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Graduiertenkollegs "Das Reale in der Kultur der Moderne"

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Call for Papers:

Workshop:
Symbolic Politics of Non-Representation in Contemporary Cultures of Dissent


20–21 November 2015
University of Konstanz (Germany),
Graduate School The Problem of the Real in the Cultures of Modernity

Deadline for Proposals: 07 September 2015

Download CfP (pdf)

With the so-called Arab Spring and Occupy, but also with the US Tea Party and the German PEGIDA, a seemingly new transnational wave of dissent movements has arisen. What we consider new in these movements is their constitution as a heterogeneous multitude based on physical presence, temporarily gathering an otherwise highly diverse population. As much as these groups appear united concerning their shared enemy – namely political and economic elites – as well as with regard to the name in which they act (“the people”), they remain of inner dissent insofar as they put the possibility of an overarching identity of the movement into question. What we witness, hence, is the dissolution of the belief in traditional emancipatory movements united by class, gender or ethnicity standing up against a hegemonic regime and its substitution by the hope for the subversive and revolutionary potential of a post-identitarian counter-public performing their being-in-difference. Yet, their ability of representing “the people” seems to disappear in spite of the proposed inclusiveness and multivocality, as their radical dissent leads to non-representation: They refuse to traditionally represent “the people” by making claims or engaging in formulating positions.

At the same time, these protest movements certainly stand and fall with the production of symbolic politics likely to be disseminated via social media sites, newspapers and TV or radio broadcasts. Pierre Bourdieu had already noted that the success of mobilisations depended on the existence of a “symbolic apparatus” for the production of epistemological claims about the world – a fait social that becomes even more decisive regarding the organisational ephemerality of current movements.

Taking this changing notion of political movements with their underlying anti-hierarchical, non-representational, fragile and network-based logic as a starting point, the workshop aims at critically investigating current formulations of dissent by specifically broaching the issue of the (im)possibility of representing the unrepresentable. By doing so we evidently focus on the so-called crisis of representation but aim at enlarging this debate to those intentionally organising to “disrepresent” representation.
Engaging this problem, we propose the following questions as starting points:
How is non-representation performed on the streets, for the mass media or in more intimate settings?
Which symbol practices are employed and to what extent are they grounded in narratives of earlier protests or resistances (e.g. the altermondialist movements of the 1990s, the uprisings in French banlieues in 2005-2007, or the riots in the UK in 2011)?
How do these practices connect to current discussions of direct democracy (e.g. David Graeber’s thoughts on anarchist anthropology in the wake of Occupy)?
Can we discern national, social, cultural or gendered lineages that restrict these narrative and aesthetic forms?

The workshop shall not be limited to these questions; we encourage to critically engage with them and our own theoretical concepts. We invite proposals from all fields of research in the Humanities and social sciences, but are aiming at contributions that do not shy away from comparative and transdisciplinary approaches.

Proposals may be submitted in English or German.
Travel expenses and accommodation costs will be covered.
Please send your proposals of max. 700 words to both of the organisers. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact either of us.

Organisers:
Dr. Andreas Beer,
American Studies (Graduate School The Problem of the Real in the Cultures of Modernities)
Francis LeMaitre, M.A., Sociology (Graduate School The Problem of the Real in the Cultures of Modernities)

Contact for Proposals and Questions:

Andreas Beer
andreas.beer@uni-konstanz.de
and
Francis LeMaitre
francis.le-maitre@uni-konstanz.de

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Kurze Zusammenfassung des Profils (deutsch):

Mit dem Realen hat es in der Moderne eine eigentümliche Bewandtnis. Während es für ein spontanes Weltverhalten auf unproblematische Weise gegeben scheint, haben sich Dichter, Künstler, Philosophen und ihr Tun reflektierende Wissenschaftler notorisch schwer mit Aussagen darüber getan, wie die Welt ‚wirklich ist‘. Denn was sich in sprachlichen Repräsentationen oder wissenschaftlichen Experimentalanordnungen zeigt, ist schon nicht mehr das Reale ‚als solches‘, sondern gefiltert durch den Eigensinn menschlicher Erfahrung, kultureller Zeichensysteme und technischer Apparate. 
Diese Unzugänglichkeit des Realen, das in seinem Begriff einerseits die Vorstellung von etwas Eigentlichem und Wesenhaftem erweckt, dessen man andererseits aber nur in gleichsam entstellter Form habhaft zu werden vermag, grundiert die Selbstwahrnehmung der Moderne als einer Epoche, die ihrer Verankerung in der Welt nicht gewiss ist – trotz aller technisch-wissenschaftlichen Erfolge.
Das Graduiertenkolleg hat nicht den Anspruch, dieses sowohl ästhetische wie erkenntnistheoretische Dilemma aufzulösen. Stattdessen soll die dilemmatische Struktur des Wirklichkeitsbezugs der Moderne ihrerseits als kulturelle Gegebenheit angenommen und in ihren wechselnden Gestaltungsweisen analysiert werden. Das Ziel ist es also, das Reale als permanenten Verhandlungsgegenstand der Kultur der Moderne zu profilieren. Dem liegt die Arbeitshypothese zugrunde, dass die Plastizität des Realen ein funktionales Erfordernis moderner Gesellschaften darstellt. Nur so lässt sich auf befriedigende Weise erklären, warum eine derart realitätsmächtige Weltperiode wie die Moderne sich zugleich als eine Epoche imaginiert, die ihren Bezug zur Natur und zum Wesensgrund der Dinge verloren hat.
In der ersten Bewilligungsphase standen die krisenhaft-katastrophischen Ausprägungen dieser Gespaltenheit im Vordergrund. In der zweiten Förderperiode sollen eher die unspektakulären Heuristiken des Realen im gesellschaftlichen ‚Normalbetrieb‘ mitsamt den entsprechenden wissenskulturellen Operationalisierungen in den Blick gerückt werden. Wie bisher geschieht dies aus kultursemiotischer Perspektive, in der Konstanzer Tradition einer Allgemeinen Literaturwissenschaft – im Verbund mit medien- und wissenschaftsgeschichtlichen Ansätzen sowie, neuerdings, einer auf Praktiken und Materialitäten fokussierenden Ethnologie. Das Kolleg ist Teil des Schwerpunkts kulturwissenschaftlicher Grundlagenforschung am Ort und überdies in hochrangige internationale Kooperationen eingebettet.

Short Profile-Overview (english):

Modernity has a peculiar relationship with the real. Whereas in a spontaneous comportment toward the world the real seems to be given in an unproblematic way, writers, artists, philosophers, and scholars and scientists reflective on their own activities have notoriously struggled with claims of how the world 'really is': what reveals itself in linguistic representations or scientific experimental orders is indeed no longer the real 'as such' but is filtered through the stubbornness of human experience, cultural sign systems, and technical apparatuses.
This inaccessibility of the real—a term that inspires, on the one hand, the notion of something actual and essential that one tries, on the other hand, to get hold of in a disfigured form, as it were—grounds the self-perception of modernity as an epoch that is uncertain in its anchoring in the world despite its technical-scientific successes.
The Graduiertenkolleg does not claim to resolve this aesthetic and epistemological dilemma. Rather, the dilemmatic structure of the reference to reality in modernity is assumed as itself a cultural given and analyzed in its varying forms. Thus, the aim is to profile the real as a permanent object of negotiation in the culture of modernity. Underlying this is the working hypothesis that the plasticity of the real represents a functional condition of modern societies. Only in this way can one explain satisfactorily why a historical period so empowered with reality as modernity imagines itself at the same time as an epoch that had lost its relationship to nature and to the essential foundation of things.
The first grant stage foregrounded the critical, catastrophic instances of this schism. The second funding period will bring the unspectacular heuristics of the real in social “everyday business” along with the relevant operationalizations of knowledge cultures. As before, this takes place from the perspective of cultural semiotics in the Konstanz tradition of general literary studies, together with approaches to the history of media and science and, newly, an ethnology focused on practices and materialities. The Kolleg is part of the extant research focus on cultural studies (Kulturwissenschaft) and is embedded in prestigious international cooperations as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


KONTAKT:
Universität Konstanz
Graduiertenkolleg
„Das Reale in der Kultur der Moderne“
Fach D 153
D-78457 Konstanz