The Institutionalization of Rankings between 1850 and 1980
DFG funded project (2019-2022)
Companies, artists, sports clubs, hospitals, hotels, universities or countries: Today, all kinds of entities are being "ranked" on a regular basis. Most of the literature focuses on rankings that
emerged and proliferated since the 1990s. This neglects, however, that rankings have a long history that we need to understand in order to explain their rise in the last few decades.
Our project therefore looks at the history of rankings in two fields—competitive sports and science/universities—between the mid-nineteenth century and around 1980. We conceptualize
rankings as a modern practice of comparison that combines comparison of performances, quantification, visualization and publication. With this understanding in mind, we are particularly interested in
three research questions: (1) Which rankings were produced and published during this period? (2) How were they discursively received and interpreted? (3) And how where they related to discourses on
performance, competition, and transparency / publicity?