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Forschungsfeld 4: Nach dem Eurozentrismus


After Eurocentrism

Towards New Patterns and Categories of Historical and Cultural Studies

Since the end of the Cold War at the latest, it has been a ubiquitous assertion that the time of global interpretive sovereignty of "the West" or "Europe" is over. Provincializing Europe is seen as the intellectual and political challenge, modernity is now multiple modernities, and for the reorganization of historical/cultural interpretation, program words ranging from post-colonial to post-Eurocentric to, most recently, post-Anthropocene have become established at a rapid pace.

Guiding ideas of the so-called "Enlightenment" are omnipresent as problematic cases of work in cultural studies - in principle, at least: the paradigm of secularization, the "Western concept of art", the macro-models of historical thought (Antiquity - Middle Ages - Modern Times), fundamental ontological categories of interpreting the world (Anthropocene), to name but a few. The framework of thought institutionalized in the 19th century has so far guided almost all historical and cultural interpretations and is still institutionalized in "disciplines" and curricula. It now seems to be apparent that this framework itself has become dysfunctional, but alternatives have not yet emerged. We now live in a liminal age of “post-s”.  FzHG`s Research Field 4 represents a cross-disciplinary preliminary attempt to transit into new paradigms after Eurocentrism.

But what follows from all this?

Where are the conceptual "leverages" for working on the historical/cultural reinterpretation of, say, Latin societies as societies of a "world province" (that were particularly expansive over centuries)? How do we conceive past societies of this Latin European "world province”, …

  • when, for example, interpretative figures such as "Antiquity", "Middle Ages" and "Modern Times" disappear in the archives of the history of science,
  • when reified, essentialising geocultural concepts  such as “Orient”, “Graeco-Roman world” or “East Asia” become increasingly obsolete,
  • when "art" is no longer automatically bound to "autonomy" (as has been self-evident for the “western” concept of art), thus the "age of art" no longer begins with the emergence of the “autonomy” discourse around 1500,
  • when ontology is transformed from a specialized scholarship into a guiding perspective of historical/cultural research (keyword multi-species, cf. research field 2),
  • when the 19th century logic of specialization institutionalized in "disciplines" no longer fits today's needs for specialization in different sorts of historical material, because - as it looks like at the moment - Mediology is becoming a conceptual key for new interpretations?

Moreover, how can we cope with the fact that the new conception of Europe as a world province (diversity) is at the same time a fundamental value challenge – a challenge especially for the defense of civil society and human rights (universality)? A complicated tension between empirical understanding and normative concerns needs to be addressed. This tension has topicality, for example, in the People’s Republic of China's cultural as well as political expansion (keywords "tianxia world order", “cultural nationalism”, "soft power initiative"), which is perceived in Western discussions as an existential challenge to the ideal of liberal democracy.

Beyond epistemological confession

So far, not only students, but also researchers in various fields have been able to get through without being touched by the fundamental epistemological problems of post-Eurocentric humanities. The step from epistemological confessions to the re-categorization of empirical work and the corresponding re-definition of "disciplines" is still missing – two generations after the end of the colonial era, a whole generation after the end of the Cold War, and in the face of new imperialisms and of an intensified popular use of essentialising ideas concerning nations and religions.