Gabriele Rosenthal

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Gabriele Rosenthal (born April 19, 1954) is a German sociologist and Professor for Qualitative Methodology at Göttingen University, Germany.[1]


Gabriele Rosenthal was born in Schwenningen am Neckar in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. She studied sociology, political sciences and psychology at the University of Konstanz. Parallel, she was trained as family therapist. She received her PhD in 1986 from Bielefeld University and her habilitation from the University of Kassel in 1993. Gabriele Rosenthal was also a researcher at the Free University of Berlin, guest lecturer at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel, and held visiting and associate professorships in Vienna, Cologne and Kassel. In 2002, she was appointed Professor at the Center of Methods in Social Sciences, Göttingen University. From 2009 until 2011, she served as Dean of the Faculty of the Social Sciences. From 2002 until 2010, Gabriele Rosenthal was the President of the Research Committee “Biography and Society” of the International Sociological Association (ISA). She chaired the section on biographical research of the German Sociological Association (DGS) between 1999 and 2003.[2] Since 2005, Gabriele Rosenthal is a member of the DGS Council.[3]

Research interests[edit]

Gabriele Rosenthal is renowned for her contribution to biographical research and generation research in the qualitative social sciences. She has worked on the gestalt and structure of biographical self-presentations, drawing on gestalt theoretical considerations by Aron Gurwitsch and Kurt Koffka to explain the dialectic relation of experience, memory, and narration. Amongst others, she helped conceptualizing biography as a concept which transgresses the dualism of subject and society (Rosenthal 1995). Further influences on Rosenthal’s approach include the Sociology of knowledge (especially Alfred Schütz, Karl Mannheim, Thomas Luckmann and Peter L. Berger), and the Figurational Sociology of Norbert Elias. In the context of the research project ‘The Holocaust in the Life of Three Generations’, she focussed on the experiences of Holocaust survivors as well as those of Nazi perpetrators and the impacts of these on subsequent generations (Rosenthal 2009b).[4] Rosenthal’s work deals with migration, ethnic belonging and intergenerational passing. She approaches current social problems such as the impacts of violence, war, and forced migration through transnational research, using comparative case reconstructions (on the levels of biography, family, and milieu). Gabriele Rosenthal has conducted research in Israel, Palestine, Florida, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Uganda, Ghana and the Spanish enclaves.

Selected research projects[edit]

  • The Social Construction of Border Zones: A Comparison of Two Geopolitical Cases (2014-2017) (funded by the German Research Foundation)[5]
  • Belonging to the Outsider and Established Groupings: Palestinians and Israelis in Various Figurations (2010-2015) (funded by the German Research Foundation)[6]
  • Collective Myths and Their Transgenerational Impacts – Germans in and From the Former USSR (2007-2011) (funded by the German Research Foundation)[7]
  • Victims of War in North Uganda: Life Stories and Public Discourses
  • Biographical Case Studies of Juveniles in the Context of Education Programs (2004-2005)
  • Biography and Ethnicity: Development and Changes of the Sense of Socio-Cultural Belonging in Migrant Populations in the US and Germany (2006-2009)
  • The Holocaust in the Life of Three Generations (1992-1996)

Selected works[edit]

In English:

  • Rosenthal, G. (2012): ‘A Plea for a More Interpretative, More Empirical and More Historical Sociology.’ In: Kalekin-Fishman, D. / Denis, A. B. (Eds.): Tradition and Renewal: the Shape of Sociology for the Twenty-First Century. Sage, 202-217.
  • Rosenthal, G. / Bogner, A. (Eds.) (2009a): Ethnicity, Belonging and Biography. Ethnographical and Biographical Perspectives. Münster: LIT Verlag / New Brunswick: Transaction.
  • Rosenthal, G. (Ed.) (2009b): The Holocaust in Three-Generations. Families of Victims and Perpetrators of the Nazi-Regime. Opladen: Barbara Budrich.
  • Rosenthal, G. (2006): ‘The Narrated Life Story: On the Interrelation Between Expe-rience, Memory and Narration.’ In: Milnes, K., Horrocks, C., Kelly, N., Roberts, B. and Robinson, D. (Eds.) Narrative, Memory and Knowledge: Representations, Aesthetics and Contexts. Huddersfield: University of Huddersfield Press, 1 –16.
  • Rosenthal, G. (2004): ‘Biographical Research.’ In: Seale, C. / Gobo, G. / Gubrium, J. F. / Silverman, D. (Eds.): Qualitative Research Practice. London: Sage, 48-64.

In German:

  • Rosenthal, G. / Stephan, V. / Radenbach, N. (Eds.) (2011a): Brüchige Zugehörigkeiten. Wie sich Familien von ‘Russlanddeutschen‘ ihre Geschichte erzählen. Frankfurt a. M.: Campus.
  • Rosenthal, G. (2011b): Interpretative Sozialforschung. Weinheim und München: Juventa; 3rd edition.
  • Rosenthal, G. (1995): Erlebte und erzählte Lebensgeschichte. Gestalt und Struktur biographischer Selbstbeschreibungen. Frankfurt a. M.: Campus.
  • Rosenthal, G. (Ed.) (1990): ‘Als der Krieg kam, hatte ich mit Hitler nichts mehr zu tun‘. Zur Gegenwärtigkeit des ‘Dritten Reiches’ in erzählten Lebensgeschichten. Opladen: Leske & Budrich.