Social Sorting

Group leaders: Prof Dr. Ger Duijzings, Prof. Dr. Rainer Liedtke

In this study group, open to students in history, anthropology, urban studies, and political and social science, we look at processes of social and administrative sorting, adopting both historical and anthropological perspectives. We understand social sorting as a key aspect of modernity, comprising bureaucratized and automated processes of categorization that are routinely applied to channel large sets of people. Sorting processes can be observed in many contexts, involving the management (‘sorting out’) of large and complicated flows of goods, people and information. Where these processes are applied to people, they are decisive in terms of producing forms of inclusion and exclusion, for example pertaining to citizenship rights, and entitlements to public services, humanitarian aid and charity​. These social sorting practices are instrumental in sustaining the social and political order: they emerge from the application of legal norms, ​which are translated into protocols, facilitated, enhanced and co-produced by certain technologies that help to define, identify, profile, and channel relevant categories and groups of people. Sorting practices have changed over time, from the simple paper-based and mechanical forms of the past to the more sophisticated digital, algorithmic and biometrical techniques of today. They have been employed in many different political contexts (the colonial state, the nation-state, the welfare and neoliberal ‘deregulated’ state), recurrently functioning as technologies of surveillance and control, entailing discriminatory, exclusionary, and discretionary practices of people with power to decide. The rise of sorting practices is not only linked to modernity but also to processes of globalization, that is, the increase in flows of goods, people, and information. They have gained ground in the private sector as well, such as in retailing, banking, and security. In this study group we discuss the origins and development of these sorting practices, their social and political implications, their technological basis and material and spatial repercussions. 


Stress im (Post-)Sozialismus. Die Karriere einer Selbst- und Gesellschaftsdiagnose in Ostmitteleuropa, ca. 1970-2000
Between Compassion and Social Justice: Humanitarianism in Montenegro during and after the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY)
National Resistance as a Temporary Mean of Gender Empowerment - the Reshaping of Public Sphere before, during and in the Aftermath of the Kosovo Crisis (1988-1999)
"One Very Skilled Workforce": Life Cycles in Global Trade on the East European Periphery (1970s-1990s)

Maren Hachmeister, M.A.
Selbstorganisation im Sozialismus: Wohlfahrtsorganisationen in Pilsen und Krakau

The Embattled Child: Child Poverty and Child Relief in Hungary between the World Wars
Zwischen Zugehörigkeit und gesellschaftlichem Ausschluss. Jüdische Lebenswelten in der Sowjetunion 1961-1991
"Auf der letzten Strecke". Die belarussische Intelligenzija und die Herausforderungen des Nationalstaats ab 1991
Oana Valentina Sorescu-Iudean, M.A.
The Evolution of Testamentary Behavior in the Case of the Transylvanian Saxons, 1550-1750
Andrey Vozyanov, M.A.
Infrastructures in Trouble: Assemblages of Electric Public Transport in Cities of Donetskaya Oblast, Ukraine, 1991-2013
Tolerance and nationalism in Slovakia. How volunteers fight Slovakia’s "tolerance deficit"
Staatlichkeit und Industrie im postsozialistischen Europa. Zwei Fallstudien zur organisationalen Resistenz bzw. zur staatlichen Lenkung in der Schiffbauindustrie