Topography of the Plural Cultures of Europe, Regarding the ‘Shift of Europe to the East’

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.

Program funding through the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) 2006–2009
Head researcher(s): Franziska Thun-Hohenstein, Daniel Weidner, Sigrid Weigel
Guest(s): Harsha Ram


Between Europe and the Orient. The Positioning of Eretz Israel

Associate Researcher(s): 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

Head researcher(s): Franziska Thun-Hohenstein
Associate Researcher(s): 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 as multiregional and polychronistic, as well as a palimpsest from ethnically, linguistically, culturally and also temporally different loci and topoi.

ZfL Research on Georgia

Balkan Vision. Integrative Movements and Cultural Regulatory Models

Associate Researcher(s): 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

Head researcher(s): Sylvia Sasse
Associate Researcher(s): Miranda Jakiša

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

Head researcher(s): Magdalena Marszałek
Associate Researcher(s): 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.

Instanbul. From the Ottoman Empire to the Turkish Nation: Problems of Europeanization and Modernization

Head researcher(s): Kader Konuk, Co-Verantwortliche: Elke Hartmann (FU Berlin)
Associate Researcher(s): 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.

Beirut and the West. Perspectives of Extraterritorality of Europeanization

Head researcher(s): Angelika Neuwirth
Associate Researcher(s): Andreas Pflitsch

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

Head researcher(s): Sigrid Weigel, Ko-Leitung: Stephan Braese (TU Berlin)
Associate Researcher(s): 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.


Vahé Tachjian

Daily Life in the Abyss. Genocide Diaries 1915–1918

Series: War and Genocide vol. 25
Berghahn Books, New York / Oxford 2017, 220 pages
ISBN 978-1-78533-494-8
Zaal Andronikashvili, Tatjana Petzer, Andreas Pflitsch, Martin Treml (ed./eds.)

Die Ordnung pluraler Kulturen
Figurationen europäischer Kulturgeschichte, vom Osten her gesehen

LiteraturForschung vol. 13
Kulturverlag Kadmos, Berlin 2014, 357 pages
ISBN 978-3-86599-151-5
Zaal Andronikashvili, Sigrid Weigel (ed./eds.)

Geographie, Religion und Gesetz

LiteraturForschung vol. 14
Kulturverlag Kadmos, Berlin 2013, 284 pages
ISBN 978-3-86599-152-2
Tatjana Petzer, Angela Richter (ed./eds.)

Kultur und Raum im Werk von Isidora Sekulić

Die Welt der Slaven: Sammelbände/Sborniki vol. 45
Otto Sagner, München 2012, 281 pages
ISBN 978-3-86688-267-6
Miranda Jakiša, Andreas Pflitsch (ed./eds.)

Jugoslawien – Libanon
Verhandlungen von Zugehörigkeit in den Künsten fragmentierter Kulturen

LiteraturForschung vol. 11, TopographieForschung vol. 3
Kulturverlag Kadmos, Berlin 2012, 342 pages
ISBN 978-3-86599-149-2
Esther Kilchmann, Andreas Pflitsch, Franziska Thun-Hohenstein (ed./eds.)

Topographien pluraler Kulturen
Europa vom Osten her gesehen

LiteraturForschung vol. 10, TopographieForschung vol. 2
Kulturverlag Kadmos, Berlin 2012, 272 pages
ISBN 978-3-86599-148-5
Magdalena Marszałek, Sylvia Sasse (ed./eds.)

Geographische Entwürfe in den mittel- und osteuropäischen Literaturen

LiteraturForschung vol. 10, TopographieForschung vol. 1
Kulturverlag Kadmos, Berlin 2010, 304 pages
ISBN 978-3-86599-106-5
Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung (ed./eds.)


Trajekte 19
Berlin 2009, 52 pages
ISSN: 1616-3036


Book presentation
07 May 2014 · 7.00 pm

EUROPA. Plurale Kulturen, plurale Ordnungen

ZfL, Schützenstr. 18, 10117 Berlin, 3. Et., Trajekte-Tagungsraum

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Lecture in the context of the exhibition »Satt?«
01 Jun 2010 · 8.30 pm

In vino veritas! Festkultur in Georgien

Museum für Kommunikation, Leipziger Str. 16, 10117 Berlin-Mitte

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18 Feb 2010 – 20 Feb 2010 · 7.00 pm

Grundordnungen. Wechselbeziehungen zwischen Geographie, Religion, Kultur und Gesetz

ZfL, Schützenstr. 18, 10117 Berlin, 3. Et., Trajekte-Tagungsraum 308

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ZfL Literature Days
04 Dec 2009 – 05 Dec 2009

Der Osten liegt in der Mitte. Literarische Ost-West-Passagen

Literaturhaus Berlin, Fasanenstr. 23, 10719 Berlin

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Panel discussion
24 Sep 2009 · 7.00 pm

Wo Russland plötzlich abbricht

Literarisches Colloquium Berlin, Am Sandwerder 5, 14109 Berlin

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17 Sep 2009 – 18 Sep 2009 · 10.30 am

Jugoslavien - Libanon. Verhandlungen von Zugehörigkeit in fragmentierten Gesellschaften

ZfL, Schützenstr. 18, 10117 Berlin, 3. Et., Trajekte-Tagungsraum 308

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Lecture in the context of the exhibition »Vom Tagebuch zum Weblog«
08 Jul 2009 · 9.00 pm

'Alle missbilligen meine Offenheit beim Schreiben'. Über das Private in der arabischen Literatur

Museum für Kommunikation, Leipziger Str. 16, 10117 Berlin

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07 Jul 2009 – 08 Jul 2009 · 1.00 pm

Säkularisierung und Resakralisierung zwischen Ost und West / Secularization and Resacralization between East and West

ZfL, Schützenstr. 18, 10117 Berlin, 3. Et.

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Exploratory Workshop
23 May 2009 – 24 May 2009 · 10.00 am

WestRe@dsEast. Independent Hermeneutics of European and Middle Eastern Literatures

ZfL, Schützenstr. 18, 10117 Berlin, 3. Et.

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23 Jan 2009 – 24 Jan 2009 · 11.00 am

Kleider und Affekte. Ungleichzeitigkeiten der europäischen Moderne

ZfL, Schützenstr. 18, 10117 Berlin, 3. Et., Trajekte-Tagungsraum 308

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11 Nov 2008 · 8.00 pm

"...Kein Anfang. Kein Ende..." Ein Abend für Mahmoud Darwish

Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Jägerstraße 22/23, 10117 Berlin, Leibniz-Saal

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Symposium in honor of Angelika Neuwirth
10 Nov 2008 · 10.00 am

Literatur als Palimpsest

Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Jägerstr. 22/23, 10117 Berlin, Einstein-Saal

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05 Jul 2008 · 6.15 pm

Das Mittelmeer aus der Perspektive des Schwarzen Meeres. Topographie und kulturelle Semantik im thalassischen Europadiskurs

Pergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Theodor Wiegand Saal, Am Kupfergraben 5, 10177 Berlin

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28 May 2008 · 7.00 pm

The Reintegration Process of Female Survivors of the Armenian Genocide

Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, Villa Jaffé, 14193 Berlin, Wallotstr. 10

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International conference
22 May 2008 – 24 May 2008 · 10.00 am

Processes of Anamnesis: Memory of the Holocaust in East Central Europe after 1990

Collegium Hungaricum, Dorotheenstr. 12, 10117 Berlin

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Panel discussion with Ulrike Ottinger
07 May 2008 · 10.00 pm


ZfL, Schützenstr. 18, 10117 Berlin, 3. Et., Trajekte-Tagungsraum 308

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06 May 2008 – 07 May 2008 · 2.00 pm


ZfL, Schützenstr. 18, 10117 Berlin, 3. Et.

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International conference
04 Apr 2008 – 05 Apr 2008 · 2.00 pm

Die erste Europäerin der serbischen Kultur. Zum 50. Todestag von Isidora Sekulić (1877-1958)

ZfL, Schützenstr. 18, 10117 Berlin, 3. Et., Trajekte-Tagungsraum 308

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06 Dec 2007 – 08 Dec 2007 · 4.30 pm

Bild- und Textordnungen im religionskulturellen Vergleich

ZfL, Schützenstr. 18, 10117 Berlin, 3. Et., Trajekte-Tagungsraum 308

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Media Response

21 Feb 2010
Grundordnungen Europas

Radio feature by Frank Hessenland, in: Deutschlandfunk, Program: Kultur heute, 21 Feb 2010, 17:30

19 Feb 2010
Topographie pluraler Kulturen Europas

Report by Arno Orzessek, in: Deutschlandradio Kultur, Program: Fazit, 19 Feb 2010, 23:46

15 Dec 2007
Kulturgeschichtliche Dimension der europäischen Integration

Conference report by Miranda Jakisa, in:, 48/49, Dez/Jan 2007/2008, 20–21

10 Jan 2007
Topographie pluraler Kulturen Europas, in Rücksicht auf die 'Verschiebung Europas nach Osten'

report, in: BMBF (ed.): Freiraum für die Geisteswissenschaften, Bonn/Berlin 2007, 34