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Thematic Areas

Social and cultural anthropology studies diverse forms of cultural expression and ways of living from the viewpoint of the actors involved, and from comparative and historical perspectives. The corresponding processes are considered in the context of regional and global developments. One research focus is on the world outside Europe, on international comparisons and transnational connections. Here, the interactions of global transformations with local processes of the present day are of particular relevance. For the multiple theoretical and methodological approaches of social and cultural anthropology, insights from the 'global South' and areas  that are often described as the 'Euro-American periphery' play an important role.

In sociology, the focus is on analyses of current societal challenges and developments in Austria and Europe. Research is oriented towards current societal problems, has a strong empirical orientation and is closely related to contexts of application. It is integrated into international discourses and develops sociological theories on the basis of relevant social diagnoses. The current focuses are (1) work, organisation and gender relations; (2) family, generations, life course and health; (3) migration, cities, social policy and social inequality; as well as (4) knowledge, culture and visual worlds.

The area of Political science and government empirically and theoretically addresses questions of politics and governance, state and democracy, and their development and change in 129 different regions of the world and different policy areas. Four main areas are covered: (1) political theory (research into the history of ideas and the normative foundations of political order, and into the transformation of gender relations and political culture); (2) comparative politics (comparison of political systems in different world regions and the study of democratic representation, of public opinion, political institutions and organisations, as well as different policy fields and policy instruments); (3) Austrian politics (research on political competition, migration and diversity, as well as social policy) and Europeanisation; and (4) international politics (analysis of globalisation, studies of sustainability and resource policies) and European studies. The activities in each of the above fields are characterised by problem-oriented perspectives in research and teaching, a plurality of approaches to research, as well as interdisciplinary cooperation. A common denominator in research is the analysis of processes of political and societal transformation.

Research in the area of communication examines processes of private and public communication through media and technology, as well as its infrastructural conditions. The analyses in this field focus on changes in the forms of mediatisation and mediated contents and the resulting effects on individuals, society, politics and gender relations. The main research subjects currently include (1) journalism, (2) political communication research and media policy, (3) advertising and public relations, (4) media history and media innovation/new media, as well as (5) developing new methodologies.

In science and technology studies, the focus is on the increasingly closer links between change in science and technology on the one hand, and social change on the other. Analyses in this field are of great relevance today as innovation in science and technology is regarded as both a means for overcoming major societal challenges and a driver of the economy. However, new knowledge and new technologies often give rise to frequently controversial socio-political questions, as is apparent in the current example of digitalisation. With regard to topics, the focus is on analysing how knowledge and innovation are generated, what role science and technology play in the organisation of societies at global and local levels, and how this is discussed and influenced in democracies. Across different topics, the role of values and evaluations in science and society, as well as questions of responsibility in research and innovation are studied. The interdisciplinary cooperation with natural sciences and techno-scientific fields is of great relevance for science and technology studies at the Faculty.

Nursing science studies questions of nursing as a field of action and covers the whole lifespan of human beings. The pertinent analyses include different levels – from individuals to families as well as social and political structures – and the entire chain of care services. Currently research is undertaken in four thematic areas – i.e. care for the elderly and community care; family care; palliative care; and oncological nursing. Inquiry in nursing science links the views on relevant social phenomena from the standpoints of medicine on the one hand, and the social sciences on the other. In addition to basic research and development as well as the evaluation of interventions, the focus is on health services research and implementation research.

Research in the area of development studies is oriented towards transdisciplinary analysis and reflection of global inequalities, a critical discussion of development cooperation, as well as methodological questions of development research. This integration of different perspectives into the analysis of problem areas is necessary to enable a profound understanding of political, economic, social and cultural processes, dynamics and power structures at the global and local levels. Transdisciplinary development research therefore incorporates the perspectives of different areas of knowledge and practice and is aimed at linking theory and practice.

Demography focuses on an analysis of changes in population sizes and population structures in terms of age, gender, place of residence, qualification, labour force participation rate, and other relevant individual characteristics. Formal demography analyses these changes with the aid of mathematical models that also permit forecasts over several decades based on assumptions on future fertility, mortality and migration. This also includes a substantial analysis of the determinants of these components of demographic change. Another important question relates to the consequences of demographic changes on society, the economy and the environment in all parts of the world.

The Faculty’s research profile is complemented by interdisciplinary cooperation. This takes place in a thorough examination of the manifold approaches to methodology in the social sciences, ranging from the application of methods as instruments for testing research hypotheses to highlighting their interaction with theory formation. In addition, the individual disciplines cooperate in seven key research areas. As different methodological and theoretical approaches are combined, it is possible to examine complex societal challenges in a collaborative research effort, and to make them accessible to social stakeholders.