TRANS Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften 17. Nr. Mai 2010

Sektion 5.3. Sharing in / out Culture(s)
Sektionsleiter | Section Chair: Vladimir Biti (Faculty of Philosophy, University of Zagreb)

Dokumentation | Documentation | Documentation

Section report 5.3.

Sharing in/out Culture(s)

Vladimir Biti (University of Zagreb, Croatia)



The main topic of this workshop was the ambiguous capacity of culture to simultaneously unite divided people(s) and divide the united one(s). Since the German enlightenment when the concept was introduced, culture was, as opposed to civilization, associated with the high individual artistic or intellectual achievements, in such a way aiming at the future spiritual community of people(s) rather than the bodily or naturally inherited one. However, as the time passed, the intention of its founders to free the idea of culture of any liability on racial, national or ethnic premises amounted to a mission impossible as it hideously rested on the series of fine distinctions which gradually established supremacy either of the European over the non-European people(s) or the Western over the Eastern and Central European ones. Considering such undesired consequences that one has nowadays to confront, the workshop focused on the question: How did the recent condition emerge in which not every entity seems to have the same share in what was supposed, via culture, to be shared as common identity?

As was expected, the question was approached from various historical, geopolitical, thematic and disciplinary angles. The papers presented covered a wide span of centuries from the remote ones much BC to the most recent days as well as a wide span of regions from Ethiopia, Canada, Australia and the United States, to Germany, France, as well as countries emerged out of the breakdown of former Yugoslavia. As for the disciplines, social and cultural anthropology was represented along with philosophy, sociology, literary theory and history, ethnomusicology, and cultural analysis. Most of the papers addressed the border areas like those between: the world and the national community; community and individual identity; the national and the individual subject; Islam and Christianity; majority and minority culture; great and small cultures; high and popular culture; the male and the female one; culture, warfare and violence; art and technology; cultural appropriation and artistic resistance; art and politics; the visual and the tactile; as well as circulation of ideas between the nationally, linguistically and culturally separated fields. Such border areas proved to be a particularly fertile soil for the investigation of paradoxes and ambiguities inherent to the idea of culture. Let us take a closer look at what I estimate to be the chief breakthroughs of the workshop.

First of all, some philosophical investigations of the idea of community in depth were presented following the thread that leads from the German philosopher Martin Heidegger through his French counterpart Maurice Blanchot up to Jean-Luc Nancy and Jacques Derrida. As opposed for example to the idea of national community put forth by the social historians Ernst Gellner or Benedict Anderson, these thinkers link their idea of community to the unreliable Other rather than the reliable self. The most important consequence of such other-related idea of community is that it replaces the common-being that rests on an unlimited individuality of each community member with the being-in-common that limits my existence by the existence of the other. Accordingly, the common substance shared with all the others gets replaced by the differential relation to particular other being. Vision as an imperial way of one-way communication is substituted by the two-way communication of touch.

Second point that deserves to be singled out, which is closely related to the first one, is the resistance that literature and music offer to the mechanisms of cultural assimilation, appropriation and domestication. The complex, multilayered and sophisticated structure of both of them prevents the precise identification of the subject to whom the verbal or acoustic writing is to be attributed: each detected identity gets dissolved into a network of relations with past, lost or forgotten others who in such a way announce their right to speech or voice. In such a way, literature and music function as the repository of voices marginalized, muted or excluded by the mechanisms of the dominant culture.

The third and final point concerns the relation between the great and small respectively majority and minority cultures. It is significant that educational and disciplinary patterns applied on the part of the so called great to the so called small cultures, be it between the European and non-European or Western and Eastern-Central European countries, get reinvested within particular cultures, especially the “small” ones, by the majority culture in its recognition of minority cultures. What is here meant by minority culture does not necessarily pertain only to the ethnic but also the gender and the class position respectively lack of it, as in the wake of national emancipation it is along all these axes that discrimination can take place.

In sum, the workshop Sharing in/out Culture(s) resulted with a number of important insights into the conundrum of culture in its diversification and ramification throughout the contemporary world. It was characterized by a high level of contributions as well as vivid discussions and may be regarded as a very successful one. Our gratitude goes to the organizers for offering us such an inspiring overall frame.

5.3. Sharing in / out Culture(s)

Sektionsgruppen | Section Groups| Groupes de sections

TRANS   Inhalt | Table of Contents | Contenu  17 Nr.

For quotation purposes:
Vladimir Biti: Section report 5.3. Sharing in/out Culture(s) - In: TRANS. Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften. No. 17/2008. WWW:

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