International Research School in Conceptual History and Political Thought

Culture, Civilization and the World – the Semantics of Globalization

The fourth Concepta Research Training Seminar, University of Oslo, Norway, January 25-26 2010

Download the final programme here.
Keynote lectures:

Willibald Steinmetz (Bielefeld): Theoretical and Methodological Problem of Comparative Historical Semantics.

Margrit Pernau (Berlin): Globalisation, Entanglement, Translation – How Do We Study Moving Concepts?

Sinai Rusinek (Jerusalem): Keine Kultur, Keine Nimus: On the Counterconcepts of Culture and Civilization.

Dyala Hamzah (Berlin): Is Conceptual History in/of The Modern Middle East Possible? The example of maslaha 'âmma (public interest) and some of the thornier issues of historiography

Christoph Harbsmeier (Oslo):  The Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary and the Globalisation of Conceptual History

Helge Jordheim (Oslo): Conceptualizing the World – a Reflection on Contexts

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Call for papers

Place and date: University of Oslo, Norway, January 25-26 2010

Since the 1990s one of the most prominent trends in the human and social sciences has been the investigation of what is usually referred to as “globalization”, “the global” or simply “the world”. Sociologists and anthropologists have been eager to explore the exchanges and transfers taking place between states and continents, interconnecting local and global cultures and markets; historians don’t seem to ever get tired of asking what should be the objectives and interests of “global history”, or to single out and investigate processes with a transnational or transcultural scope; literary scholars have taken new interest in “world literature”, migration literature and authors in exile, whereas researchers in the broad field of cultural studies incessantly probe the implications of post-colonialism, hybridity and the perspective of the subalterns.

Independent of disciplines all these attempts to approach globalization seem to face the same challenge: to take account of the linguistic and conceptual diversity at work in different cultures, nations and scientific traditions. If we accept the idea that our social reality is created or at least co-created by the words we use to describe and act in it, there is all the more reason to pay particular attention to the concepts and linguistic strategies employed at the interfaces between different cultures. On the one hand, there are indigenous concepts unable to communicate beyond the borders of the culture in which it is used; on the other hand, there are transcultural concepts, mostly in English, projecting onto every culture a particular worldview and pattern of understanding and thus possibly excluding those who do not share this worldview from the process of communication.

In this seminar, which is a co-operation between the cross-disciplinary research program KULTRANS – Cultural Transformations in the Age of Globalization at the University of Oslo, Norway, and Concepta – International Research School in Conceptual History and Political Thought, we want to focus on the role of language, and especially the role of concepts in exploring the processes of globalization. In addition to the uses and meanings of single concepts, such as “culture”, “civilization” or “world”, the seminar will focus on clusters of concepts, semantic fields, discourses, texts, genres and experiences – constituting what we might refer to as the “semantics of globalization”

We will be happy to accept papers discussing specific cases as well as methodological and theoretical problems concerning issues like:

  • transnational and transcultural concepts, such as “culture”, “civilization”, “empire”, “world”, “cosmopolitanism” etc., in different languages and of different cultural and historical origin
  • the semantics of real and imagined communities, both political and religious, including different “pan-movements”,   such as panislam, panasianism, panslavism, pan-Europe.
  • comparative approaches to concepts and semantic fields in different national and cultural contexts
  • the transfer and translation of concepts from one culture and/or one language to another, their “entanglements” etc.
  • patterns of communication and circulation: modes, media and materiality
  • temporal and spatial structures in the semantics of globalization

Key note speakers: Willibald Steinmetz (Bielefeld), Margrit Pernau (Berlin), Dyala Hamzah (Berlin), Sinai Rusinek (Jerusalem), Christoph Harbsmeier (Oslo), Helge Jordheim (Oslo)

Titles and abstracts can be sent to Helge Jordheim, by 1.12.2009.