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The HCTS supports themed initiatives to foster larger scale group discussions among fellows and to host workshops and lectures related to the topic of the initiative.

The initiative for the academic year 2015/2016 is the following:

"In the name of Truth and Justice"—The Violence of Universalisms

Two equally problematic terms haunt and pervade globalisation processes: religion and violence, often conjoined into the supposedly self-explanatory, but in fact very opaque, expression "religious violence". Discourses surrounding such violence involve universalising claims to truth and justice regardless of whether they aim at justification or critique. Yet, modernity has inherited a fundamental ambivalence of universalism from the pre-modern world, where knowledge and belief (in their diverse forms of wisdom traditions, philosophies, religions, ideologies, or sciences) served to promote and mediate universalising truth claims, but simultaneously were often a driving force of violent and exclusive sectarian and cultural self-definition.

What is the role, if any, of dominating systems of knowledge and belief in shaping processes leading to violent behavior from the individual to the collective, from the local to the global? How do communities defining themselves through universalising claims respond to charges of being responsible for violence, in discourse – theological, exegetical, or public – or in their religious, secular and social practices? How are shifting religious and social conceptions of "violence" implicated in these processes?

Religions and ideologies have long histories as powerful forces to influence, mobilize and direct people, as well a more direct role in sanctioning, justifying, legitimating or inhibiting direct or indirect violence. Beyond facile assumptions and quickly mobilized prejudices, recent events call for a renewed effort at understanding, analysing, mapping and critically evaluating this crucial aspect of transcultural encounters.

The initiatives for the academic year 2014/2015 are the following:

Detours—Mediated Circulations of Knowledge

Movements of knowledge depend on multiple agents, frames, and pathways, and rarely proceed in linear fashion. How can we get a firmer grasp on the ways and means by which knowledge is mediated in different times and spaces? Who are the intermediaries that make knowledge travel, how can we best describe their practices, and what are the objects on which their mediations rely?

Transcultural exchanges in a Pre-modern World

The premise that cultures are formed through transcultural relationships implies that migrant actors, objects and knowledge are not unique attributes of the globalized present. What kind of a conceptual framework do we require to make sense of circulatory practices before the advent of modern communication and to describe the nature of the shifts such practices undergo in the present? How can the investigation of transcultural links in Antiquity, the Middle Ages or the Early Modern Period lead to a rethinking of notions of periodization, community and representation? How can we recuperate experiences, cosmologies and practices which articulated and simultaneously shaped a consciousness of worlds beyond the local?

Urban Spaces

Urbanisation patterns and processes are key to cultural dynamics and globalisation. For a better understanding of entanglements between Asia, Europe and the world, across time and space, questions of the (trans)formation of urban space are central. How do traditional forms of living change through media, mobility and demographic developments, what concepts and perceptions of urbanity are developed accordingly? How can we reconceive, from a transcultural perspective, the management of migration flows, citizenship, ethnopolitical discourses and demographic shifts (ageing, gender, leisure) as they manifest themselves in urban space? In what ways could the intensity of entanglement generate modes of resistance and discourses of radical alterity?