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Minor Universality. Narrative World Productions After Western Universalism

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - Minor Universality (Minor Universality. Narrative World Productions After Western Universalism)

Reporting period: 2021-03-01 to 2022-08-31

The global entanglement of persons, data and goods of all kinds has not necessarily created a universal consciousness. The assumption that the turning points of 1989 may offered a situation without alternatives to western Universalism was a narcissistic misjudgment. Global thinking and a consciousness of humanity are indeed not the same. This is rendered even more starkly evident through relativistic and identitarianism movements around the globe. At the same time, the West has for long considered the universal as its own extension. Thus, western Universalism and the idea of freedom and equality of mankind at its centre has been delegitimized through the history of colonialism, exploitation and totalitarianism. The present moment faces the paradox of having to justify universality, because it is from there that justice in a world society can be deducted, but being unable to base itself on the same conceptual tradition. Minor Universality turns towards the genesis of world conceptions and investigates how, across concrete contexts and specific embodiments world can be produced as a shared experience and be put into language as such. On the basis of an anthropological narrative theory, this transdisciplinary project analyses how contemporary cultural practices and social processes, world literature and biographical testimonies in exile, as well as curatorial labour and the arts bring about a minor universality.
1. Open-access, peer-reviewed, multilingual book series with an editorial board (Beyond Universalism. Studies on the Contemporary / Partager l’universel. Études sur le contemporain, Berlin/Boston: de Gruyter); first open-access collective volume, The Epoch of Universalism, 1769-1989 (Markus Messling, Franck Hofmann, eds. 2021); next two open-access volumes forthcoming: Minor Universality (Markus Messling, Jonas Tinius, eds) and Reparation, Restitution, and the Politics of Memory (Clement Ndé Fongang, Mario Laarmann, Carla Seemann, Laura Vordermeyer eds.);

2. French translation of Universalität nach dem Universalismus (Markus Messling, 2019, Matthes & Seitz) forthcoming with Presses universitaires de France (PUF);

3. international summer school Restitution, Reparations, Reparation – Towards a New Global Society? at Villa Vigoni in cooperation with the Cluster for European Studies (CEUS, Saarland University);

4. international conference in Tunis in collaboration with the Académie Tunisienne des Sciences, des Lettres et des Arts (Beit El-Hikma) with an artistic atelier at the Centre des arts vivants de Radès;

5. artist-in-residency programme and exhibition project "The Pregnant Oyster. Doubts on Universalism" in cooperation with Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW) launched; a catalogue for the exhibition is under way of being produced (editors: Jonas Tinius, Milan / Dakar / Berlin: Archive Books);

6. public, open-access series of conversations "Universalism & …" in its sixth iteration on YouTube, with Leyla Dakhli, Giovanni Levi, Souleymane Bachir Diagne, Gisèle Sapiro, Arjun Appadurai, Adania Shibli
The idea to set up the project and to think across and with a multipolar epistemology was initiated in Saarbrücken; the corona-predicament has rendered the further development of such a trajectory impossible. It has however also made evident the significance of the project’s aim to think of a minor universalism and minor forms of concrete world production after and beyond the Western (critique of) universalism. The project has sought to think across ethnographic modalities of local engagement across European sites, which remained accessible for the project researchers – such as festivals in France, literary production in Germany, and universal museums in Italy. This has again brought centre stage the difficulties of creating the very multipolar epistemology the project sought to initiate, difficulties of political and logistical, but also ethical nature. Rather than a methodological and epistemological impasse, this has refocused conversations from a geographical multipolarity and representation to concrete settings and micro-historical problems. Against the background of these development, we expect a deeper understanding of cultural production after the experience of exile, diaspora, and an unsettling of national frameworks for universal thinking.