The Ancient Greek notion tópos (plural: tópoi), originally means ‘place’, ‘landscape’, ‘area’, or ‘region’. But even in Antiquity, the notion tópoi included much more: It also referred to imagined places, at which something can be mentally deposited, patterns of reasoning for the verification of disputed theses, or parts of scientific disciplines.
The Excellence Cluster «Topoi – The Formation and Transformation of Space and Knowledge in Ancient Civilizations» takes up this wide range of meanings. The interdisciplinary research center investigates ancient civilizations from the 6th millennium BC to Late Antiquity. Issues in focus are: How have spatial orders and knowledge developed? How are space and knowledge related?
The Excellence Cluster Topoi belongs to a small group of research centers that have been founded within the framework of the so-called «Excellence Initiative». On June 23, 2005 the German federal and state governments agreed on an initiative to promote top-level research in Germany.
More than 200 researchers from diverse disciplines, such as archaeology, geography, history, cultural studies, linguistics, philology, philosophy, theology, and history of science, investigate the formation and transformation of space and knowledge in about 50 research groups, which are pooled in five research areas.
The Excellence Initiative aims for both promoting top-level research and improving the quality of German universities and research institutions, thereby making a significant contribution to strengthening science and research in Germany in the long term, improving its international competitiveness, and raising the profile of the top performers in academia and research.
Universities were eligible to submit proposals in two rounds of funding. The initiative encourages cooperation with non-university research institutions. The first round was announced in 2005, and the winners were selected in October 2006. The second round, in which Topoi was submitted, was announced in 2006 and final funding decisions were made in October 2007.
The Grants Committee considers proposals for the three types of funding provided for in the initiative, i.e. graduate schools, excellence clusters, and institutional strategies to promote top-level research. It acts on the recommendations of a Joint Commission established by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) and the Wissenschaftsrat (German Council of Science and Humanities).