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