Clara Terjung M.A.

PhD Student | Human Limits and Infrastructures

What I’m working on in Project C03: “Pandemic Human Differentiation I”:

I work as a sociologist in the Collaborative Research Center 1482 “Studies in Human Differentiation” and specialize in the fields of ethnography, ethnomethodology, and theories of practice. I am interested in the practical enactment of sociality. My current research explores the transformation of proxemics during the COVID-19 pandemic and the pandemically irritated or irritable proximity-distance relations in public spaces. In the sense of alienating my own culture, I have made everyday life in Germany during the pandemic the field of my ethnographic research. How did the rampant insecurity felt by all of us become observable? How is the pandemically highly relevant distinction between the dangerous and the endangered negotiated situationally? How do actors deal with the invisible and only potential threat from or to the other? Another focus emerges from these questions and the observed situations: How do actors mutually indicate that, here and now, relational status rather than pandemic caution is prioritized over keeping one’s distance?

Why human differentiation?

My research focuses on practices, situations and the people involved in them, the mutual orientation towards one another, and the premise of situational negotiability of social order as an affordance. In the process of establishing a social order, actors address each other reciprocally as carriers of information that can offer orientation value in the here and now. The information observably culminates in everyday practices of discernment, which I want to explore. A concrete example of the COVID-19 pandemic is people who can be seen externally to be of advanced age. They carry their age as recognizable information, which is why they might be addressed as a risk group in everyday encounters. If, for example, it is a question of how close one gets when passing by or whether one gets into an elevator with them, the visible age can trigger the pandemic distinction of a person as being at risk, making people more likely to give them a wide berth or take the next elevator. As a result, distinguishing practices become part of the repertoire of everyday actions that seem unusual outside of pandemics.


„Ist Ethnographie politisch?“, Jahrestagung des Arbeitskreises Politische Ethnographie - Problems in/of/with political ethnography, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin 2016.

„Kriegsberichterstattung als Polarisierung – Eine Analyse der Mitgliedschaftskategorisierung zum Kampf um Kobanê“, Frühjahrstagung der DGS Sektion Methoden der Qualitativen Sozialforschung – ‚Polarisierung und gesellschaftlicher Wandel, Forschungsfelder, Methoden und wissenschaftliche Positionalität‘, Technische Universität Dresden 2019.

„Lebensweltliche Anpassung der gesundheitspolitisch motivierten Abstandsregeln an Beziehungszeichen“ Vortrag im Rahmen der Sektionsveranstaltung "Verkörperte Sozialität im Ausnahmezustand: Körper- und emotionssoziologische Perspektiven auf Vollzug, Darstellung und Bewältigung von ‚Nähe auf Distanz‘" der DGS Sektion Soziologie des Körpers und des Sports & der ÖGS Sektion Körper- und Emotionssoziologie auf dem gemeinsamen Kongress der ÖGS & DGS, Universität Wien, August 2021.

„Ambivalenzen pandemischer Mobilitätsbeschränkungen“ Vortrag im Rahmen der “ Ad-hoc-Gruppe Mobilität(en) der Krise?! des Kongresses der ÖGS „Kritische Zeiten“, Universität Wien, Juli 2023

Foto: Stephanie Füssenich