While the key topics strengthen thematic interconnections between the four research areas, Topoi Lab operates at a far more ambitious scale. Its primary function is to foster the theoretical and methodological work of the cluster, encouraging broad-based discussions that are critical of disciplinary presuppositions, while unifying individual research programs consistent with the general themes of Topoi II. Key topics and Topoi Lab therefore reinforce one another, while encouraging two distinct forms of amalgamation: the concrete and detailed exploration of individual themes (key topics) as well as a broad synthetic overview of the full apparatus of theoretical and methodological tools available in particular disciplines (Topoi Lab). Topoi Lab also acts as the primary incubation chamber for the identification of new research questions to be addressed by the entire cluster; it is directed by the cluster directors.
Topoi Lab operates in two distinct formats and includes both postdoctoral fellows and more experienced researchers. The first of these formats consists of a small team within each research area made up of a postdoctoral researcher and the spokesperson of the research area. The second format uses sabbatical awards that are made available to the leading senior investigators within the cluster in the last three years of Topoi II. The postdoctoral researchers identify central concepts, theories, and questions in each of the research areas that speak to the broader themes of Topoi and organize intra-area discussions that elaborate on these themes. In combination with the work carried out in the units responsible for the key topics, these postdoctoral researchers and sabbatical recipients realize the full epistemological potential of Topoi, and the results of these intense reconsiderations of the guiding themes of the cluster will be presented in concentrated form in a new series of publications “Topoi: Theoretical Papers on the Interdependence of Space and Knowledge” that will appear at the conclusion of Topoi II.