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How many Research Projects are there and Who does What?

Research Area B has 18 projects which examine, from a great variety of disciplinary and methodological perspectives, questions of shifting asymmetries in public spheres between Asia and Europe and in a global context.

B1 Satire

This project examines the production of satire in South, East and West Asian traditions during the high tide of European colonialism and imperialism, i.e. the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries. It is, we assert, the satirical mode of expression that is most apt to portray, measure and adjust the various upside-downs that occurred to traditional cultures in Asia in the course of their asymmetrical cultural contact with Europe. In investigating Asian satire, we hope to be able to unearth and highlight textual and visual sources that tend to be ignored or at least downscaled in their respective canons, and to find gravitational points of identity around which topsy-turvy realities are made to revolve. Based on visual and literary sources, the project thus aims to locate humor and critique as regulative for economic, political or social asymmetries within different public spheres and investigates how flows, shift and overlap in constantly (re-)shaping “colonial” identities. Read More.

Inner-Asian Flows: South Korean pop group Girls' Generation in Taipei's subway cars. Source: Liberty Times, 14.3.2010.

B2 Creative Dissonances

“Creative Dissonances” aims at understanding how transnational flows of music between Asia and the “West” are initiated, directed and negotiated and how the power relations that characterize these flows are shifting. In three case studies on popular music from India (Punjabi pop), South Korea (K-pop) and Japan (Visual Kei) and their reception across Asia and Europe, we analyze different modes of circulation, the conditions and effects of various flows (of sounds, images, and people) and the underlying imaginaries (e.g. modernity, globalization) and asymmetries (e.g. in industry, media, cultural policy). Read More.

B3 Urban Sensories

This project is a pilot project for B11 "New Urban Imaginaries"

Transcultural Flows?! Parodied (iconoclastic?) versions of Mao which are often associated with the likes of Andy Warhol can today be seen not just outside of China but more and more frequently in China itself as well, Februar 2000. © Oliver Radtke.

B4 Transcultural Visuality Learning Group

The agenda of this group which consists of a dozen junior and senior scholars from Heidelberg and abroad is to study questions related to the transculturality of images and media. Through collaborative readings, discussions, and teachings as well as the conceptualization of joint publications all of which are center-stage of the annual workshops, the group aims to develop research and teaching materials for this field. Read More.

B5 Rise of dan actors

The explosive development of Chinese urban entertainment culture in the first decades of the Republic since 1912 was driven by the most unlikely of rising stars: Male actors playing women’s roles [dan] with Mei Lanfang as the most famous example. The rise of the lowly actor as a national star challenged the very order of social hierarchy and signals a society undergoing fundamental transformations. This project explores the rise of the dan as part of China coping with its cultural and power asymmetry in relationship to the Great Powers, and the unforeseen impact of the art of the dan on Western theatre aesthetics brought about by Mei lanfang’s visits to the West. Read More.

B7 Staging Religion

This project was a pilot project for B14 “Religion on Stage”.

B8 Rethinking Gender

Western scholarship has traditionally looked at “the Oriental body” as a static, clichéd entity representing the Otherness of an alien culture. Research of the past couple of decades, however, considers the intrinsic conceptual complexity and historically specific coding of bodies, genders and sexualities by analyzing the transformative conditions of indigenous traditions as well as the dynamics of social and transcultural interactions. While current trends do take on global aspects of gender issues (e.g. the exhibition “Global Feminisms”, Brooklyn Museum of Art, 2007), there is still much demand for closer investigations into flows of concepts between Asian and European cultures, an understanding of asymmetries in the perception, representation and public discourse relating to the shaping and fashioning of bodies within a host of frameworks and discourses (e.g. political, religious, economic), particular aspects of sexualities, gender relations, and contemporary artistic and everyday practices. This project was accompanied by an exhibition, see B16 “Parcours Exhibition in Heidelberg”. Read More.

B9 Information Flows

“Information Flows” aims to provide insights into how technologies mediate information and cultural flows, but also to emphasize the importance of examining telegraphy within the global and local socio-economic and political context of the period under study. The project is accompanied by a conference, B17 “The Nation State and Beyond”. Read More.

B10 Transgressing Spaces and Identities in Urban Arenas

“Transgressing Spaces and Identities in Urban Arenas ” focuses on Harbin as a multicultural global city between 1898 and 1949. As a whole it deals with interactions between the different national, ethnical, religious or political segments of Harbin`s population in public space and (public) discourses around inclusion, exclusion, representation and so on. Of special interest is the question to what degree processes of transgressions of boundaries and transcultural phenomena can be observed with respect to everyday-life, culture and to identity formation. Read More.

B11 New Urban Imaginaries

The project focuses on the emergence of new urban imaginaries and different means of regulating public spheres on various sites and points in time (around 1900, after WWII, in the 2000s) in Europe and Asia (Berlin, Shanghai, Delhi). By this synchronic and diachronic approach we can trace the flows of concepts such as danger, difference (foreign/indigenous), order and disorder. Based on site-specific researches, the project examines how allegedly Western master terms like citizenship, public sphere, publicness, democracy or modernity are negotiated and translated in the course of urbanization. Read More.

Super Mom in transcultural shape

B12 Rethinking Trends

Project “Rethinking Trends” examines the flows of popular transcultural trends in different public spheres/publics. The project is divided into three research units (I. Body & Beauty; II. Youth Culture; III. Politics) and examines processes of transcultural trend making and breaking. The project argues that trends may only be fully understood when analyzed against the backdrop of their inherent as well as consciously and unconsciously manipulated asymmetries. Read More.

B13 Tamil-Speaking Muslims

“Tamil-Speaking Muslims” endeavors to trace the engagement of one particular segment of society in colonial Singapore, that of Tamil-speaking Muslims, in their creation and performance of the city’s diverse public spheres. The project focuses in particular on how the shifting asymmetries of colonial society both enabled and curtailed the capacity of Tamil-speaking Muslims in engaging with multiple publics and their diverging social imaginaries. Read More.

B14 Religion on Stage

“Religion on Stage” brings together anthropologists and indologists working on traditional religious performances (Vedic sacrifice yajña, Sinhalese healing rituals, Kuttiyattam theatre, teyyam drama) in India and Sri Lanka. These performances are de-contextualized and re-appear in new contexts with remarkable additions and transformations in new public spheres such as television studios, folk festivals, tourist venues and even in the virtual world. The project aims to analyze this process from the point of view of the actors in focusing on asymmetries (and symmetries) in the public (re)presentation and “staging” of religion in Asia and Europe. Read More.

B15 The Elusive Greekness

“The Elusive Greekness” is based on the thesis that the social imaginary of a given society creates and, at the same time, is sustained by discourses and practices that are constantly in flux and flow. The project argues that the encounter between communities of the Greek mainland and of West Asia during Hellenistic times (323-30 BCE) had a bearing just as much on the mutual shaping of identities as on mutual social practices. Read More.

B16 Parcours Exhibition in Heidelberg

The exhibition Becoming Intense – Becoming Animal – Becoming … features artists whose artistic practice and work expands and reinterprets notions of body, sexuality and gender. Their works focuses on cultural, social and religious difference, as well as on questions of power, desire, representation and space. As a virtual dimension of the body, the “body without organs” (developed by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari in “Mille Plateaux”) is a reservoir of its potential characteristics, affects, developments, relations and acts that become factual through the relation with other bodies. The exhibition creates a network of relations of heterogeneous positions around the subject of body, sexuality and gender in public institutions of the city of Heidelberg (including e.g. a protestant church, the city hall, the museum of ethnology). Read More.

B18 Beaming Romantic Love

The discourse on romantic love, and on the globalised event of Valentine’s Day in India is highly visual and controversial. The project addresses the issue of a glocalised imaginary of what “Western” and yet localised lifestyle could mean for a host of urban social agents. It explores the idea of image itineraries and media shifts across cultural and national boundaries. Moreover, it raises questions about the relevance of performativity, intervisuality and intermediality with respect to the fabric of the “transcultural” as it nests in manifold public spheres in North India and Nepal, forcing us to probe into concepts such as friendship and family. Read More.

 Research Area B Graduate Programme for Transcultural Studies



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