Transfer in Dispute (Tagung)
Transfer in Dispute (Tagung)Termin
26. - 28.11.09Ort
Berlin, Humboldt UniversityDownloads (PDF)
Controversial Representations of Cultural Borrowings in East Asia, the Arab World and Europe
The concept of ‘transfer’ has boomed in recent decades, to the point where it has become established as a comprehensive paradigm. Today cultures are understood less as isolated units, more as hybrid formations involved in permanent exchange, themselves always strongly influenced by other cultures and in turn influencing others. Transfer between cultures has come to be regarded as the rule rather than the exception. Edward W. Said summed this up in 1993 in a classic and much-quoted phrase: ‘the history of all cultures is the history of cultural borrowing’.
The central trends in history research also reflect the popularity of the transfer concept: entangled history, transcultural history, history of globalisation, postcolonial studies and world history. Proponents of these schools have published a wealth of studies on transfer and undertaken great efforts to teasel apart the issues and questions. But although many transfer phenomena have been thoroughly investigated and theorised, transfer analysis itself has largely escaped scientific observation and historicisation. Few and far between are the reflections on the reasons why transfers are researched, the framework in which this occurs and the epistemological interests that come into play.
But cultural transfer, of all things, cannot be considered in
isolation. Transfer phenomena are not something researchers simply
find. Instead knowledge about cultural transfer is always itself
subject to cultural, political and ideological conditions that affect
whether particular transfer phenomena are noticed at all, regarded
positively or negatively, held to be more or less probable, or even
completely denied (or conversely invented from scratch). Nor are the
consequences of the findings neutral: they can be used to glorify or
debase cultures, to accuse or exonerate, to mediate between different
cultures or to divide them. Thus statements on transfer can be
described as ‘representations’ (R. Chartier), as human ideas that both
describe and shape the cultural world. Representations of ‘transfer’ are important forums of negotiation for the constitution of cultures. They can blur boundaries, but they can equally also serve to separate and divide. This is best observed in those cases where representations are negotiated through open conflict. One current example of this is supplied by the heated debate over the role of Islam in the transfer of ancient Greek scholarship to medieval Europe, which is currently arousing – and dividing – public intellectual debate in France far beyond medievalist circles.
Starting from these premises, the conference will compare disputed
transfers in three regions of the world: in East Asia, in the Arab
World and in Europe. In all three regions representations of cultural
transfer play an important role in the definition of ‘own’ and ‘other’
culture, whereby the patterns of representations are certainly varied
and complex. The objective of the conference is to conduct a
comparative, critical self-reflection of scholarly and intellectual
representation practices of ‘transfer’ in these regions by placing them
within and between the respective cultural frameworks. We hope to
through discussion of concrete examples of controversial representations of transfer from the widest variety of social fields and epochs. We aim to have participants from different disciplines in the humanities and social sciences (history, political science, law, cultural and social anthropology, etc.), and by triangulating Asia, the Arab World and Europe we aspire to forge new paths of scientific dialogue transcending the often infertile Orientalism/Occidentalism dichotomy.
Issues addressed at the conference will include the following:
- Representations of the transfer through the terms: exchange, adoption, diffusion, reception, export/import, cultural invasion, entanglements …
- Invented representations of transfers
- Non-representations of transfers (concealment, denial)
- Representations of imagined transfers (contrafactual history)
- Representations of transfer in political discourses
- The role of representations of transfer between culture-bound functionality and intercultural dimension of transfers
- Agents: Who creates and disputes representations of transfer?