Report on the Workshop "Worldmaking in a Sinophone Context: Conceptions, Processes and Practices"
News from Apr 26, 2023
March 31 to April 1, 2023, Jacob-Spenerhaus, Frankfurt (Main)
Organized by Ryanne Flock
The Joint Center for Advanced Studies' "Worldmaking from a Global Perspective: A Dialogue with China" engages in worldmaking from various angles within the respective sub-projects, from "social worlds" and "life worlds" to "world orders" and Chinese concepts of "world". What do these perspectives have in common? Where do they differentiate or even contradict? Which aspects may complement each other? These questions took centre stage during the "Worldmaking in a Sinophone Context" workshop. Organized by Ryanne Flock, the workshop was greatly supported by and developed through the Joint Center's predoc and postdoc group (alphabetical order: Antonie Angerer, Emily Mae Graf, Janice Hyeju Jeong, Sara Landa, Matthias Schumann, Igor Sevenard, Andreas Günter Weis). Following the online kick-off workshop in November 2022, the Joint Center's project members, (former) fellows, and new colleagues came now together in Frankfurt am Main in an in-person (hybrid) format (i.e. Björn Alpermann, Antonie Angerer, Ryanne Flock, Emily Mae Graf, Sara Landa, Andreas Günter Weis; Chu Sinan, Dale Wen, Wang Dong; Micela Bonato, Sebastyén Hompot, Qian Hou, Darius Zifonun).
The workshop program focused on theoretical concepts of worldmaking by considering empirical examples in China. The participants presented their research as a work-in-progress in various stages on historical and contemporary processes and practices. The conceptional part was opened by sociologist Dariuš Zifonun (University of Marburg). His keynote speech on "Making Worlds while Solving Problems: An Interactionist Perspective" was additionally streamed to the Joint Center's wider audience. The subsequent paper reading and group work sessions discussed the commonalities, linkages, and differences in "world" concepts in the individual projects, fruitfully integrating the sociological perspective offered by Dariuš Zifonun.
What came to the fore was a common interest in worldmaking as knowledge production mainly from three related but differing points of view: as a phenomenological question inquiring about the emergence of language and linguistic specificities; as an interest in discourse development and its overall structure; and as a focus on power asking about actors and actor constellations. While the social world concept introduced by Zifonun reached its limits when the actor's perspective faded into the background of the research question, it offered a blueprint for comparison and differentiation. From the historical and social science angle, questions arose about the temporal dimension of social worlds: "making" versus "unmaking", emergence, disappearance, and transformation. Moreover, workshop participants asked about the researcher's role in "discovering" social worlds versus the self-definition of the examined social group and what it takes to access Chinese social worlds. Controversially, the linguistic discussions addressed the issue of keeping a distance from the worldmaking process and being aware of etymological "baggage" when analyzing knowledge structures. "Worldmaking in a Sinophone Context" offered productive two days, bringing the four sub-projects together. Discussions on worldmaking will continue in the Joint Center's reading groups and the annual conference "The Making of Epochal Events: Narrating Turning Points in Chinese History" in Heidelberg.