarly work. To give an example

for the elusiveness of what I researched: the homogenizing and absolute term

discursive knowledge, which I developed in p1 as a central term, has been

altered into the process oriented term the discursively known or knowable. [42]

As I have tried to point out above, p1 and p2 differ from each other in that that my

positioned interpretations of cultural artifacts have inspired me to take three

aspects into consideration: First, that these interpretations consist of a diversity of

dual relationships, second that there is something at the core of these relations,

and third it is necessary to penetrate the reproduction of these dualisms. While

the analysis of p1 still stayed within dualisms, I have actively attempted to

penetrate this frame in p2. [43]

In my Ph.D.-thesis (p1) I positioned myself both, as woman and as German. I

considered the material to be a source giving access to a knowledge on how

powerful and successful women have been perceived in contemporary history,

how this perception of these women might have changed in the time period at

question, and how these perceptions of successful women might differ in both,

Germany and Denmark. As a consequence of p2 it became clear to me that I

identified myself with positions marked as, for instance, woman. I myself put my

interest in the question of how being-a-woman and leader position have been

related to each other on the same level with both, the centrality of the being-a-

woman for business leaders, and the ways in which woman business leaders

possibly might be perceived. Accordingly, the starting point for the original design

6 The metaphor "stay in a second language" illustrates two points: First, it makes visible the

parallelism of second country and second language and thus the parallelism of the categories of

space and language in this specific context. Second, if one constantly moves between two

languages, one moves between worlds of meaning. World is one of the categories of space

which makes it possible to describe movements in a language, but also movements within a

language. Those respective worlds of meaning influence perceptions, even when it is identical

"worlds" that are perceived.

© 2002 FQS

FQS 3(3), Art. 17, Iris Rittenhofer: Aftermath. A Scientist's Narratives on Self and Presence

of p3 was that being-a-foreigner was supposed to be at the center of how

foreigners are perceived within the scientific communities. Looking back at p1 I

suppose that this project, too, was an attempt to acquire meanings and

explanations of my own personal history which so far had been unknown to me

and hidden for me. I assume that this played a part in the fact that I decided to

work with the most recent history, since this period conceptualized as most recent

history coincides the space of my own lifetime respectively the history of my own

life. [44]

It is not the occupation abroad that is ordinary and everyday life. It rather is

everyday life experienced as occupation abroad, which on the one hand confronts

me on multiple levels with constant interpretations, on the other hand allows me

to question my own positioning. The reading of texts as originated in respectively

my own country or the country of my choice embodies the meanings of their

contents and the contents of those meanings in the own. The parallelism of

signifiers as profession or gender became clear to me when I discerned in p2 that

those contents were not identical with those categories alone, but that those

contents could subsume other categories as well. The signification of difference

in the profession became repeatedly cloudy when traits, abilities and actions of

the "good" German and Danish business leader during the work on p2 turned out

to be those, too, which constituted the "good" Danish researcher and scientist. So

did the signification of difference in the engendering, when I as a scientist and

woman could identify with positioning, which is symbolically is identified with

masculinity, or when an identification with feminized positions was not possible.

An example taken from p1 is the willingness to take risks, which exclusively

appears in versions where risk-taking is labeled masculine, or where the lack of

self-confidence and correspondingly a lacking will for success exclusively is

drawn on in order to characterize women. [45]

It attracted my attention in both p1 and p2 that some traits, abilities and actions

are exclusively narrated as masculine and are embodied in man, but were still

recognized by me as my own. However, it often was the case that I could not find

myself in those traits, abilities and actions exclusively ascribed to women. That

made gradual differentiation a possibility: to perceive my self as the "other"

woman or as not being a "real" woman, or to differentiate being-a-woman and

look at it from the perspective of diversity. However, in that case I would not have

cracked gender dualism. Therefore I looked for ways to escape the apparently

central causality of gender. In order to do so, it turned out to be necessary to

differentiate between difference as signifying structure and difference as cultural

essence. Gender dualism turns into a cultural essence if, for instance, the

characteristic of gender and the content of the category is defined as a discourse

(RITTENHOFER 1997), or when biological substantiations of gender difference

are counteracted by the argument that biology has to be regarded to be a product

of culture; hence, biological argumentation has to be understood as culture

instead of as nature and thus as opposed to culture (BOCK 1991). These types

of reasoning change the character, the essence or what is perceived as the

respective core of such an essence. However, they do not change the

essentialization itself. [46]

© 2002 FQS

FQS 3(3), Art. 17, Iris Rittenhofer: Aftermath. A Scientist's Narratives on Self and Presence

Based upon p2, my starting point in p3 was that the multiple possibilities for

cultural essentialization were not a problem of gender studies or the category of

gender alone. I assumed that the dualistic differentiation between sex and

gender, which has been fundamentally criticized by among others SCOTT (2001),

finds its parallel in the differentiation between nation and ethnicity: both

dichotomies (and not only the gender dichotomy as criticized by SCOTT) are

essentializations of the basic dualisms nature and culture, body and mind. As sex

is a precondition for gender and gender is en element of sex (SCOTT 2001), so is

nation an element of ethnicity and ethnicity an element of nation, culture an

element of nature and nature an element of culture. This consideration, too,

contributed to that I treated ethnicity, gender and research/science as parallel

categories in p3. The interesting question is then, when which of the categories is

applied, what it is that is narrated with them, in other words, what are the

similarities between them within a concrete body of material. Accordingly, I made

it explicit for p1 how my positioning in the other might be described as time or as

nation (abroad and presence, country of origin and past), and how I might

essentialize nation in terms of difference in language use in the sources and in

culture. At the same time, I essentialize it as difference in physical space and

such as nature in culture. Accordingly I foreigner-being both, in the differences

between languages, and in time as well as in space. Interestingly, one result of

p2 was that basic dualisms or modernisms ultimately (as well as paradoxically)

were embodied both, in research and in science. [47]

In turn, those insights changed my perspective on the negative experienced, that

is on situations, where the categories of the foreigner, of the German, were

demanded of me. The categories of the foreigner or of the German make it

possible, for instance, to settle argumentations or critique in the other and in the

foreign. Thus, the own may be negated. In situations like these, I is equaled with

what is defined with the other and what is predefined as the foreigner and the

German. It then is possible to perceive I as the embodiment of the other. This

equation of body and culture means that one part is defined by the other part and

thus essentialized. However, what is perceived as body is embodied culture.

Even if the goal was to create sources for the analysis of what it is that is

narrated with ethnicity, in the original design of p3 I still connected the physical

presence of foreign scientists with the question of what in a given case is

narrated as ethnicity. The way I intended to work with gender and science/re-

search was congruent with this. This would have meant that I would have

reproduced a cultural essentialization in which I had anticipated foreigner-being,

woman-/man-being as absolute unities. However, I would not have been able to

distinguish them from neither the narratives as ethnicity or as gender, nor from

what is narrated with ethnicity or with gender. Due to the choice of interviewees

and due to the composition of the interview, the essence of those cultural

essentializations would have been interviewed culture. I discuss the necessary

changes in the design of p3 in depth below. Those changes led me to develop

the concept of cultural interviewing. [48]

Until the point where I emigrated myself, foreigners to me always were the others.

To my surprise I had to discover that it would have been possible for me to hold

© 2002 FQS




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Dispensa al corso di Sociologia delle relazioni interculturali della Prof.ssa Enrica Tedeschi. Trattasi del saggio di Iris Rittenhofer sull'interculturalità e sul lavoro dei ricercatori all'estero. Esso verte parzialmente sul resoconto autobiografico dell'autrice, in parte su interviste ad altri ricercatori. Lo scopo del lavoro è evidenziare l'influenza dei condizionamenti culturali sulla ricerca sociologica.

Corso di laurea: Corso di laurea magistrale in relazioni internazionali
A.A.: 2011-2012

I contenuti di questa pagina costituiscono rielaborazioni personali del Publisher Atreyu di informazioni apprese con la frequenza delle lezioni di Sociologia delle relazioni interculturali e studio autonomo di eventuali libri di riferimento in preparazione dell'esame finale o della tesi. Non devono intendersi come materiale ufficiale dell'università Roma Tre - Uniroma3 o del prof Tedeschi Enrica.

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