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Worlding Public Cultures: The Arts and Social Innovation

The project seeks to change public narratives about our globally interconnected yet conflicted world through art, exhibitions, conferences and (academic) writing about art and its cultural, historical and socio-political realities. It seeks to tell new stories from multiple regional perspectives about our transnationally and transculturally entangled presents, as well as our shared and sometimes difficult pasts, and intends to imagine new ways of living together in the future.

Worlding Public Cultures: The Arts and Social Innovation is a collaborative research project and transnational platform conceived by the Transnational and Transcultural Arts and Culture Exchange (TrACE) network and funded by a Social Innovation Grant from the Trans-Atlantic Platform for the Social Sciences and Humanities (transatlanticplatform.com - Federal Ministry of Education and Research / DLR Project Management Agency - Grant No.: 01UG2026: WPC).

The project draws upon the concept of "worlding", which understands the global as actively co-produced from multiple and complex locales, in contrast to dominant discourses rooted in a notion of the global as a passive effect of global capitalism. Going beyond current top-down models of "inclusion," "diversity" and other representations of the "global," the concept of worlding grounds the global within local worlds and allows entangled histories to emerge, opening pathways to decolonize universalizing Western narratives and epistemologies.

Through a series of academies in collaboration with public institutions - the National Gallery of Canada, Tate Modern London, National Museum of World Cultures Amsterdam, and the Institute for Cultural Inquiry, Berlin - the project seeks to reimagine cultural and educational institutions beyond modern Western and colonial frameworks and reposition them as agents of social and political change that increase our understanding of our global world's complexities. The academies are designed to enable transatlantic, multi-sectoral, and public knowledge sharing between those working in and on different geocultural contexts.

The cross-institutional conception of the academies is part of an attempt to socially innovate existent institutional infrastructures and conventions of how academia, museums, and their diverse publics relate to each other. The academy programs are therefore designed to interrelate with exhibitions or other relevant activities of the partner museums and institutions in Amsterdam (November 2020), London (February 2021), and Berlin (spring 2022). They are organized in collaborative ways to highlight speakers from regions beyond the transatlantic and acknowledge the diverse art-related positionalities of public culture by bringing scholars into dialogue with artists, activists, curators and other arts professionals. The academies also foster early career participation with panels that stress cross-generational knowledge transfer.

Worlding Public Cultures will culminate in a website of baseline data, two peer-reviewed series of publications, and two collaboratively written papers on best pedagogical and curatorial practices in a global context dynamically building on the proceedings of the academies.

WPC will also contribute to the development and expansion of the TrACE network beyond its original institutional membership.

Institutionally, the WPC platform is constituted by four national teams that pool together, mutually supplement and enhance their broad array of disciplinary expertise as well as pivotal experience, since they each represent pioneering institutes of transnational and transcultural studies in Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, and the Netherlands respectively:

Birgit Hopfener, Ruth Phillips, Carmen Robertson, and Ming Tiampo head the team of the Centre for Transnational Cultural Analysis (CTCA) of Carleton University, Ottawa; Alice Ming Wai Jim, May Chew, and Maya Rae Oppenheimer head the team of Concordia University Montréal, in collaboration with Analays Alvarez Hernandez from Université de Montréal, as well as Barbara Clausen and Édith Anne Pageot from Université du Québec à Montréal; Paul Goodwin and Toshio Watanabe head the team of the Research Centre for Transnational Art, Identity and Nation (TrAIN) of The University of the Arts London; Monica Juneja and Franziska Koch head the team of the Heidelberg Centre for Transcultural Studies (HCTS) of Heidelberg University; Chiara de Cesari and Wayne Modest head the teams from the University of Amsterdam and Vrije Universiteit respectively.

By conducting research on and for institutions of public culture, Worlding Public Culture will be an agent of social innovation that impacts how the global is theorized, making concrete recommendations for the education and museum sectors and, ultimately, contributing to the creation of a more resilient society with more elastic models of social cohesion through shifts in public discourse.

International TrACE Academies

WPC is instrumental in organizing three international academies of the TrACE network that each take a different aspect of “worlding” as their starting point. read more...

Members of WPC's German Team

Monica Juneja

is Professor of Global Art History at Heidelberg University and PI of WPC's German team.

Franziska Koch

is Assistant Professor of Global Art History at Heidelberg University since 2009 and Co-PI of WPC's German team. She currently works on her Habilitation project "The artist works (trans-)culturally: Nam June Paik and other Fluxus artists negotiating collaborative authorship" supported by a scholarship of the Baden-Württemberg Stiftung. It examines Fluxus collaborations regarding transcultural conditions, practices and limits of collaborative authorship. She is co-editor of the anthology "Negotiating Difference. Contemporary Chinese Art in the Global Context" (VDG Weimar 2012) and author of "Die 'chinesische Avantgarde' und das Dispositiv der Ausstellung. Konstruktionen chinesischer Gegenwartskunstim Spannungsfeld der Globalisierung" (transcript 2016). A founding member of TrACE, her teaching and research interests include art history/-ies and historiography in transcultural perspective; entanglements of modern and contemporary art of East Asia (mainly China and South-Korea), Europe, and North-America; exhibition studies; authorship and collaboration as well as social innovation in the arts.

Miriam Oesterreich

PhD, is post-doc researcher in art history in WPC's German team. She is also Athene Young Investigator at Technical University of Darmstadt, Germany. Her current habilitation project focuses on the global entanglements of modernist Mexican Indigenism. She studied Art History, Spanish Literature and Ancient American Cultures in Heidelberg, Havanna (Cuba), Valencia (Spain) and at the Freie Universität Berlin. Her PhD on historical advertising pictures dealing with 'exotic' bodies is published as a book in the series Berliner Schriften zur Kunst, Wilhelm-Fink-Verlag. She was research assistant in the Cluster of Excellence Transcultural Studies at Heidelberg University (2008-2011) and a trainee in Wilhelm-Hack-Museum Ludwigshafen (2011-2012) where she initialized and curated several exhibitions of modern and contemporary art. She was fellow at Transregional Academies in São Paulo/Brasil (2016) and Buenos Aires/Argentina (2017). Her current research project was honored with the TU Darmstadt department prize for specifically innovative research. She was 2019 Ansel-Adams-Fellow at the Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona.

Moritz Schwörer

is a doctoral research assistant in the WPC project. His research interests include art in the digital context - the dissemination of digital reproductions in the world wide web, art in social media, digital curating - as well as pop and internet culture in general. His doctoral project, supervised by Prof. Dr. Monica Juneja, researches digital ways of enabling public participation in museums. It explores how social innovation is constituted in art museums that seek new ways of interacting with established audiences as well as to reach out to those that do not frequent museums, by exploring the participatory potential of recent social media technologies. He studied European Art History and "Christianity and Culture" (M.A.) at Heidelberg University and Theatre Studies (B.A.) at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz.

Franziska Kaun

is a student of the international master's degree program in Art History and Museology, offered by Heidelberg University and the École du Louvre in Paris. She holds a B.A. in Art - Media - Aesthetic Education and English-Speaking Cultures from the University of Bremen. In her master thesis "Transcultural spaces of reflection - Artistic strategies within museums" (working title) she uses case studies of non-art museums in Frankfurt to investigate how they occasionally and strategically integrate contemporary artworks to creatively re-explore concepts of nation, culture and citizenship in ways that go beyond the usual narratives and presentational practices of these museums. The thesis, supervised by Prof. Dr. Monica Juneja and Dr. Alexandra Vinzenz, particularly examines how these cases constitute innovative spaces to reflect on transculturality.

Costina Mocanu

currently studies at Heidelberg University to complete two master theses, one in Italian Studies and Contemporary History and the other in Transcultural Studies with a Focus on Visual Media and Material Culture. In 2017, she graduated in the field of Cultural and Linguistic Mediation at Foreigners University of Siena, Italy, with a B.A. thesis on how affect mobilizes linguistic and visual reproductions within media titled "Linguistic emotivity within the cultural journalism. Observations on corpora from DIE ZEIT and Corriere della Sera". Her research interests include the visual culture of feminism, aesthetics of politics and migration, as well as transcultural conditions of cultural production in a global context.

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Heading researchers of the other project teams

Carleton University, Ottawa, CAN
Birgit Hopfener
Ruth Phillips
Carmen Robertson
Ming Tiampo


Concordia University
in alliance with
Université de Montréal and
Université du Québec à Montréal, Montréal, CAN
May Chew
Alice Ming Wai Jim
Maya Rae Oppenheimer
Analays Alvarez Hernandez
Barbara Clausen
Édith Anne Pageot

University of the Arts London, UK
Paul Goodwin
Toshio Watanabe

Universiteit Amsterdam and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, NL
Chiara de Cesari
Wayne Modest