CORDIS - EU research results

Minor Universality. Narrative World Productions After Western Universalism

Project description

Plural narrations offer a unifying picture of humanity

The EU-funded Minor Universality project is based on Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s assertion that a single story leads to misinterpretations. In her TED Talk, the Nigerian writer supported the idea that plural narrations offer a more just and unifying picture of humanity. Talking of the Western Universalism’s impact on cultures, whose concept considers western ideas as universals, the writer underlined the underrepresentation of many cultures. The Minor Universality project aims to contribute to the dialogue on universality after Western universalism. It will study the role narration plays in collective imaginaries and will focus on cultural expressions such as literature, films and social media.


In her TED Talk 2009 the Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie made an argument on „the danger of a single story“. She maintained that only plural narrations do justice to the complexity of humankind: „Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.“ Thus narrations have the power to produce a unifying experience of equal humanity. Minor Universality aims to make a substantial contribution to the debate on the problem of universality after Western universalism. Indeed, the question of how universality can be produced is crucial in times characterised by a double relativistic signature: the necessary critique of Occidental universalism, and identitarian assertions. But how can a shared human horizon be addressed? Here general narratology provides a crucial twist: if it is an anthropological characteristic of the narration to make a claim about the world as a whole starting from a singular setting, narrations create ways of extending concrete contexts towards universality. This can be analyzed in literature, in an epistemic field beyond the book and in social practices being part of global migrations. In contrast to the conceptual debate on World Literature, which addresses the question through canons and legitimacies, this project shifts the debate to narratological problems of world production: with which aesthetic means do contemporary cultural productions such as literatures, films and social media, literary festivals, architectures and museums, open up local settings so as to produce a new sensuous, embodied or intellectual awareness of universality?
Re-expanding the material and medial turns to processes of consciousness and agency, the project is set to have a general impact in comparative literature and cultural studies. It will explore new literacies about the role of narration for civil imaginaries of our world and provide ways to address universality in debates about justice and legitimacy within world society.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 1 999 310,00
66123 Saarbrucken

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Saarland Saarland Regionalverband Saarbrücken
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 1 999 310,00

Beneficiaries (1)