Research Sociology / Research subjects

Research subjects of the Faculty of Sociology at Bielefeld University

At the Department of Sociology, a wide range of research subjects are usually addressed by one or more individuals. The following is an overview of some research subjects.


The faculty participates in the Sonderforschungsbereich 1288 "Praktiken des Vergleichens" and also works on comparative topics in various social fields, such as comparisons of performance between universities ("rankings").


Current research interest in development at the Faculty is focused on understanding China's economic and political engagement and motivation as a new global actor in regions of Southeast Asia or Africa. Of great interest in this context are the modalities of how infrastructural investments both drive local economic developments and shape and reshape individual and collective aspirations.


In sociological perspectives on algorithmicisation, digitalisation and datafication, researchers at the Faculty of Sociology are particularly interested in changes in regulation and control, prediction and expertise, competence and translation, health and well-being as well as accessibility and compatibility. Different digital spaces are considered, from social media to digital-algorithmic techniques to data integration platforms.In addition to subject-related research, methodological issues such as the analysis of large data sets also play a major role.


In the field of gender studies, a broad spectrum of topics is addressed with diverse disciplinary, theoretical and methodological approaches. In the broad context of work on embodiments („embodied gender“), the Graduate School „Gender as Experience“ is particularly important. Another focus is on work in families and on the labour market, as well as on questions of gender equality in the welfare state or the effects of gender assessment on life realities and participation.


The relationship between the individual, the subject, the actor, the single being and society, the community, the collective is one of the original subjects of sociology. In other disciplines, such as biology, extremely vital research activities are developing around the concept of individualisation. In interdisciplinary exchange, the significance of individualisation processes is examined with regard to changing environments (InChangE).


At the faculty, different forms of social inequality are researched in the context of the workplace, university or school. The research interest is not only focused on how inequality affects individual lives and excludes certain life chances, but also on how inequality shapes and reinforces specific experiences of discrimination.


Knowledge production and circulation represent a research focus that gains its relevance not only by addressing the question of how knowledge is generated in the context of universities, but also how specific forms of expertise influence current political decisions. In this context, researchers at the faculty are interested in the questions of how expert knowledge is produced and legitimised, how epistemological uncertainties and quantification practices shape political decisions, or how algorithms might change the authoritarian claim of expert knowledge.


Research on work at the faculty is conducted along three main lines. The first line asks how work and labour markets are changing through processes of flexibilisation, transnationalisation and digitalisation. A second line of research is dedicated to the impact of work on life spheres, such as health, family and well-being. The third line focuses on the reproduction of inequalities in the workplace.

Further information on publications and research contexts

For more information on the publications and their research contexts, see the individual researcher and research project websites.


In all its multi-paradigmatic breadth of sociology, research is taking place on the generation of data and the further development of large panels. An important focus is on ethnomethodological analyses and the development of big data infrastructures (Leibniz ScienceCampus).


Migration research focuses on Im- and mobility trends in the global South, the treatment of refugees and labour migrants, and the restructuring of organisations in the face of crisis-related global migration. Other works deal with an actor-centred discussion of the relationship between transnational The relationship between transnational crime and „illegal“ migration as well as the change in the willingness to discriminate in the public service through working with people with a migration background.

Social movement

Research on social movements focuses on how current crises – war, climate change or pandemic – shape political action. How protests contribute to social cohesion or polarisation, which actors participate in social movements with which motivations and values are questions of further relevance.

Theory of society

In addition to its own ongoing theoretical work, which focuses increasingly on globalisation and the historical dimensions of theory formation, the faculty is also involved in a long-term project to process and systematise the legacy of Niklas Luhmann.


Research on uncertainties and insecurities has so far mainly focused on threats. Researchers from the faculty, together with colleagues from other disciplines, are broadening this narrow perspective and pursuing an approach that focuses on different modes of navigating uncertainty (Uncertainty Talks).

World politics

World political structural change is studied from a historical-sociological perspective within the scope of the Institute for World Society, the Graduate School World Politics and the SFB 1288. In addition to a broad historical-sociological perspective, individual papers are devoted to the role of world organisations or the relationship between science and politics in the international context, for example.

World Society

Bundled in the Institute for World Society, world society research has been a hallmark of research at the faculty for more than two decades. World society provides a background for reflecting on the global embedding of different structures and processes of world politics, transnational social policy, or questions of migration and global networking.

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