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Workshop held in Honor of Barbara Mittler

Feb 20, 2018

On February 16, a workshop was held in honor and appreciation of Prof. Barbara Mittler, Director of the Cluster “Asia and Europe” and the Heidelberg Centre for Transcultural Studies. The workshop took place to celebrate her 50th birthday by reflecting her outstanding research and work on transculturality.

Jun. Prof. Lena Henningsen and Emily Graf organized the conference "Where is China in the World? Going Beyond Cultures to Get Past Poast-Colonialism", which set out from one of the central research paradigms developed by Prof. Mittler and her colleagues: the concept of transculturality. As a form of academic inquiry, it is an approach, which holds potential especially in the field of Chinese studies, but also in the larger field of the humanities more generally. By analyzing China in a global context, two pitfalls can be avoided, of which Mittler has repeatedly cautioned her students and fellow scholars in her colloquia and her writing because they are not particularly productive.

Firstly, the victimization narrative, which has dominated much of post-colonial studies allows for little agency on the side of those colonized. Here, research endeavors should aim to get past post-colonialism and allow for a multi-directional agency in cultural production. Secondly, an overemphasis on separate spheres of culture tends to misleakenly leads to taking any cultural field as a homogenous whole, a unified entity, which defines itself a priori, Chinese culture as a so-called Hochkultur especially so.

The basis of this conference, thus, was the conviction that global and transcultural processes and developments have a tremendous impact on the local, and that cultures are – at any given moment in time – never stable, fully coherent or pre-existing, but always already constructed, fluid and ever in motion. In processes of exchange across national borders, the relationships between humans, institutions and even things are reciprocal, but their relations across space and time can also be, at times, asymmetrical, shaping the world and our interpretations thereof. To address these larger issues that prevail not only in Chinese studies, but also in other cultural studies in the humanities, the conference brought together scholars of various fields, presenting their latest research on where China can be located on the global map, why, how and in which manifestation.

In addition to the underlying research question, the workshop contained elements, which are understood as “Mittler-esque” among her students. It not only consisted of talks by former and current phd students of Barbara Mittler, but also included many musical performances, lively discussion und a lot of space for conversation with the honoree.

Within the Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe” Prof. Barbara Mittler was one of the founding members and first served as speaker of Research Area B “Public Spheres”. She currently is Chair of Chinese Studies and Director of the Cluster “Asia and Europe” and the Heidelberg Centre for Transcultural Studies. Besides, she is Deputy Director of the CATS, the Centre for Asian and Transcultural Studies Heidelberg. Prof. Mittler acquired her B.A. and M.A. at Oxford University and her PhD at Heidelberg University summa cum laude. She habilitated venia legendi in Sinology.

 

Take a look at the workshop's programme here.

 


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