The research area Culture & Identities explores the different ways in which identity is constitutive of culture and in which cultures forge identities. For a long time, the concept of identity has served as a privileged category of research and self-reflection in the humanities and the social sciences, for instance in philosophy, psychological and sociological theory, postcolonial studies, historical linguistics and contemporary cultural history. Contemporary research agrees on the fact that identities do not exist prior to processes of remembering, but are an outcome of ephemeral, emergent narratives of the past (J. Assmann). Identity as a relational and process-based construct on collective as well as on individual levels is closely connected to cultural and psychological concepts of alterity (Goffmann, Said, Kristeva). Collective images of the self and the other and the differentiating impact of identity and identification on the levels of race, religion, class and gender have been studied in the frameworks of postcolonial and cultural studies (Anderson’s ‘imagined communities’, Hall’s ‘cultural identities’ or Butler’s deconstruction of ‘sex and gender’) and through questions of identity politics (Frazer) and popular culture (Hall, Yúdice). This critical reflection on identitary constructions also shows the persistence and re-emergence of essentialist, apparently solid and stable identities on an individual and collective scale (for example in still quite common conceptions of sexuality or gender roles, and in different forms of nationalism).
Deconstructions and Developments
In response, critical theory has questioned these kind of identitary politics and strategies (Adorno, Horkheimer) and, deconstructionist and poststructuralist the-ory has analyzed the very mechanics of the “effects of evidence” in linguistic and symbolic significance (Derrida, Foucault), as well as in images of the self and the other (Lacan, Baumann). Postcolonial studies have drawn attention to the fact that collective-cultural identities are never homogenous, monolithic and definite entities, but rather inherently syncretistic and constantly shifting phenomena, which are based on intricate processes of cultural contact, exchange, and differentiation (for example Spivak on ‘subalternity’, hooks on ‘race/class/gender’ or Gilroy on ‘nation and racism’). Material, social and mental elements (such as languages, art objects, people, institutions, ideas and concepts) are transferred from one culture to another and in this process shape and alter concepts of identity.
Research Approach and Further Projects
The cross-fertilization of issues of cultural identity with notions of transcultural dynamics has a great, and so far scarcely tapped, interdisciplinary potential: Both concepts play an important role in virtually all disciplines constituting the study of culture, for instance, in literary studies (‘transculturación’ and ‘hybridity’ in Latin-American and New English Literatures for example; cf. Ortiz, Rama and Bhabha), in linguistics (‘creolization’ of languages as identity markers) and in cultural history (‘appropriation’, Burke).
Winter term 2011/12 - Summer term 2012: The RA concentrated on theories of multiculturalism and the study of ethno-cultural identities in relation to aspects of gender and religion. For this, we engaged in the work of Jürgen Habermas, Susan Moller Okin, Tariq Modood and others. We went on to discuss the concept of multiculturalism in contrast to concepts of inter- and transculturalism, mainly drawing on Wolfgang Welsch's notion of 'transcultural societies'. Finally, we focused on Jacques Derrida's understanding of culture as 'not-being-identical-to-itself', developed in his text Das andere Kap/The Other Heading, and on Andreas Reckwitz' work on subject analysis and cultural theory in Das hybride Subjekt.
- Jürgen Habermas (1994): Struggles for Recognition in the Democratic Constitutional State
- Susan Moller Okin (1999): Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women?
- Tariq Modood (1998): Multiculturalism, Securalism and the State
- Wolfgang Welsch (2005): Auf dem Weg zu transkulturellen Gesellschaften
- Jacques Derrida (1992): Das andere Kap
- Andreas Reckwitz (2006): Das hybride Subjekt
Summer term 2011: The work of the RA will be dedicated to current debates about collective identity, strategic essentialism and its limits, focussing on questions such as: how much agency can identity (or a strategic essentialism) provide? What about the dangers of static and therefore rather repressive categories? Different identity concepts discussed include gender, age, ethnic and national identity. We will gain deeper insights into the problematics of the concept of identity in the Master Class with Doris Bachmann-Medick on: “Identität. Eine umstrittene Kategorie” (07/06/11).
Winter term 2010/11: We focussed on one author, Stuart Hall, to grasp his approach to cultural identity, multiculturalism and ethnicity. The master class “Key thinkers on Identity 1: Stuart Hall” (02/02/11) and the keynote lecture “Perspectives of Cultural Studies” (02/01/11) with Rainer Winter that we organized, completed these discussions at the end of the term. Additionally, the RA co-organized the Master Class with Oliver Marchart on “Ästhetik des Öffentlichen” (11/15/10).
- Hall, Stuart: Who Needs Identity?
- Hall, Stuart: The Question of Cultural Identity
- Hall, Stuart: The multi-cultural question
- Hall, Stuart: New ethnicities
- Fiske, John: Remarks on Hall
Summer term 2010: The RA discussed the projects of its members, concentrating on the topics: Construction of Nations, Theories of Identity in Sociology and Social Psychology, Individual Processes of Identification in Corporations.
- Renan, Ernest: Was ist eine Nation?
- Thom, Martin: Tribes Within Nations. The ancient Germans and the history of modern France
- Anderson, Benedict: Imagined Communities
- Sommer, Roy: Merkmale kollektiver Identität
- Bhabha, Homi K. (1990): DissemiNation
- Brewer, Marilynn/Gardner, Wendy (1996): Levels of collective identity and self representations
- Cooley, Charles (1902): Society and the individual
- Mead, George Herbert (1934): The self
- Ravasi, Davide/Schultz, Majken (2006): Responding to organizational identity threats
- Keupp, Heiner et al. (2008): Identitätskonstruktionen
Summer term 2008 – winter term 2009/10: The RA discussed different viewpoints of the complex subject of identity, concerning migration, knowledge, ethnicity and the question of the limits of identity. Identity was analyzed in terms of different categories and contexts, such as identity in postcolonial struggles, national identity, corporate identity and identity as category in Social Psychology. We organized the workshop: “Kulturelle Funktionen literarischer Identitätskonstruktionen” (12/14/09).
- Langenohl, Andreas/Kim, John N.: Translation and Migration from the Viewpoint of the Idiom
- Wirth, Uwe (2006): Aufpfropfung als Figur des Wissens in der Kultur- und Mediengeschichte
- Hitchcock, Peter: The Genre of Postcoloniality
- Anonymous: Introduction to “Learning the Arts of Linguistic Survival”
- Kaser, Karl: Religionszugehörigkeit und Ethnizität der albanischen Bevölkerung im südöstlichen Europa. Verhandlungsspielräume und ihre Grenzen
- Langenohl, Andreas/Kim, John N.: “After Identity”? Idioms, Translations and Migration
- Iser, Wolfgang (1979): Ist der Identitätsbegriff ein Paradigma für die Funktion der Fiktion
- Derrida, Jacques/Kamuf, Peggy (1992): Given Time: The Time of the King
- Hitchcock, Peter – The Failed State and the State of Failure
- Freud, Siegmund – Das Ich und das Es
- Elias, Norbert: Über den Prozeß der Zivilisation
- Boccaccio, Giovanni: Das Dekameron
- Simmel, Georg: Die Großstädte und das Geistesleben
- Benjamin, Walter: Berliner Kindheit um neunzehnhundert
Winter term 2007/08: The RA focussed on cultural functions of constructions of identity in literature. We (co-) organized an opening workshop (04/07) and a workshop on national identities with Marcel Vejmelka (06/11/07).
- Hall, Stuart: Kulturelle Identität und Globalisierung
- Rama, Angel: Processes of Transculturation in Latin American Narrative
- Davis, Mike (2001): Magical Urbanism. Latinos Reinvent the US City
- Barthes, Roland (2003): Das Reich der Zeichen
- Niethammer, Lutz (2000): Kollektive Identität: heimliche Quellen einer unheimlichen Konjunktur
- Kaufmann, Jean-Claude (2005): Die Erfindung des Ich: eine Theorie der Identität
- Iser, Wolfgang (1979): Ist der Identitätsbegriff ein Paradigma für die Funktion der Fiktion?
- Marquard, Odo (1979): Identität. Schwundtelos und Mini-Essenz
- Huntington, Samuel P. (2004): The Hispanic Challenge
- Said, Edward: Orientalism
- Lehrmann, Albrecht: Reden über Erfahrung
- Gilroy, Paul: Der Black Atlantic