Census and Ethnicity: On the Production of Knowledge about Social Realities in the Habsburg Empire between 1848 and 1910

Dr. Wolfgang Göderle

About the project
In my PhD-thesis I analyse the implementation and establishment of ethnicity as a new and powerful perspective on the social world in the course of the second half of the 19th century. I focus on administrative and scientific practices entangled in the census of the late Habsburg Empire. The main emphasis lies on three research questions, which illustrate in detail the dynamics and developments that are considered crucial for the establishment of ethnicity as a master category for the understanding and the interpretation of social processes.

The first research question scrutinizes the transformation of social facts into knowledge of power, thus the production of an administrative perspective, based on a highly ritualized and clearly defined operation, which is the census.

The second part of the investigation asks for the major changes and developments in the scientific framework that determines the procedures chosen for the task. Which scientific values have to be taken into consideration, in order to produce knowledge that can claim the authority of objectivity? 
Finally, the third research question analyses the mechanisms and strategies of dissemination, which are used to redistribute the newly produced ethnic knowledge into more common discourses, in order to make it a part of social reality itself.

The thesis is basically proceeding on the fundamental theoretical assumptions and positions of cultural studies. In order to be able to respond to the main research emphasis, it has proven necessary to integrate aspects of social-scientific theory of space. Further, science studies have been able to provide some substantial input, as has been the French field of socio-histoire.