From the twentieth century to the twenty-first century, the conditions of human life have changed dramatically due to political, socio-economic, ecological and cultural influences. Simultaneously, the interpretative models and spaces of action in medicine have shifted from observing and influencing biological processes towards the biological and technological shaping of health and disease. Examples are manifold: assisted reproduction, prenatal diagnostics, organ transplantation, longevity and dying – in all of these boundary experiences, the role of medicine has changed fundamentally and has influenced the ways in which we conceptualize and deal with human life. These developments have also resulted in new approaches to explaining and understanding human life and life narratives in social and cultural studies (life writing).
The graduate program converges the areas of life sciences and life writing and sees them as complementary approaches to understand, explain and act in boundary experiences of human life. To achieve this convergence, joint concepts need to be established. The graduate program focuses on three research areas – corporeality, ability, temporality – which function as three conceptual spaces, within which biomedical explanations, literary and cultural analyses and human experience interact. The interdisciplinary approaches are linked by narrative practices, which function as the conceptual and methodological background against which boundary experiences of human life are studied from diverse disciplinary angles, such as medicine, neonatology, psychotherapy, pharmaceutical biology, molecular biology, social sciences, cultural anthropology, history, philosophy, ethics, German studies and American studies.