Tilman Richter, M.A.

Universitätsstr. 105
44789 Bochum
Room: UNI 105, 3/25

Phone: +49 (0) 234/32-27296
E-Mail: tilman.richter@ruhr-uni-bochum.de


Title of the Dissertation

Unterschreiben. Zur Signatur von Individualität in der Moderne(working title)

Project Description

It not only in the legal context that a signature turns documents into records. A signature concludes finalises a document and declares its form valid. It executes authorisation. It is an act demanding from signatories their guarantee. By way of their personal, embodied unmistakeability they commit themselves to that which they have signed, which thereby takes on not only their material presence, but also their will and their capacity for authorisation. A signature thus remains as a trace, the act of signing as a practice situated at the intersection between media and individuality. The signing subject does not precede the signature, the act of signing transforms both object and subject alike. In this regard, every signature is an act of inscribing oneself (in something).

At the cross-over point of textual legal and bureaucratic orders, discourses and practices of education and media, the practice of signing serves as an example of how cultural techniques influence the inclusion of each individual in the social order of modernity. Those who can and may provide their signature possess sovereign power, their own will to document and validate, but also submit to the obligation to identify themselves, to bind their identity to documents, render themselves traceable and shape their person into a timeless, consistent unity.

 This doctoral thesis examines a variety of materials – bureaucratic regulations, literary descriptions, filmic and photographic portrayals and studies in the humanities in order to trace the establishment and historical transformation of the close connection between the concept of individuality and its documentation in the act of signing. How does modern society mobilise techniques, bodies and discourses through the act of signing to allocate agency and sovereignty?

Scholarly Career 

  • Since October 2019: Researcher (doctoral candidate) in the DFG post-graduate programme “The Documentary. Excess and Withdrawal”, Ruhr University Bochum
  • 10/2015 to 11/2018: Master’s degree in Cultural Studies, Humboldt University Berlin
  • 04/2015 to 09/2015: Master’s degree in History and Culture of Science and Technology, Berlin University of Technology
  • 10/2009 to 04/2015: Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, Cultural Reflection and Cultural Practice, University of Witten/Herdecke

University Courses

  • Winter Term 2018/19: Seminar “Die Idee der Universität“, in collaboration with Caspar-Fridolin Lorenz, Faculty of Cultural Reflexion, University Witten/Herdecke
  • Summer Term 2016: Seminar “Sozialfiguren der Kapitalisierung“ in collaboration with Caspar-Fridolin Lorenz, Faculty of Cultural, Social and Educational Science, Humboldt University Berlin
  • Winter Term 2013/14: Seminar “Körper und Technik”, in collaboration with Christian Grüny, Faculty of Cultural Reflexion, University Witten/Herdecke


  • “The Forging of One’s Self. Practicing Signatures, Practicing Individuality“, talk presented as part of the online symposium “Practices of Privacy. Knowledge in the Making“, April/May 2020, Centre for Privacy Studies, University of Copenhagen
  • “Unterschreiben/Überschreiben“, in collaboration with Caspar-Fridolin Lorenz,talk presented as part of the workshop “Mitschriften. Formate universitärer Kritik“, 27.11.-01.12.2017, Gut Siggen
  • “Flexible Buchführung. Die Bohème als Milieu prekärer Individualisierung“, in collaboration with Caspar-Fridolin Lorenz, talk presented as part of the 6th Student Congress for Sociology “Alle(s) in Bewegung“ at Chemnitz University (14.09.2017)
  • “Tanz und das Technische des Körpers”, talk presented as part of the IX. congress of the German Society for Aesthetics at Hamburg University (19.02.2015)

Organisation of Events

  • Organisation of the student symposium “Confidence Tricks and Enterprise. Individualisation in Economic Contexts”, with Caspar-Fridolin Lorenz, 07./08.04.2017 at the Humboldt University of Berlin


  • Reviews and journalistic texts for Zeit Online, Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, Merkur, Merkur Blog and others