Cultural Orders

Church steeples in Moscow, picture credits: Andreas Renner

In this research area our Graduate School examines literary discourse, art, religious culture, linguistic systems and collective memory. Starting point is the recognition that the construction and perception of space is always a cultural process. The idea of regionally defined cultural, linguistic or artistic practices must therefore be called into question.

Culture is an essential symbolic system for the understanding of social reality: it makes it possible for individuals to find meaning and purpose in the world, it includes those structures of knowledge which enable action to be taken and this action to be given a purpose. Culture not only mirrors existing structures but also contributes to the (re)production and modification of these structures. Culture can legitimise a regime or generate subversive discourse, making examples which newly code or undermine dominant meanings of particular interest. By drawing our attention as much to the variable and instable as it does to the established and the traditional, culture helps us to understand major changes and divisions in societies.

How is difference construed and politicised? This topic has been of particular volatility for Eastern and Southeastern Europe since the 19th century: varying political systems have favoured a political course motivated by an ideal of homogeneousness but the outcome has only been the creation of new cultural differences. Eastern and Southeastern Europe is characterised by an intensive process of cultural exchange within as well as between regions, extending the question of difference across borders.

Cultural exchange and amalgamation processes are closely connected to the symbolisation, narration and imagination of region and its inhabitants. This research area therefore investigates spatial concepts of self and other, symbolic geography and mental cartography. Concepts such as hegemony, hybridity, liminality, ambiguity, bricolage, intermediality and linguistic repertoire open up many areas of interdisciplinary overlap.