Knowledge – Temporality – Cultural Comparison

Context and Field of Research

The Faculty of Humanities, Social Sciences and Theology (PhilFak) at FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg has an outstanding reputation in the fields of social science, cultural studies, and the humanities at large offering a broad spectrum of expertise for interdisciplinary collaborative research. Research has been conducted in various research formats: A focus on knowledge and its production, with special emphases on aspects of temporality (diachronic/synchronic) and spatiality (regional/global), has formed and continues to form the core of these diverse projects and events, as well as their accompanying publications. Within this critical output, the faculty has demonstrated its exceptional cultural expertise particularly regarding Asia, Europe, India, the Near East, and the Americas.
The interdisciplinary research design stimulates intense theoretical and methodological discussion among the associated researchers and disciplines. Thus, it effectively unfolds a synergetic intellectual space for the creation of multifaceted approaches to the objects of analysis.

Key Words

Knowledge and Knowing

The PhilFak’s current research regarding the socio-cultural and historical conditions of modes of knowing and their formation focuses on approaches dealing with the development and (re-)production of implicit and amorphic repertoires of knowledge, as well as explicit ‘inventories’ and archives of knowledge (D. Taylor). The term knowledge figures both propositionally as explicit and verbalized knowledge, and non-propositionally in the sense of ‘tacit’ or pre-reflexive knowledge. The latter manifests itself in bodily practices, experiential knowledge and traditions, but also in structures of feeling and affect (Polanyi, Ryle, Neuweg, Shotwell). These multidimensional conceptualizations of knowledge operate in critical distance from a primarily cognitive notion of knowledge, also often dominant within Eurocentric (academic) discourses, and, hence, enable a productive dialogue with non-European forms of knowing that are based on divergent understandings of space and time.

Time and Temporality

The various strands of research at PhilFak analyze temporality as a foundational, albeit mostly implicit, dimension of socio-cultural orders and processes. Research in this area includes how ‘time’ is perceived in different social, cultural, political, and historical constellations; how individual and collective practices reflect, and simultaneously prefigure, medial and narrative representations of ‘time’ (i.e. how they control the experience of ‘time’); and how such (hegemonic) temporal regimes change or persist, for instance, due to the conditions of late-capitalist globalization (Rosa, Welzer). As such, analyses focus on narrative or memorial structures that help preserve, pass on, or reiterate past events. Eventually, the goal of this scholarly effort is the topographical modelling of a future that, with the help of prognostic or prophetic measures, helps sketching strategies of coping with contingency in the sense of a preservation or modification of symbolic and social orders. However, this angle also considers ‘time’ from a more subjective point of view: as a phenomenon of presence in the form of extraordinary experience or in the context of life-world being and pre-reflexive existence.

Cultural Comparison

Just as the complex of knowledge production in general, symbolic and social orders largely figure as culturally specific. Hence, their analysis requires a comparative approach which considers and integrates the insights of cultural hermeneutics. To avoid premature gestures of universalization, the goal is to reconstruct the epistemological horizons in which the analyzed phenomena occur and to compare these to the cultural premises of western academic research. Only in a second step, possibly transcultural phenomena (in the broad sense of the term) will be identified and examined. The faculty regards issues of interculturality not only as restricted to relations between traditional cultures and cultural spaces. It also deals with these issues regarding supposedly intracultural relations, as, for instance, between various functionally differentiated areas of order (gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, dis/ability, regional heritage) or in group interactions within plural and multicultural societies. A focus on interculturality also requires supplementary analyses of processes that cut across cultural boundaries and operate beyond established mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion. On the one hand, these include different forms of transculturation, hybridization, and cultural mobility (of human beings as well as knowledge). On the other hand, such processes also encompass the question of transnational networks and publics.