History | Society | Theory

Our Blog

Voluntariness is more than voluntary civic engagement. Appeals for voluntary self-conduct, compliance, and sacrifice permeate our daily routines. For instance, we are called upon to take good care of our bodies and make the best of our lives, work overtime (because we love our jobs), or use a Corona tracing app and thus be a responsible citizen. Voluntary practices such as these are performed as acts of freedom, yet are enabled, endorsed, and sometimes demanded by manifold expectations and conditions beyond our reach. This blog explores the power structures and practices of voluntariness, while examining how people and societies are governed through it.

We probe the conditions under which this operates and how voluntariness has changed over time and in different places. Our blog is made up of individual contributions by a variety of authors. Each has their own perspective on voluntariness, and they evaluate and discuss the term in different ways. Contributions by members of the research group provide an insight into how we ourselves seek to understand voluntariness as a multifaceted analytical concept and which methodological tools we consider crucial in this regard. At the same time, we want to highlight as many perspectives on voluntariness as possible while also enabling external authors to have their say. The range of our own topics and approaches is already highly diverse and is tailored to the specific foci of our projects. Guest contributions broaden our field of vision even further, helping us to engage in critical dialogue with each other and to compare contrasting approaches.

Recent Posts

Research Unit

We are a group of historians, sociologists, and philosophers at the Universities of Erfurt, Jena, and Oldenburg, plus a number of associated scholars around the globe.

Together, we form the interdisciplinary Research Unit on Voluntariness, funded by the German Research Foundation (FOR 2983) since 2020. The variety of our individual research projects underscores the power, significance, and transformations of voluntariness from the Middle Ages to the present.

Our Projects

What’s Going On?

The Research Unit on Voluntariness is more than just our team. We are part of a growing international community of scholars who share an interest in the concept of voluntariness. We invite fellow researchers to join the discussion, not just in writing but also in person. For the next few years we are planning workshops and lecture series, and we will let you know what’s happening around voluntariness and our research unit.

Stay tuned and we’ll keep you posted about news, events, and guests as well as all sorts of sidelines! Connect with us via our social media sites on Facebook and Instagram so you don’t miss anything!

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