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The Principle of Disruption.
A Figure Reflecting Complex Societies

Mid-Term Report Summary - DISRUPTION (The Principle of Disruption.A Figure Reflecting Complex Societies)

Disruption is a phenomenon that has gained the attention of a broad and diverse range of academic disciplines: it has found a home as an object of study in mathematical information theory, philosophy, media and cultural studies, as well as in the history of ideas. The most fruitful research has made clear that disruptions are by no means solely destructive – they also have productive consequences.
The research group “The Principle of Disruption” seeks to build on this work by establishing disruption as a starting point for the analysis of formulas of societal self-description. On the one hand, the project is focused on the epistemological and aesthetic aspects of disturbances, which as moments of interruption or loss of order give rise to efforts aimed at the theoretical or practical consolidation of the social sphere. On the other hand, the project is interested in those powerfully repercussive narratives that construct political and socio-cultural coherence through the symbolic re-integration of imaginary or real disruptive incidents, such as terrorist attacks, rampage shootings, technical accidents and new forms of disease.
We assume that the cultural work of regulating social fears and fantasies is carried out in particular by fictional narratives. The products of literature, film and television prove to be crucial for the perception and processing of disruptions in a given society. An analysis of such fictions brings out the cultural scripts and plots in which one can discern the fear-laden scenarios of disruption that shape the outlook of Western societies on the past, the present and the future.
We work collaboratively on scientific events and publications concerned with „The Principle of Disruption“. Beyond that, each member of the project is concerned with an own research topic from a respective disciplinary perspective:
As a specialist in literary and media studies und as principle investigator of the research group, Lars Koch investigates overarching issues linked to disruption; with a special focus on narrative and aesthetic processes of disruption. He is specifically interested in self-descriptions of society that can be found in popular culture, especially current TV series and contemporary literature. A second perspective examines the question of aesthetic “disobedience” in post-dramatic theatre and contemporary performance art.
Tobias Nanz is a specialist in cultural and media studies. He researches on the history of the “red phone”, the supposed hotline between Washington and Moscow. His work is centred on minor and major, fictional and real incidents of disruption: a computer calculation error or an operating error on the part of an officer, a blown fuse or diplomatic harassment figure among the irregularities for which the red phone was invented so as to de-escalate the crises between the Cold War blocks.
Literature- and film scholar Johannes Pause is concerned with different manifestations of political cinema in Europe and America. He especially investigates reflexive dimensions of the works in question: In engagement with moments of societal disruption, such as assassinations or putsch attempts, the films develop an own epistemology, that subjects viewer, film and society to renegotiation.
Social scientist and cultural studies scholar Moritz Mutter is currently completing his doctorate with a thesis on the intellectual history of disruption in the social sciences. The theoretical point of departure is the assumption that order and disruption are mutually constituted. On this basis, the intention is to examine the ways in which different conceptions of order go about constituting and reintegrating disruption.
Christina Rogers works on a dissertation thesis concerned with mechanisms of the EU-border regime. Her predominant focus lies on border technologies and their implications for the regulation of migration within and to the EU, as well as their impact on migration- and border politics. The project examines how the border regime is composed of technologies that produce their own specific disruptive moments, such as slippages in data-collection or representation. It also examines ways in which migration as such disrupts and/or productively produces the characteristics of the current EU-border by (willingly) disrupting or irritating processes linked to technological control.
Anna Schürmer examins the “disruptive noise” of the musical avant-garde. At the core of her dissertation project lies New Music – understood not only in the sense of a disruptive sound art, but also literally as aesthetically calculated “white noise”. So-called music-scandals, which were provoked by such experiments, can be interpreted as disruptive incidents within the ritualistically structured bourgeois music business and offer linkages to a theory of aesthetic scandal.