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WORLDMAKING FROM A GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE:
A DIALOGUE WITH CHINA
從全球視閾看“世界”的建構:對話中國

Epochal Life Worlds: Man, Nature and Technology in Narratives of Crisis and Change

Song Wenzhi, Yangzijiangpan Daqing hua (扬子江畔大庆花)

Song Wenzhi, Yangzijiangpan Daqing hua (扬子江畔大庆花)
Image Credit: chineseposters.net

Epidemics, earthquakes, industrial accidents, and floods are apocalyptic catalysts: They threaten planet Earth as a life world. At the same time, they mark the beginning of radical metamorphoses, heralding new eras – which also entail new depictions of the world. Therefore, catastrophes and moments of crisis are tipping points which bring about long-term, impactful, epochal changes in life worlds. Only rarely can it be clearly discerned who is responsible for these changes. Historical epochs are often described with reference to humans, nature, and technology (Ice Age, Stone Age, Age of Printing, Digital Age, Anthropocene). Our project focuses on the interplay of these three in moments of collapse and "critical transitions" .

We understand life worlds as worlds of experience engendered by human as well as non-human and super-human interaction, worlds which are continuously constructed and reinvented. Such a concept also challenges the idea of neatly divided sections of world and shows how human and non-human "worlds" (nature as well as technology) interact. The aim of this project is to explore and describe these processes in greater depth, thus establishing different “morphologies” of the creation of life worlds. We will engage in a dialogue with Chinese scholars in order to reconsider the Chinese counterpart of “life worlds”, shenghuo shijie 生活世界. So far, it has been known primarily as a philosophical translation term, limited to the discussion of German philosophical concepts of Husserl, Schütz, and Heidegger. We would like to probe into possibilities of expanding it to become a broader conceptual term, which may be a useful tool not only for theories of phenomenology, but well beyond, in particular in the humanities and social sciences.

For a better understanding of the factors contributing to such processes, the project studies epochal moments of crisis and their emotional processing and representation through texts, climate data, and statistics on technical and demographic development, and cultural products such as music, literature, art, and film, among others. The analyses focus on mechanisms of interplay between world-making and world-narration, with an emphasis on China in exchange and comparison with other world regions.


Activities of this project: Talks, Lectures, Presentations, Workshops, Interviews

Network meeting "Krise und Neuordnung" (Crisis and Reordering)

Between June 13 and 14, 2022, members of the Joint Center for Advanced Studies participated in the network meeting Krise and Neuordnung (Crisis and Reordering) organized by the German Institute for Global and Area Studies (GIGA) and the University of Hamburg. The event dealt with questions of what constitutes “crisis” across political, environmental and economic domains, and the forms of global and national re-ordering that emerge out of crises.

Lecture Series "The (Re-)Invention of Latin America: Myths of Conquest and Civilisation" startet with a lecture by Stefanie Gänger and Barbara Mittler

On April 21, 2022, in the framework of the lecture series “The (Re-) Invention of Latin America—Myths of Conquest and Civilisation“, Barbara Mittler (PI of the Joint Center's project "Epochal Life Worlds: Man, Nature and Technology in Narratives of Crisis and Change") gave a lecture together with Stefanie Gänger (professor of Modern History at Heidelberg University) on the topic "CONQUISTA Rethinking Global History through Artistic Renderings".

Opinion article in VAN Magazine with contributions by Barbara Mittler and Björn Alpermann on classical music in China

On February 9, 2022, VAN Magazin published an opinion piece by Hartmut Welcher entitled "Contact avoidance - China tours of German orchestras serve almost exclusively marketing strategies and political instrumentalization. The much-invoked "cultural exchange" hardly takes place. A missed opportunity", contributions to which were made by Barbara Mittler and Björn Alpermann.

Digital Dialogue #5 "Art in Times of Crisis - The Covid-19 Pandemic and Taibei's Artscapes. A Digital Dialogue with Contemporary Taiwanese Artist Betty Apple"

As part of the Joint Center's Digital Workshop Series "Digital Dialogues", Dr. Phillip Grimberg talked with artist Betty Apple about the ways in which the current pandemic has changed and/or influenced artists' understanding of the world and themselves, and how she understands the relationship between different kinds of worlds-natural, political, cultural, fictional, literary, linguistic, and virtual-and their vulnerability to crisis, change, and disaster.

Pandemic Readings Continued "A personal glimpse of life in China's Lockdown: Wuhan Diary: Dispatches from a Quarantined City by Fang FANG" - An Online Reading and Discussion

In continuation of the Workshop Series “Pandemic Readings”, the CATS and the Confucius Institute Heidelberg organized another event series on pandemics, dystopias and literature. As part of the 2nd event, Sara Landa (CATS) talked with the German translator of the diary and long-time cultural mediator Michael Kahn-Ackermann about selected records and the challenges of translating a non-literary collection of posts and thoughts.

Pandemic Readings Continued "Science Fiction Literature from China - The Waste Tide by Qiufan Chen" - An Online Reading and Discussion

In continuation of the Workshop Series “Pandemic Readings”, the CATS and the Confucius Institute Heidelberg organized another event series on pandemics, dystopias and literature. This series started December 2, 2021, with a discussion of Chen Qiufan’s “The Waste Tide” by Frederike Schneider-Vielsäcker (Heidelberg) and Dr. Chiara Cigarini (Venice).

Fellow Lecture "King Yu’s Space Colonies: Planetary Futures in Contemporary Chinese Fiction" by Dr. Johannes Kaminski

Within the framework of the Fellow Lectures, the talk of Dr. Johannes D. Kaminski, fellow in the project "Epochal Life Worlds: Man, Nature and Technology in Narratives of Crisis and Change" addressed Chinese perspectives on the ecological crisis, tracing two lines of arguments in contemporary essays and novels. The common perception of the West's responsibility for climate change can also be found in the texts as well the conviction that technology can allow humanity to transcend the predicaments of present and future ecological crises.

Fellow Lecture "Why Does Over Population Matter for Climate and What Should We Do About It? Lessons from China's Controversial One-Child Policy" by Dr. Dale Jiajun Wen

As part of the Fellow Lectures, Dr. Dale Jiajun Wen, fellow in the project "Epochal Life Worlds: Man, Nature and Technology in Narratives of Crisis and Change", addressed the influence of population figures on the climate and opened the discussion about which policies should be adopted to facilitate women's empowerment and the necessary demographic transition.

Presentation “Reinventing the Buddhist Tradition: Vegetarianism and Cultural Identity in Republican China” by Matthias Schumann

On August 24, 2021, as part of the biennial conference of the European Association for Chinese Studies (EACS), Matthias Schumann, postdoctoral researcher in the project "Epochal Lifeworlds: Humans, Nature, and Technology in Narratives of Crisis and Transition" presented a paper on "Reinventing the Buddhist Tradition: Vegetarianism and Cultural Identity in Republican China".

Digital Dialogue #1 "The Interpretation of Natural Events in European and Chinese History: A Digital Dialogue"

As part of the Digital Workshop Series "Digital Dialogues" of the Joint Center "Worldmaking", the two speakers, Dr. habil. Thomas Wozniak, research fellow at the Joint Center, and Dr. Ishayahu Landa, discussed the interpretation of natural events such as solar eclipses, ‘dragons’ or famine.

Symposium "Vanitas21: Present - Transience and Faith in Catastrophic Times"

On July 3, 2021, as part of the Vanitas21 project, a symposium on the topic of "Vanitas 1630 - 2021-Transience and Confidence in Catastrophic Times" was held in cooperation with the Junge Kantorei at the Wartburgkirche in Frankfurt. With the support of the TRN Environment-Rethinking-Transformations, and as part of the Joint Center "Worldmaking", concerts on the question of pandemics and creativity, also a topic of the workshop series "Pandemic Readings", will take place on September 19 and 25, 2021.

Workshop Series "Pandemic Readings: Crisis and Creativity"

On May 20, 2021, the four-part workshop series "Pandemic Readings: Crisis and Creativity" was launched, organized and conducted by the project "Epochal Lifeworlds: Humans, Nature and Technology in Narratives of Crisis and Change" at Heidelberg University.