Topography of the Plural Cultures of Europe, Regarding the ›Shift of Europe to the East‹

Sponsorship Humanities Funding Initiative of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) Geisteswissenschaften im gesellschaftlichen Dialog [Humanities in the Social Dialogue]
Sigrid Weigel, Franziska Thun-Hohenstein, Daniel Weidner

In an interdisciplinary network of cultural studies and foreign language philological research, several issues were examined, using the example of selected topographical constellations. Namely, the cultural and historical dimensions of the conflicts in the context of the eastward expansion, the temporary failure of the draft constitution, and the controversy surrounding the accession of Turkey concerning some conditions of Europeanization.

The project Topography of Plural Cultures of Europe, Regarding the ›Shift of Europe to the East‹ was funded with approximately 1.4 million euros by the Humanities Funding Initiative of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) Geisteswissenschaften im gesellschaftlichen Dialog [Humanities in the Social Dialogue] from July 2006 through June 2009.


Between Europe and the Orient. The Positioning of Eretz Israel
Helen Przibilla
»Israel is not in Europe – but from Europe«. Dan Diner's quote from his essay Gestaute Zeit reflects the full ambivalence with which the Zionist settlement movement in Palestine – and later the Jewish state in the Middle East – acts towards its two reference points, Europe and the Orient. Zionism, which laid the ideological and practical foundations for the emergence of the State of Israel, was created in Europe, in part due to the situation of Jews in Europe, and promises a ›homecoming‹ to the country of origin and longing of the Jews. With the title of his utopian novel Old New Land, Theodor Herzl builds on this »origin and longing« topos. The founder of political Zionism portrays the return of the European Jews to their »old home« in this programmatic work. Founded by them, the »New Society« is imbued with European culture, European patterns, and European technology. Of the Arab population and its culture remains little more than that of the role of folkloristic decoration, from which the modern, progressive world and its protagonists take off.
At the same time, groups such as the cultural Zionists and parts of the socialist-Zionist movement in Russia cultivated a highly romanticized self-image of the Jew as Oriental, represented in literary works and manifested in fine and applied arts of these circles.
In this subproject, the different strengths, changing and reciprocal, and thereby somewhat precarious, references to various Zionist movements in Europe as origin or place of exile and Palestine as an old new home in the Orient were studied.

Georgia as a Border Region and Cultural Palimpsest
Franziska Thun-Hohenstein
Zaal Andronikashvili

The political and cultural situation of Georgia in the Caucasus region is that of a ›border region‹ which is situated in the greater area, somewhat ambiguously, between ›East‹ and ›West.‹ In various discourses and practices, the boundaries can thereby be continually moved. Georgia can be considered a border region in that it is both divisive and unifying. Because it was created amongst different (especially oriental and occidental) conceptions of leadership, life, culture, civilization, and economy, there is still a potential not only for diverse encounters and negotiations, but also for conflicts. The cultural heterogeneity of Georgia is expressed through ethnic, religious, and linguistic differences. From a cultural theory perspective it is also evident in the variety of ancient Greek, Roman, Jewish, Hellenistic, Byzantine, Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Russian, and Western European subjects, narratives, and myths, which have a complex intertextual relationship with one another.

In order to do justice to these complex phenomena of intertextuality, the ›palimpsest‹ was used to serve as a representation, which is particularly fruitful for the study of border areas and colonial cultures. As a metaphor, the palimpsest opens the possibility to decipher— in addition to the canonical or official text— the overwritten, repressed texts and to establish the relationships between the different levels of text. In doing so, temporal and spatial dimensions open: the overridden and the overriding texts exist at the same time. In this way, they generate significant polyphony for the border region culture. One can, therefore, understand the Georgian Region – and this constituted the guiding perspective of the subproject – as multiregional and polychronistic, as well as a palimpsest from ethnically, linguistically, culturally and also temporally different loci and topoi.

Balkan Vision. Integrative Movements and Cultural Regulatory Models
Tatjana Petzer

This project addressed the cultural-political and aesthetic programs in South Slavic cultures and arts that aimed to unify the Balkan peoples, especially the Southern Slavs in the 19th and 20th Centuries. Based on integrative movements and federal models, the »rhetoric of unity« and »topographies of demarcation« were analyzed, which were essential for the formation of Balkan identities. The aim was primarily to clarify the effective potential of guiding concepts and slogans for community-building processes as well as inclusion and exclusion strategies. Additionally, iconographic, literary, and media representations of unification concepts were exposed.

Logics of Friendship and Enmity in Balkan Literature
Sylvia Sasse (Universität Zürich)
Miranda Jakiša (HU Berlin)

Geography and Emotion correlate in various ways in literature from the ›Balkans.‹ While a supposedly emotionally charged basic disposition of Southeastern Europeans is captured in the dictum ›Balkan Customs‹, one can find in ›Balkan‹ literature itself a detailed discussion of culture-specific emotions. »Bosnia is a country of hatred and fear,« voices Maks Levenfeld, the character of Nobel Prize winner Ivo Andrić, who at the same time exposes the assumption of ›Balkanism‹ (Todorova), that ›ancient hatred‹ is an inherent component of plural cultures. Yet often Southern Slavic literature lauds the »noble desire to have enemies.« These enemies can, however, for all intents and purposes, on the eve of battle ›feast and drink together‹ regardless of religious differences, which testifies to a cultural-syncretic middle that undermines polar categorizations of friend and foe.
It is not only literary characters, but also sometimes texts and their authors that act ›inimically‹ towards their culture. Cases of ›cultural traitors‹ (Dubravka Ugrešić in Croatia, Mirko Kovač in Serbia, or Andrej Nikolaidis in Montenegro) stand for such inimical speech acts of literature, which is in turn countered by exile, expulsion, and condemnation of the writer.
The project examined the friend and foe logics behind these phenomena in Slovenian, Macedonian, Bulgarian, and in particular B(osnian) C(roatian) S(erbian)-literature. It further inquired after the ›mini speech genres‹ of treason and denunciation, gossip and rumor, as in ›forms of enmity,‹ as they are implemented in the representations of amok, the masses, the defector, and others. At this higher level, the project also examined the effect of literary texts in non-literary contexts. Polemics by Ivo Andrić, Danilo Kiš or Emir Kusturica illustrate the emotional clout of art in the arena of culture and let their emotional economies come to the fore. What laws are subject to these economies? How do enmity and friendship occur in literature? What levels of friendly and inimical text behaviors can be distinguished? Are there culture-specific affective logics to which literature testifies? How do texts become agents in the controversy from which they emerge now and again? These questions were answered using examples of Southern Slavic literature of the 20th and 21st centuries. In particular, the ex-Southern Slavic literature was subjected to a rereading, which was not viewed in light of its subsequent history.

Vilnius/Lithuania: Overdetermined Space between Occupation and National Memory
Magdalena Marszałek (HU Berlin)
Janis Augsburger

Hardly any other region in Eastern Europe in the 20th century changed political affiliations as often as Lithuania. The precarious geopolitical development of Lithuania was interrupted by just short periods of autonomy up until the recovery of statehood after the »Singing Revolution.« The boundary lines on maps changed at breakneck speed. They marked the western boundary of the Russian Empire and the eastern boundaries of a German military occupation in World War I (Upper East), showed the division of Lithuania in the interwar period, and finally the plans and realizations of Russian and German attacks in World War II. What they do not show is the history and the demise of Lithuanian Judaism, its internal differences among rationalist traditions of Orthodoxy, Yiddish folk culture, Zionism, and the Bundist political movement. In the early 20th century, Lithuania turned out to be a hybrid, open zone which shows through its history both the contingency and the catastrophic dimension (Czeslaw Milosz) of an exemplary European topography.

This subproject examined the geopoetical shadow of this dubious history. If geopoetics is understood as an aesthetic process of production, memory, or assigned meaning from internal maps and experience, then it means that not only »high literature«, but different genres of text, and also image orders can take on such a function. It also means that these geopoetical texts and image orders are answers to geopolitical designs. For example, the body of literature of the Upper East or Polish literature about Vilnius and Lithuania during the interwar period would be paradigmatic for such geopoetical text arrangements systems. Emblematic of conflicting geopoetical image orders would be, for instance, the different perspectives on Vilnius iconography.

6. Instanbul. From the Ottoman Empire to the Turkish Nation: Problems of Europeanization and Modernization
Kader Konuk (University of Michigan), Elke Hartmann (FU Berlin)
Vahé Tachjian
The problems based on the model of homogeneous European nation-states of Turkish modernization were analyzed with regard to the role of two non-Muslim minorities in this process: the Armenian design of a pluralistic culture and the contribution of German-Jewish immigrants in the modernization of science.

7. Beirut and the West. Perspectives of Extraterritorality of Europeanization
Angelika Neuwirth (FU Berlin)
Andreas Pflitsch, Barbara Winckler

The modernization paradigm, which also dominated the discussion of non-European societies and cultures, is based on the concept of the ›takeover.‹ It explicitly or implicitly assesses the ›modern‹ as singularly European or as a product of European history, as a model to which the rest of the world should strive. Other cultures would be able to participate, be it in whole or in part, as well. Thus, it is assumed that the legacy is fundamentally alien to the acceptee of the respective »accepting« culture. The contrast between indigenous tradition and (European) modernity has asserted itself in political, cultural, and also academic discourse up to the present (in the ›West‹, as in the rest of the world). On this basis, the character and suitability of progress and development of a society are often described as a specific proportion of tradition and modernity.

The emerging tensions of these oppositions are observed to be particularly intense in the relationship between Europe and the Arab-Islamic world since the 19th century. Out of this paradigm comes not only a highly simplistic picture of the Arab world (which despite growing awareness continues to be characterized by ›orientalist‹ projections). It also leads to an equally monolithic image of »Europe.« A critical revision of this model from the perspective of Beirut allowed new insights into the cultural and social designations ›Europe‹ and ›Europeanization‹. Since Beirut is regarded today as an outstanding place of an »extraterritorial Europe« within the Arab world, the view from the eastern Mediterranean periphery opened up such perspectives on the construction of ›Europe‹ and the interplay of modernization and Europeanization that are less easily seen from the inside.

Berlin and the East. Concepts and Images of the East as a Transfer Site of European Modernization
Sigrid Weigel, Stephan Braese (TU Berlin)
Esther Kilchmann

Just as Thomas Mann programmatically referred to Germany as the country between East and West in his essay »The Problem of Franco-German Relations«, so too is this constellation perceptible in the cultural history of Berlin in particular. The city is a manufacturing plant of different cultural images of the ›East‹, which are produced in the interplay of discourses about ›German culture,‹ ›Europe,‹ and ›Modernity.‹

The project understood Berlin as a transformation and transit point between Western and Eastern Europe – as a nodal point in a topography of plural cultures of Europe. It showed the historic function of the city as a cultural hub, as the place of encounter where writings and plays, fashions, and cultures of everyday life came from East and West. It also functioned as a publishing site and archive for printed products in non-Latin languages and alphabets.
From Berlin's perspective, Germany is perceived on the whole as a country for which the various historically changing fantasies of the ›East‹ were highly constitutive. On this basis, the project followed a kind of archeology for the study of the symbolic and imaginary semantics of the East in the context of European modernization.


Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung

Trajekte 19
Ost West Passagen
Berlin, 2009

Magdalena Marszałek, Sylvia Sasse

Book Series: LiteraturForschung Vol. 10, TopographieForschung Vol. 1
Geographische Entwürfe in den mittel- und osteuropäischen Literaturen
Kulturverlag Kadmos, Berlin, 2010

Esther Kilchmann, Andreas Pflitsch, Franziska Thun-Hohenstein

Book Series: LiteraturForschung Vol. 10, TopographieForschung Vol. 2
Topographien pluraler Kulturen
Europa vom Osten her gesehen
Kulturverlag Kadmos, Berlin, 2012

Miranda Jakiša, Andreas Pflitsch

Book Series: LiteraturForschung Vol. 11, TopographieForschung Vol. 3
Jugoslawien – Libanon
Verhandlungen von Zugehörigkeit in den Künsten fragmentierter Kulturen
Kulturverlag Kadmos, Berlin, 2012

Tatjana Petzer, Angela Richter

Book Series: Die Welt der Slaven, Sammelbände/Sborniki Vol.45
Kultur und Raum im Werk von Isidora Sekulić
Otto Sagner, München, 2012

Zaal Andronikashvili, Sigrid Weigel

Book Series:  LiteraturForschung Vol. 14
Geographie, Religion und Gesetz
Kulturverlag Kadmos, Berlin, 2013

Zaal Andronikashvili, Tatjana Petzer, Andreas Pflitsch, Martin Treml

Book Series: LiteraturForschung Vol. 13
Die Ordnung pluraler Kulturen
Figurationen europäischer Kulturgeschichte, vom Osten her gesehen
Kulturverlag Kadmos, Berlin, 2014