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Winter School 2014 – abstracts morning lectures

Time Displacements, Similarity and Difference in a World of Movement and Migration:  Some Aspects of the Production of Culture and Theory of Culture

Anil Bhatti

Our argument is put forward in a world of general mobilisation under conditions characterised by borders, demarcations, border crossings, social and cultural transformations and transgressions. This is part of the process of globalisation, a term I use here with the nuances conveyed more closely by ‘mondialisation’ and ‘planetarisation’. In spite of an optimistic version of a world without borders, the unsettlement of the world of demarcations and borders has also created illusions about a post-national order. We are however living objectively in a very real world of power relations and structures of dominations which in turn create partially unstable structures of inclusion, exclusion, empowerment and disenfranchisement. These put their stamp on the complex processes of the production of culture, culture theory and of knowledge production in general.


We have by now a comprehensive historical archive for dealing with the cultural specifics of our contemporary polyglot, multireligious, pluricultural and syncretic worlds. Reference to this archive suggests that instead of hard dichotomous structures and the hitherto dominant polarities based on notions of alterity, our contemporary cultural processes lead to pluricultural conditions characterized by plurilingual competence, syncretism and heterogeneities which are becoming features of our increasingly complex societies. These processes are characterized by conflicts between heterogeneity and homogeneity in fields of power and domination.This in turn has implications for the specific conditions under which culture transfer and knowledge transfer in general are realised.

Against this background I suggest that the traditional emphasis on the principle of a hermeneutic of understanding of difference in culture theory and practice is inadequate for comprehending the processes of space-time transformations which characterize our contemporary world.

Instead of a hermeneutics of difference, I suggest that the perspective of non-hermeneutic dispositions make similarity a productive concept for enabling us to come to terms with a complex world of entanglements, shared histories and migrations. It also offers a critique of all forms of exceptionalism and enforces the need for a new secular, syncretistic perspective beyond all orthodoxies. Similarity (Ähnlichkeit) as concept allows us to deal with the topology of fluid, heterogeneous, plurilingual, pluricultural and multireligious figurations in time and space more adequately than before. It disposes us to seeing polyvalent, polycentric, overlapping and transient fields with greater adequacy than traditional hermeneutic approaches.  They also replace traditional linearity in favour of greater emphasis on simultaneity.

The change in methodology and analysis which now emphasises the non-hermeneutic disposition based on thinking in similarities emphasises the urgency for looking upon translation as praxis and the recovery of secular spaces as part of the process of the pluralisation of our worlds of theory and praxis.

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