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What defines a “small discipline”?


This is the term used for university disciplines with a maximum of three, but usually only one, professorships.


What are “small disciplines”?


The University of Münster is not only one of the largest universities in Germany; it is also one of the most disciplinarily varied. In total, it teaches and conducts research in more than 40 “small disciplines”, including over 20 disciplines in the humanities (which are the focus here). These range from ancient studies such as archaeological research focusing on Europe, Egypt and the Middle East, to Jewish studies, Islamic studies, sinology, and Scandinavian studies. They all analyze the importance of societies and how they act in a wide variety of situations in different regions and eras. Common to all is that they have strong international networks and conduct high-level research.


Why are “small disciplines” particularly important now?


In today’s globalized world, we are living in societies that are subject to constant and rapid change. This is a challenge that needs to be met. Armed conflicts, human rights violations, inequality, climate crisis, environmental pollution, and populism – these are just some of the pressing social problems that we face. And this is precisely where the “small disciplines” come into play. They feed their research findings into social discussions, and, by working comparatively and historically, they can illuminate and offer solutions to the major social challenges of our time. They help expand and disseminate knowledge that is rooted in science.


How did the “small disciplines” exhibition come about?


The German Rectors’ Conference in Bonn designed a funding programme where universities could apply for support to foreground the “small disciplines”. The programme called for new ideas that would give these disciplines more public attention and inspire young people to study them. The “small disciplines” in the humanities at the University of Münster applied and were awarded a grant – as the only university in North Rhine-Westphalia!


What is exhibited in the “small disciplines” exhibition?


Rather than presenting what is familiar, we want to show the direct relevance of teaching and research to contemporary society: small disciplines with their finger on the pulse of time! Hence, we have chosen three themes that are very relevant to society and that affect us all. First, “Migration – at all times and everywhere”. Individuals or groups of people have migrated to other regions since the dawn of humankind. Besides better living and work opportunities, immigration is driven by climate change, natural disasters, or political and social events. We use examples to explore perceptions of and changes to migration. Second, “Communication – with and without words”. The exchange of verbal and written information has always underpinned human interaction. But this is now undergoing profound change, especially in today’s computer age with e-mail and smartphones. We explore the recipients and messages, as well as the means and paths, of communication. Third, “Sustainability – everyday for future”. It is an ancient principle that we should consume no more than can be provided again in the future, i.e. can grow back. It is still relevant today with the emerging awareness of the environment and the rapidly growing world population. The exhibition presents two perspectives: sustainability due to scarcity (reusing things), and sustainability as a conscious shaping of the future (conserving or building up resources).


Each “small discipline” also introduces itself in a so-called “cube box” that briefly outlines what the discipline entails and the study options at the University of Münster.


What additional programme complements the “small disciplines” exhibition?


Every Sunday, students provide a guided tour of the exhibition, and talk about their particular discipline.


19 January (2-6 pm) and 11 February 2020 (12-6 pm) “Small disciplines on the big stage”. The “small disciplines” present themselves and their courses of study, with each discipline being represented by students and teaching staff.


20 March 2020 (6-12 pm): “Big night of the small disciplines”. You can visit the exhibition until midnight – you can take guided tours or simply hang around and chat! There is also a “small disciplines” café organized by students.


Is the exhibition also in social media?


Yes, we are making the museum exhibition “Small disciplines” available on Twitter and Instagram, too, since these are platforms that pupils and students often visit. The digital version of the exhibition is being created together with the University of Münster’s Cluster of Excellence “Religion and Politics”, where the small disciplines play a major role. Throughout the exhibition, you can find posts and tweets at @religionpolitik on Twitter and at @religionundpolitik on Instagram: videos, Insta stories and sharepics about interesting research findings, as well as trailers and testimonials with professors and students who give vivid reports from the small disciplines.


The exhibition invites you to experience how “small disciplines” use their understanding of the past and present to address the key issues and challenges of today. We look forward to welcoming you!


Our exhibition was kindly sponsored and supported by the German Rectors’ Conference (HRK), the Rectorate of the University of Münster, and Faculties 8 and 9 of the University. Cooperation partner is the University of Münster’s Cluster of Excellence “Religion and Politics”, with the Centre for Research Communication.