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Enabling Difference

Enabling Difference: Articulations, Forms and Contexts of Cultural Sovereignty in the 20th Century

The research projects on the 20th century investigate the central topic of the treatment of otherness and inequality by analysing discourses and practices of cultural sovereignty. Cultural sovereignty refers to the forms and strategies of self-articulation employed by individuals, religious communities, social and ethnic groups, and also collectives which constitute a nation-state to define their own distinctiveness. The concept of sovereignty is released from its close connection with the state and made accessible for the analysis of modes of thought and behaviour employed for cultural self-definition. These modes of thought and behaviour increasingly traversed, undermined and relativized nation-state boundaries. The projects will investigate the extent to which forms of cultural sovereignty were accompanied by constructions of identity and alterity which contained the recognition and tolerance of difference as well as efforts towards the strategic exclusion, marginalization or even complete eradication of otherness.

Discourses and practices of cultural self-definition did not emerge for the first time in the 20th century. However, in that century they developed a unique dynamic and relevance. On the one hand, the traditional conflicts between state and religious claims to sovereignty within the states of Europe continued into the 20th century. While the Christian churches continued to attempt to claim the right to interpret and regulate social and political life, new fields of conflict emerged between the authority of states and non-Christian religious life-worlds as a result of migration flows into Europe and in the context of colonial rule overseas. On the other hand, in the 20th century the nation-state model prevailed as the dominant form for the organization of polities worldwide. The crisis experiences of two world wars and the dissolution of the European colonial empires, which defined the 20th century, served to accelerate the formation of nation-states, but also left behind a difficult legacy in the form of arbitrarily drawn borders, fragmented societies, and fragile state legitimacy. Parallel to this, processes of supranational integration, the emergence of international organizations and the formation of cross-border structures for communication and governance brought new challenges for concepts and practices of state sovereignty. In the context of these developments, the cultural realm – whether understood in a universalist or particularist, secular or religious, elite or popular way – was particularly suitable for non-state actors seeking to mark and elevate differences, or to transcend them. In the 20th century, culture in all its forms no longer served as an exclusive resource of state sovereignty. In the form of active propaganda and as informal "soft power", it was strategically utilized in new ways. Additionally, self-definition through culture started to be used as a political resource, to be claimed as a human right and also to be of academic interest, particularly in the second half of the 20th century.

The research area is thus based on a broad understanding of contemporary history, which covers the period from the dissolution of the European empires in the aftermath of the First World War to the end of the Cold War. The individual projects investigate the trans-border mechanisms, ideas, institutions, media, networks and practices of cultural self-articulation, as well as the tense relationship between various forms of cultural sovereignty and cosmopolitan attitudes. Of particular interest are process of Europeanization in their secular and religious contexts.

The work of the research area is divided into the following modules:

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1. Imaginations of order and self-assertion

a) Making Sense of Work: Experiencing, Coping with and Planning Industrial Life in Czechoslovakia

b) Concepts of Religion and the Criticism of Religion: The Case of Arab Secularists and their Opponents in Egypt

c) Political-Theological Discourses of Reconciliation after World War II – Germany, France and Poland compared

d) Christian Intellectuals and the Social Order in Britain

2. Integration and plurality: The Christian churches and the challenge of "Europe" (Research Training Group)

By focusing on the churches, the graduate project "The Christian Churches and the Challenge of ‘Europa’" (IEG and JGU Mainz) expands the political perspective in order to analyse the tensions between the secular concept of "European unity" and the efforts of the churches to retain a position of authority in this process and to insert their values into it. The focus is placed on reactions to the process of European integration and the feedback effects and activities which the process gave rise to in the churches. Additionally, the graduate project focusses on the efforts of the churches to bring religious values into the political processes. This occurred before the backdrop of the crisis experiences of the Second World War, the Holocaust and the totalitarian regimes, but also the continuing disintegration of the European colonial empires. The research programme and the related dissertations are divided into three main areas of focus:

a) The churches and the discourse on Europe – how the churches positioned themselves in the inter-war period and since the Second World War

b) The public sphere and spaces of activity: paths – media – actors

c) Church and societal responsibility in Europe and in the world: values and ethical concepts

The research focuses are designed in such a way that they integrate the specific interests and methodological approaches of the disciplines participating in the graduate project. The first approach focuses on the institutional level of the European churches, church organizations and organizations close to the churches. Firstly, statements emanating from church circles in the period from 1890 to the Second World War are investigated and the instrumentalization of the churches and church representatives by the European movement is thematized. After the end of the Second World War, a pacifist energy which aimed at establishing European interconnnections emerged within the churches also in reaction to the experiences of National Socialism. This energy had the potential to interfere with political efforts towards integration, but need not necessarily do so. The second focus places next to the focus on the churches as institutions a perspective on organizations and decision-makers close to the church, whose influence extended out into the public and had a decisive effect on the formation of public opinion. This makes it possible to investigate how official church positions and positions emanating from circles close to the church found support, or were criticised, rejected or modified. Thirdly, this is supplemented by a focus on the global influence and effect that the perspectives of the churches on Europe gave rise to. It is not surprising that these perspectives concentrated on the field of value discussions and ethnical concepts for a Europe that was growing together, particularly as the Christian churches’ responsibility for Europe – also in terms of how the churches see themselves – lay and lies not primarily in the political sphere, but much more in the sphere of social ethics.

3. Crises and Cosmopolitanism

a) Rooted Cosmopolitans and Transatlantic Mobilities: Revolutionary Lives after 1848/49

b) UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage: Cosmopolitanization of Collective Memory

c) Media Representations as Sovereignty: The Foreign Correspondents‘ Networks of German Public Service Broadcasting during the Cold War