Essen College of Gender Studies


Collaboration between 45 members from seven different faculties, including Medicine, shapes the interdisciplinary research of the College. Presently, the EKfG pools its members’ research expertise in four interdisciplinary thematic clusters on pivotal societal questions. As integrative main topics for research, doctoral theses and postdoctoral qualifications, they simultaneously offer common ground for collaborative activities on a university-wide basis. The broad interdisciplinary and institutional research spectrum also clearly indicates that the College takes an intersectional perspective in understanding sex and gender to be intertwined and to interact with other characteristics that distinguish human beings from one another, such as socio-economic circumstances, ethnic, cultural and educational background, social class or position, or age.

Gender-equitable medical care | Gender-equitable health care 

This research cluster (responsible scientists: PD Dr. Andrea Kindler-Röhrborn and Prof. Sigrid Elsenbruch) includes projects on experimental tumour research, medical psychology and behavioural immune biology (pain, stress, coping with illness) and molecular genetics (obesity and eating disorders) alongside research on self-employed women in the care industry, on household-related services and care migration, as well as sociological research on the situation of women in medicine. 

Particular highlights of 2014 and 2015 were the renewal of the DFG Research Units FOR 1328 “Expectation and conditioning as basic processes of the placebo and nocebo response – Transferring mechanisms to clinical applications” (2010-2017) and FOR 1581 “Extinction Learning: Behavioural, Neural and Clinical Mechanisms” (2011-2016), as well as the BMBF joint project “Sex/Gender sensitive research in Epidemiology, Neurosciences and Genetics/Tumour Research (2011-2014). Successful collaboration with the University’s Science Support Centre (SSC) added a new qualitative dimension with the application for an Innovative Training Network (ITN) “TriHealth – Tailored research concepts for health care in men and women” with a total volume of 3.5 million euros under European research funding. This multi-disciplinary consortium focuses on non-communicable diseases such as cancer or dementia. The EKfG is further involved as a partner organization in the BMBF research alliance “Health Literacy in Childhood and Adolescence (HLCA)” (2015-2018) coordinated by the University of Bielefeld.

2015 saw the launch of the lecture series “Sex and Gender Aspects in Biomedical Research and Clinical Medicine” as part of the Tuesday Seminars of the Faculty of Medicine, which aims to address medical professionals in research and clinical practice and young researchers at University Hospital Essen in particular but also the interested public. In collaboration with the Faculty, three-year external funding was secured to promote gender research by the chairs of Prof. Sigrid Elsenbruch-Harnish (Experimental Psychobiology Considering Gender Specific Aspects) and Prof. Anke Hinney (Molecular Genetics of Adiposity and Eating Disorders Considering Gender Specific Aspects) as part of the NRW programme for gender-equitable universities. Intensive networking activities, the lecture series “Health – Care – Gender” (2014/2015), workshops for young researchers, and a publication from within the interdisciplinary cluster context accompanied the research activities.

Career paths | Career worlds

Careers are paths in life which are possible or seem impossible depending on the respective lifeworld. Lifeworlds are shaped by circumstances such as labour, earnings, occupation and corresponding education, training, study and disciplinary cultures, and by perceptions of ability associated with the gender division of labour. The interdisciplinary orientation of the cluster (responsible scientists: Prof. Amalie Fößel and Prof. Anne Schlüter) makes it possible to explore these issues from a historical and contemporary cultural and intercultural perspective.

Worthy of special mention during the reporting period are the involvement of EKfG members in the DFG Research Training Group 1919 “Provision, prevision and prediction: managing contingency” (2013-2018), the habilitation project on “Crusaders’ wives as temporary regents in the High Middle Ages”, as well as completed and prospective studies in connection with the MIWF NRW Gender Report 2014 on science careers (2011-2014) and the Gender Report 2017 on the professional orientation of male and female doctors in North Rhine-Westphalia. The research activities were accompanied by a publication within the interdisciplinary research context. 

Gainful employment and care work

This cluster (responsible scientists: Prof. Karen Shire Ph.D and Dr. Ute Pascher-Kirsch) deals with research addressing the conditions surrounding and effects of economic and social policies and the legal provisions associated with them in relation to gender equality in the two major socioeconomic spheres of care work and employment. The focus here is on mutual dependencies in the two areas and their effects on the gender relationship. The connections between changes in the employment sphere, ways of life and their (socio)political conditions and regulation from a gender perspective are central to the analysis.

Among the projects in this research cluster, particular mention should be made of the following: the MERCUR project “Väter in Elternzeit. Aushandlungs- und Entscheidungsprozesse zwischen Paarbeziehung und Betrieb” with colleagues from the University Alliance Ruhr (UA Ruhr) partner universities Bochum and Dortmund (2013–2015), which focuses on fathers on parental leave and the underlying processes of negotiation between the private and the employment realm; the EU project “Study on the gender dimension of trafficking in human beings” (2014–2015); the DFG project “Female Employment Patterns, Fertility, Labor Market Reforms, and Social Norms: A Dynamic Treatment Approach” (2014–2017); and the project “‘Comparable Worth’ – Die blinden Flecken in der Ursache des Gender Pay Gaps”(2015–2018), which is funded by the Hans-Böckler Foundation and explores blind spots in understanding the cause of the gender pay gap. More than half of the research proposals in this cluster were submitted in the context of international research funding programmes. 

Perception | Representation | Visibility 

This cluster (responsible scientist: Prof. Patricia Plummer) brings together the humanities, cultural studies and psychological research approaches. Projects investigate gender-specific perceptions, representations and (in)visibilities in different cultural and societal contexts taking the example of literature, art, media and societal practices. This cluster is interdisciplinary and combines historical and contemporary research, often containing an intercultural perspective.

Special mention must be made of the contribution of cluster members to the preparation of a research unit “Ambiguität und Soziale Ordnung”, the MIWF project “Gleichstellungsbezogene Handlungsorientierungen und Handlungsweisen von ProfessorInnen vor dem Hintergrund gleichstellungspolitischer Regelungen”, which studies attitudes and actions among professors in relation to equal opportunities against the background of equal opportunity regulations (2015–2018), as well as the BMBF project “Ready for Dialogue. Conference on the Gender Dimension in science and research”(2015–2016). Research in this cluster was supported by interdisciplinary and in part international research seminars.

New opportunities for cooperation between the College and the Faculty of Engineering are emerging as a result of the successful acquisition of the DFG Research Training Group 2167 “User-Centred Social Media” with the participation of EKfG members, as well as support for Prof. Nicole Krämer’s chair (Social psychology: Media and Communication including Gender Perspectives in the Handling of new Technologies) as part of the NRW programme for gender-equitable universities. 

The future field of “Diversity Research”

In 2014 and 2015, a number of events contributed significantly to networking among diversity researchers at the UDE. These included the regular Lecture Series on Diversity Research, the linked short profiles provided on the updated Diversity Research Initiative website as a concise and readily available source of information on the professional interests and contact details of over 60 researchers involved in this field, as well as mailings to announce forthcoming events.