Universität KonstanzExzellenzcluster „Kulturelle Grundlagen von Integration“

After Postcolonialism. Similarities in an Entangled World

International Conference

Center of Excellence “Cultural Foundations of Social Integration”
University of Tübingen
Fritz Thyssen Foundation

4–6 October 2012 (Thu–Sat)

About the theme

The discourse of cultural studies in the past decades is in many ways a reaction to fundamental geo-political shifts. De-colonization after WWII was accompanied by a postponed loss of meaning—first for Europe, and in time for the West as a whole—of cultural and ideological centers.

Cultural Studies have attempted to break received hierarchies by placing the encounter between members of different cultures under the banner of difference and alterity. However, even the postcolonial stress on alterity finds its entry point in colonial idioms of thought. In many postcolonial approaches respecting a person’s difference means that we first declare this person as an other: To make her an Other to a certain degree. Acceptance and communication, in this scheme, are based on the implicit premise of difference. But difference is logically bound to its antonym: Identity, sameness. The idea of a radical difference between cultures calls up, in a complementary manner, the idea of a homogenous identity, even if the goal of the maneuver consists in its overcoming.

These are no longer tenable ways to conceptualize a pluricultural past, present and future in a globalised world. Are actions necessarily constrained by either-or alternatives, or are they in most cases based on a much broader spectrum of options and entanglement? Is there an area where we can think in terms of “this, as well as that”, a performative attitude of making similar, becoming similar, being similar, without becoming the same?

Where, can we find such movements of the similar?

The invited speakers and discussants from Africa, South America, the US, India and Europe will revisit both historical and contemporary sites and scenes of contestations between sameness and difference by focusing on the competing possibilities of similarities in various geo-political, national and transnational scenes. In continuation of the aims of the workshop on Similarities in Konstanz “Ähnlichkeit. Valenzen eines Begriffs.” (2011), the Speakers will also reflect on the implications of similarity for theories of culture.