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Sophie Ernst, HOME - Jamshed Quaters Karachi, Nalini Malani and her mother. Video stills, Bombay, 2007

Net1 Arts and the Transcultural

Arts and the Transcultural: Concepts, Histories and Practices

Coordination: Monica Juneja, Christiane Brosius, Melanie Trede, Franziska Koch, Cathrine Bublatzky


Sophie Ernst, HOME, video installation, Sharjah Biennial, 2009
Photo: Plamen Galabov, courtesy Sharjah Biennial

Sophie Ernst, HOME, video installation, Sharjah Biennial, 2009
Photo: Plamen Galabov, courtesy Sharjah Biennial

The search for a new conceptual vocabulary and research apparatus to study the dynamics of transculturality in the fields of art history, visual culture and media anthropology is a reflexive enterprise which requires synergetic collaboration across regions, time spans and disciplinary boundaries. The network project “Arts and the Transcultural: concepts, histories and practices” offered such a cross-disciplinary research environment of scholars working on subjects which focus on art worlds and practices in a transcultural perspective. Based on collaborative research and publications, joint teaching and research colloquia/symposia at Heidelberg University, the network has strengthened the foundations of ongoing research and provided fresh impulses emanating from the Heidelberg Cluster to practitioners of art history, anthropology and visual culture within and beyond Heidelberg. It had also moved beyond the university to work together with institutions of exhibition.

Engaging with different cultures and their relationalities requires a critical questioning of the boundaries demarcating units of investigation as they have been handed down in writing on art worlds. Rather than adhering to national, linguistic or ethnocentric demarcations, we aimed to understand boundaries more productively. We followed the logic of circulatory practices in our attempt to raise challenging questions about cultural difference, multiple temporalities and shifting, often paradoxical relationships to locality which artists and other agents negotiate, all of which call for alternative explanatory paradigms.

Constitution and Outcomes

Conceived as a networking project, Net1 enabled the transcultural research directions of 14 scholars at various career stages from 7 different institutions: Cluster of Excellence "Asia and Europe in a Global Context", Institut für Ethnologie, Institut für Europäische Kunstgeschichte and Institut für Kunstgeschichte Ostasiens at Universität Heidelberg, Kunsthistorisches Institut at Freie Universität Berlin, Iwalewahaus Africa Centre at Universität Bayreuth, and the Heidelberger Kunstverein. Coming from different disciplines and area focii, members intensively collaborated to overcome inbuilt boundaries of specialties, methods, institutions and seniority

The collaboration of specific Net1 Heidelberg-based members and Berlin-based members of the DFG funded Research Unit FOR1703 “Transcultural Negotiations in the Ambits of Art” located at Free University Berlin drew in cross-institutional and interdisciplinary dimensions that have led to the successful formation of a larger international association of scholars, the "Research Network for Transcultural Practices in the Arts and Humanities (RNTP)".

In addition, Net1 has enabled its core members to apply for a new DFG Research Network, given that Net1 coordinators were also instrumental in strengthening the Cluster’s collaboration with the trans-regionally instituted AG “Art production and art theory in context of global migration” affiliated to the Ulmer Verein – Verband für Kunst- und Kulturwissenschaften e.V. .

Net1 members further enabled the joint, cross-disciplinary and research-based, teaching of courses at BA and MA level in English. We organized and/or supported workshops, symposia/conference, open lectures as well as the international summer school at Heidelberg University. These activities integrated practitioners of art, art history, anthropology and visual culture within and beyond Heidelberg, and across different levels of seniority.