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Knowing more about the Other: Dialogues with China

The rise of the global south cannot be denied, it is visible everywhere—in commerce, finance, politics and education—and China undeniably plays a leading role. Taking this situation into account, at least some knowledge about and understanding of China is crucial for anyone engaged in politics, economics or the media. But this kind of understanding needs to be built, from the base, not just in our universities but, more importantly, in our schools. In spite of the fact, that there is a growing awareness that China has begun to play an extremely important role for Germany, economically, socially, in terms of our ecology and culture, and more, encounters with China in German schools are still extremely rare.

This pilot project aims to create a program which will allow us to integrate the history, the politics, the (im-material) cultural heritage (language, literature, religion, music, philosophy) of this important world region into the curricula of German schools at all levels. It appears to us that to study China, as well as other regions of the global South, is to foster a curiosity of wanting to know more about the Other (Mehr vom A/anderen w/Wissen), both in teachers and in students. The project will bring specialists from different regions and disciplines together, in intensive dialogue and exchange, to use the perspective of others in order to test ourselves and our own epistemic encrustations: we hope to raise an understanding that by knowing more about the other, we are acquring another perspective on what we know ourselves...

Prof. Barbara Mittler

Prof. Dr. Barbara Mittler holds a Chair in Chinese Studies at the Institute of Chinese Studies at Heidelberg University and is the Co-Director of the Heidelberg Center for Transcultural Studies (HCTS). She is also Deputy Director of the Centre of Asian and Transcultural Studies (CATS) at Heidelberg University.

She began her studies of Sinology at the University of Oxford (MA Oxon 1990), and has spent research periods in Taiwan, the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong and at Harvard and Stanford Universities. Her PhD (1994) and her habilitation (post-doctoral thesis, 1998) are both from Heidelberg. In 2000 she received the Heinz-Maier-Leibnitz-Award for young and outstanding scholars by the German Research Foundation and the German Ministry of Culture. Between 2002-2004 she was a recipient of a Heisenberg Fellowship by the German Research Foundation. In 2008 she was elected member of the National Academy of Sciences LEOPOLDINA and, in 2013, the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences. In 2009 she won the Henry Allen Moe Prize in the Humanities, American Philosophical Society, in 2013, her book-length study of the Chinese Cultural Revolution won the Fairbank Prize awarded by the American Historical Association. 

Her research focuses on cultural production in (greater) China, covering a wide range of topics from music to (visual) and (historical) print media in China’s long modernity. She has published numerous research papers and books: e.g. Dangerous Tunes: The Politics of Chinese Music in Hong Kong, Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China since 1949, Harrassowitz 1997; A Newspaper for China? Power, Identity and Change in China’s News-Media, 1872-1912, Harvard University Press, 2004; A Continuous Revolution: Making Sense of Cultural Revolution Culture, Harvard University Press, 2012. A joint book with historian Thomas Maissen has just come out, it is entitled Why China did not have a Renaissance and why that matters—an interdisciplinary Dialogue, De Gruyter 2018. She is finishing another booklength study on women’s magazines, Portrait(s) of a Trope: Making New Women and New Men in Chinese Women’s Magazines, 1898-2008 and is engaged in two more projects, a collaborative project with prize-winning (visual) historian Sumathi Ramaswamy (Duke): Embodying the Nation—Representations of Gandhi and Mao, and a monograph: "And there is only one Lang Lang…"—Chinese Musicians on the Global Stage: a Transcultural Perspective.