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Summer School 2011, Heidelberg July 24-29

Cultures of Consumption in Asia and Europe

Karl Jaspers Centre for Advanced Transcultural Studies, Heidelberg
July 24 to 29, 2011

Coordinator: Harald Fuess, Professor of Cultural Economic History


The Cluster of Excellence "Asia and Europe" Summer School 2011 explores the multifarious ways in which consumer goods and cultural frameworks of consumption have provided crucial interfaces of entanglement between Europe and Asia in a global context. Desired objects and traded commodities functioned as the chief media of exchange in Eurasia long before other complex forms of communication stepped in. And although 'consumer society' has become a prominent term of the description of the ways of life self-consciously connected with a globalized modernity, the particular mode of experience and of interaction with things to which it points is neither exclusively modern nor exclusively occidental. Referring to the recent innovative insights provided by cultural and economic history, social sciences and anthropology, and enlisting the expertise of foremost scholars working on both European and Asian themes, the aim of the programme is to gain a truly transcultural grasp on cultures of consumption.

The topics treated at the Summer School will be particularly relevant to graduate students with background in cultural and economic history, area studies, ethnography and anthropology as well social sciences. The following questions will be at the centre of discussion:

  • Given that the classic accounts of the 'consumer society' have located its cradle into 18th-century England, do we need to redefine its spatial or temporal pedigree in the light of the recent accounts of the parallel rise of especially East Asian cultures of consumption?
  • What, shown on concrete case-studies, are the actual forces that determine the spread and appropriation of consumer goods in the new cultural contexts?
  • What were the past accounts of the phenomena of consumption and consumerism? what moral, psychological, political, economic vocabularies have been used to make sense of what has been termed the 'consumer society'?
  • How can we conceptualize 'consumption' as a phenomenon at once ubiquitous and yet conditioned by particular cultural settings?
  • Can the things that are traded and consumed be said to have agency of their own in inserting new meanings and transforming practices in the cultural contexts into which they newly enter?

What kind of programme is being prepared...

The summer school course programme spans over four days and combines insights in the research of renowned experts in the form of lectures with more interactive elements such as seminars and workshops. The scholars represent a wide range of backgrounds in line with the Cluster's own focus on interdisciplinary research. 

read more about the programme...

Application [closed]

Applications (download the application form here... (PDF, 104kb)) should be accompanied by a letter explaining your field of interest and the reason you wish to attend the Summer School. The application form and the letter are to be sent electronically to

The course fee for participation at the Summer School is 250 Euro and covers the following:  

  • Lecture and seminar programme
  • Reception dinner on first evening
  • Lunch, coffee and cold drinks during the course
  • Local sightseeing programmes

Unfortunately we are unable to provide travel or other financial support for student participants.
Participants will be expected to arrange for their own travel and accommodation at Heidelberg for the duration of the course. However, the Cluster team is happy to provide advice and a comprehensive list of accommodation possibilities and prices.

For queries and further information, please contact the summer school organisation team at