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Transcultural Forays

Within the two funding periods of the Excellence Initiative, transculturality has been firmly established as a significant approach for state-of-the-art research in the Humanities and Social Sciences.  A whole range of research projects both at the HCTS/ Cluster of Excellence "Asia and Europe in a Global Context" and the University’s Field of Focus "Cultural Dynamics in Globalized Worlds" have shown how transcultural processes are constantly shaping, reconfiguring, or even destroying human societies, thus questioning the common perception of cultures as clearly delineated containers.

Since 2013, the HCTS has supported a number of themed initiatives to foster in-depth research into hitherto under-represented areas of enquiry in the field of Transcultural Studies. Junior, Senior and Visiting Fellows and members of the HCTS engaged in research related to these initiatives and organized lecture series, seminars and workshops. The following themed initiatives:

"In the name of Truth and Justice" – The Violence of Universalisms
Detours – Mediated Circulations of Knowledge
Transcultural exchanges in a Pre-Modern World
Urban Spaces

In order to further test the potential of the transcultural approach in new fields, the HCTS has initialized a new programme, called "Transcultural Forays." Junior and Senior career researchers are encouraged to conceptualize their own project on a topic related to Transcultural Studies and to submit a project application for third party funding to be facilitated at the HCTS. There are regular calls for such “Transcultural Forays.” The current list of projects ranges from archaeological investigations into the Parthian Empire, or explorations into the ideology of modern Jihad, to studies on literary practices on ships and in ports in the 19th and early 20th century.


Fragile Objects, Fragile Histories: Paleobotany and the Making of a Scientific Discipline in India

Dr. Amelia Bonea
The project examines the making of paleobotany into a modern scientific discipline in twentieth-century India, focusing particularly on the development of its conceptual and material culture, the role of Asian and European scientific networks in this process as well as its gendered dimensions.

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Transcultural Perspectives on the Parthian Empire: The Mountain Fortress of Rabana

Dr. Michael Brown
The Parthian Empire was the dominant power in Persia and neighbouring regions of eastern Mesopotamia for nearly half a millennium (c. 250 BC-AD 226). This project explores the archaeological site of Rabana in Iraqi-Kurdistan; a fortified Parthian settlement occupied during the early first millennium AD.

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State-building and the Formation of Political Knowledge in Nineteenth-Century Nepal

Simon Cubelic
The project investigates the different forms of political knowledge produced in Nepal during the first half of the nineteenth century by drawing on a largely unexplored body of Sanskrit and Nepali manuscripts preserved at the National Archives Kathmandu. It analyses the various modes by which Nepal’s literati engaged with foreign governmental thought, especially that of England and China, and with Indic traditions of political reasoning, in order to formulate their vision of Gorkhali polity and to intervene into their socio-political context.

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The Transcultural Ideology of Modern Jihad: a Response to the Fragile Lifeworlds in Europe and in the Post-Revolutionary Middle East?

Dr. Eliane Ettmüller
Today’s martial Salafi ideology is the result of a transcultural fusion of different strands of thought from Asia, Northern Africa, America and Europe. This may be the reason why it is so attractive for young people from all over the world.

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Revolution reloaded: risk and sustainability in the first agricultural expansion in Europe (sixth-fourth millennia BCE)

PD Dr. Maria Ivanova

Southwest-Asian-style farming was brought between 6000 and 4000 BCE by colonist farmers into a range of different environments in Europe, to which many of the southwest Asian domestic plants and animals were exotic. The moving agricultural frontiers across Europe, and the challenges faced by the farmer communities inhabiting them, are the subject of this project.

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Knowing more about the Other: Dialogues with China

Prof. Barbara Mittler


The project aims to create a program integrating the history, the politics, and the (im-material) cultural heritage of China into the curricula of German schools at all levels. Teaching regionally specific competencies and taking a transcultural perspective shall raise an understanding that by knowing more about the other, we are acquring another perspective on what we know ourselves. The project will bring specialists from different regions and disciplines together, in intensive dialogue and exchange, in order to begin to understand the respective other „in-parallel“ and „on-a-par."

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Kultur neu denken—Re-En-Visioning the (Trans)-cultural—C’est quoi, la (trans-)culture?

Prof. Barbara Mittler and Prof. Philipp Stoellger


This project introduces key players from various disciplines and fields engages in re-envisioning a new phenomenology of (trans-)culture from different angles. Its goal is to reconsider the (trans-)cultural in response to post-culturalist, neo-naturalist, neo-materialist, post-humanist, techno-scientist, and other such approaches, all of which offer new perspectives on anthropocentrism, with regard to what only appears as a self-evident binary: culture and nature.

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The Mediterranean as a Translingual Public Sphere

Dr. Giulia Pelillo-Hestermeyer
The project “The Mediterranean as a Translingual Public Sphere” examines audiovisual products transnationally co-produced within a Mediterranean media network. It analyzes the construction of a fluid translingual public sphere in which a variety of linguistic norms and communicative strategies questions taken-for-granted boundaries between languages, cultures and public spheres.

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Fragile entanglements: relations between pre-modern Nepal and Europe in the 18th century

Dr. Davide Torri
The project aims to study the encounter between Europe and pre-modern Nepal before and in the immediate aftermath of the forced unification of the Himalayan country by the lord of Gorkha, Prithvi Narayan Shah through the analysis of the unique documents written by members of the Capuchin Missions and preserved in the Vatican libraries and other ecclesiastic archives.

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