The First Congress of the Kulturwissenschaftliche Gesellschaft

Perspectives of Future Studies of Culture
November 12th to 14th, 2015

Keynotes by Sigrid Weigel (Berlin), Andreas Reckwitz (Frankfurt/Oder), Heidrun Friese (Chemnitz), and Orit Halpern (Montréal)

Since the late 1970s, the new studies of culture (»Kulturwissenschaft/en«) in the German-language countries have partially evolved in the wake of international developments, such as cultural and visual studies, gender studies, cultural analysis, New Historicism, new art history and social history of art, or also Michel Foucault’s discourse analysis and Pierre Bourdieu’s analysis of habitus. In addition to some independent developments, they have occasionally also drawn on older German-language traditions such as those of Ernst Cassirer, Georg Simmel, Aby Warburg, or Max Weber. While there is no lack of programmatic considerations, studies, and theoretical texts in this field of studies of culture, the networking, exchange, and interpersonal communication among the actors and institutions, whose numbers have sharply risen in the past decade, remained rather weak. The institutionalization of exchange and discussion under conditions of relative autonomy, however, is a crucial prerequisite for further developing the field. For this reason, the foundation of the Kulturwissenschaftliche Gesellschaft (KWG) in January 2015 at the University of Koblenz-Landau, in which representatives from around 20 universities and non-university research institutions, in a first step predominantly from Germany, Austria and Switzerland, participated, was connected with the intention of providing a new basis for the transregional and transnational exchange of studies of culture. This includes the establishment of thematically specialized networking platforms, the foundation of a specialist journal, and the organization of congresses.

The First Congress of the Kulturwissenschaftliche Gesellschaft will be held from November 12 to November 14, 2015, at the Leuphana University of Lüneburg – an institution possessing a longer tradition in studies of culture. The Kunstraum of the Leuphana University, which from its start has been integrated in the studies of culture program of this university (see e.g. »Games, Fights, Collaborations: Art and Cultural Studies in the ’90s«, edited by Beatrice von Bismarck, Diethelm Stoller, and Ulf Wuggenig 1996) supports these efforts aimed at exchange and institutionalized discourse not least by participating in the establishment of the aesthetics section within the association. To this end, the Kunstraum has also invited Ruth Sonderegger, philosopher at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, to deliver a lecture. On November 13, she will talk about »The Power of Aesthetics« in the frame of this section and also critically comment on the draft paper developed jointly by Amalia Barboza (University Saarbrücken), Stefan Krankenhagen (University Hildesheim) and Ulf Wuggenig (Leuphana University of Lüneburg).

The Congress program includes four plenary lectures by cultural scholars from various disciplines: The literary scholar Sigrid Weigel (Center for Literary and Cultural Research) will make recourse to the Breivig attack in Oslo in 2011 to talk about the unlearning of compassion accompanied by the simultaneous spreading of compassion in public space. The lecture by the sociologist Andreas Reckwitz (European University Viadrina Frankfurt/Oder) deals with the singularization-culturalization of Western societies as a countertendency to their renationalization and standardization. The ethnologist Heidrun Friese (TU Chemnitz), who has conducted ethnographic research among refugees in Lampedusa, will deal with the theme of hospitality against the backdrop of current migrations of refugees from the Middle East and Asia to Europe and xenophobic resistance, making reference to Derrida’s considerations on hospitality. Orit Halpern (Concordia University Montréal) will critically engage with the changes of art and the humanities in the light of the proliferation of design and technological rationality. Furthermore, the program includes work in ten sections, networks, and ad hoc groups besides panel discussions in the plenum concerned with the institutionalization of studies of culture programs in view of the culturalization and economization of society and the cultural turns in the humanities and social sciences. Representatives of ten universities with new studies of culture programs—researchers, teachers and students—will be involved in these discussions. The language of the symposium will mainly be German, the exception being the keynote of Orit Halpern.

The congress is based on a cooperation of the Kunstraum of Leuphana University Lüneburg with the faculty Kulturwissenschaften of Leuphana University and the Kulturwissenschaftliche Gesellschaft.