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Research Area D: Historicities & Heritage

Part of the Great Wall of China

Research Area D focuses on how objects, texts, languages and spaces have been constituted and reconfigured through their mobile histories. By a close analysis of processes of transformation which unfold through extended contacts between cultures, the projects will endeavour to elaborate both the spatial and temporal dimension of transcultural phenomena. Research in this section of the cluster will contribute to substantiating the hypothesis that transcultural processes have been a formative characteristic of social formations over centuries, pre-dating the advent of modern communication and global capital. The challenge is to examine the nature of the shifts that circulatory practices of the past undergo in the present – and how people in specific contexts experience, cope with and represent these changes. Further, a number of our projects query the modes and arguments through which the experience of past societies is remembered, selected and cast into narratives, or a body of objects, knowledge and practices canonized as heritage.

The thematic focus of the projects in this research area during the second phase of the cluster continues to be a wide one involving several disciplines – archaeology, history, art history, religion and material culture. The aim is to develop a conceptual lexicon to describe the morphology of transcultural processes of appropriation, translation, regeneration and refusal built into encounters and negotiations of cultural difference. Individual projects and groups engage with a number of scholarly issues and debates: post-Cartesian definitions of materiality and its critiques, dismantling master narratives of purity and orthodoxy in the field of religion, bringing back human agency and the transcultural metamorphoses of forms to the notion of art and architectural practice, which categories like style have tended to suppress. The study of migrant objects and texts also involves conceptualizing afresh practices such as copying or translation into other media – image, political treatise or myth. By investigating the proposition that cultures are an attribute of human societies formed by transcultural relationships, the individual case studies in the research area collectively strive to give us fresh insights into notions of space, memory, cultural geographies and the complex and often contradictory association of power and culture.  As we come up against the wall of established disciplinary taxonomies and formations, our research makes us more sharply aware of our role as producers of knowledge and how this knowledge shapes institutions.