The last decades of global experience have witnessed the domination of two apparently contradictory tendencies: on the one hand, a process of globalization and concentration of capital on a new, very abstract level far beyond immediate experience; on the other, the decentralization of production and politics accompanied by the emergence of a great number of new social formations, movements, parties and sub-cultures, aiming at rescuing human agency in the name of historical contingency. The uncertainty concerning the nature of modern life and society, engendered by this development, has arguably manifested itself most prominently in the postmodern and postcolonial critique of “grand narratives” and “Eurocentric” or “hegemonic” standpoints and conceptions of historical change, the emphasis on national identity, on cultural diversity, and so on.
The late-Qing statesman and reformer Zhang Zhidong 張之洞 (1837-1909) on board the Beijing-Hankou railway (image: Wikimedia Commons)
These developments are reflected also in paradigmatic shifts of the scholarly discourse about Asia, and they have changed especially the terrain of Asian studies to a degree that can impossibly be neglected or ignored. The research group, ‘East Asian Culture in Perspective: Identity – Historical Consciousness – Modernity’, has been established in order to cope with these above developments and to create a space where it is possible to engage with them in a profound and scholarly fashion. This includes the investigation of the cultural and historical roots of modern East Asian societies as well as the historical consciousness of modern societies. The research group also lays particular emphasis on the history of interaction and exchange within the Asian world.
The great Japanese Sinologist , essayist, and translator Takeuchi Yoshimi 竹内好 (1910-1977) at work in his study (Image: Wikimedia Commons).
In the context of our department, with its long-standing tradition of philology-based cultural and religious studies, the research group 'East Asian Culture in Perspective: Identity – Historical Consciousness – Modernity’ aims at theoritically enganging with established notions such as "history", "culture", "philosophy", "religion", "tradition", as well as the very conceptual divide between "tradition" and "modernity" by putting these notions into a historically determinate perspective. This exercise in reconceptualization is intended to overcome the specific conceptual shortcomings and empirical blind spots that have resulted from the abovementioned paradigmatic shifts in intellectual as well as broader social debates in and about the East-Asian world.
The research group 'East Asian Culture in Perspective: Identity - Historical Consciousness - Modernity' is part of the Department Languages and Cultures at the Faculty of Arts and Philosophy.