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Lecture Series on Global Concepts: Public/Private

Dec 09, 2010

"Public/Private" was the topic of the latest session of the Cluster's lecture series on "Global Concepts? Keywords and Their Histories in Asia and Europe" held on Thursday evening.

On behalf of the organisers, Dr. Susan Richter thanked all persons involved in the realisation of the Cluster's lecture series. She then gave an introduction into this session's topic: "Public/Private".

Prof. Dorothy Ko (Barnard College, New York) gave a lecture on "Public/Gong 公 and Private/Si 私 in China" (Abstract). The cultural historian briefly discussed the genealogy of scholarly studies of the public/private in Chinese history from three different perspectives. She then argued that the meanings of public/private in China have to be sought in conjunction with the emic categories of inner/outer, quoting the Book of Changes, referring to the graduated privacy from Outer to Inner in a Courtyard House and analysing the characteristics of traditional Canopy and Alcove beds in China.

Subsequently, Prof. Ulrike Weckel (Ruhr University of Bochum) talked about "The Suggestive Power of the Public-Private Dichotomy in Modern Western European Thinking" (Abstract). Examining Friedrich Schiller’s famous "Song of the Bell", the historian explored how in the late 18th century the polarized model of separate spheres limited educated women’s opportunities but also how some of them made use of it. She argued for a close reading of the varying contemporaneous definitions, evaluations and demarcations of the domestic and the public.

Finally, Prof. Monica Juneja discussed both topics. Among other aspects, she emphasized the role of gender and the right for privateness in both presentations. She then raised various questions related to the illustration of nations, the notions of home and the self. An interesting discussion followed with participation of the audience on issues such as the role of newspapers in public/private. The public discussion was moderated by Dr. Susan Richter.

The lecture series consists of seven podium discussions with three scholars each. The panels trace the semantic histories of a pair of keywords in more than one cultural context, and discuss issues such as semantic shifts and their consequences. Apart from "Public/Private", the subjects of discussion include "Art/Science", "Law/Liberty" and "Rationality/Emotion". By focusing on the transcultural dynamics of concept formation, the series hopes to contribute to a more credibly global lexicon able to respond to the challenge of cultural plurality.

Among other experts with different areas of specialization, Prof. Raphael Rosenberg (University of Vienna) will talk on "Art: A Modern European Invention" in the next panel on "Art/Science". And Hans-Jürgen Lüsebrink (University of Saarbrücken) will speak about "Liberté/Liberty/Freiheit: A Key Concept for (Early) Modern Western Cultures between Universality and Cultural Specificity" in the panel on "Law/Liberty".  

The lecture series has been organised by Prof. Monica Juneja, Cluster Professor of Global Art History, Prof. Joachim Kurtz, Cluster Professor of Intellectual History, and Dr. Susan Richter, Junior Research Group Leader at the Cluster.

The podium discussions are held from October 2010 until January 2011 at the Karl Jaspers Centre for Advanced Transcultural Studies, room 212. The full programme is available here

Further links:

Calender Entry
Photo Gallery

Press Release (German)
Press Release at Heidelberg University (German)

Profile Prof. Dr. Monica Juneja
Profile Prof. Dr. Joachim Kurtz
Profile Dr. Susan Richter


  • Lecture Series, December 9, 2010