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10. July 2015

"Traveling Concepts"

Concepts, with the people who carried them, have always been traveling. Traveling concepts may settle and thus enrich, even transform local pools of cultural resources available for humans to take account of reality and construct their strategies of action. Concepts are distinctively cultural artifacts, but culture pervades all areas of social life—politics, the economy, the professions, the family, legal and penal systems, everyday encounters. In all other social domains as well, concepts mediate the way people make plans, pursue their goals, communicate with one another, exercise power, create social structures, and produce scientific and other knowledge. Hence, it may not be farfetched to presume that conceptual travel is an integral aspect of many if not all processes of globalization. 

The Center for Area Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin invites scholars who have an interest in problems related to the travel of concepts, from all spheres of the social sciences and humanities, to present works in progress and receive peer feedback. The rationale of the workshop is to facilitate cross-disciplinary exchange of, indeed, concepts and ideas—thus broadening the participants’ horizons in terms of the various questions addressed and approaches taken in the study of traveling concepts.

The workshop was organized by Dr. Rami Kaplan.

4.-6. June 2015

"Provincializing the Social Sciences",

The three-day workshop departs from the insight that the much lamented ‘crisis’ of area studies has to be understood and coupled with as a larger ‘crisis’ of the social sciences. Important area studies initiatives have embarked on formulating transregional perspectives in response to internationalization efforts and postcolonial critique, yet many social science faculties have remained remarkably untouched by these developments. In addition, funding for area expertise in social science faculties has been drastically reduced, further widening both the institutional and epistemological gap between the often evoked disciplinary binary of ‘major’ social sciences and ‘minor’ area studies. We want to use this moment of ‘crisis’ as a productive opening to foster a critical conversation on the interface of area studies and social sciences. Following
Chakrabarty’s call to ‘provincialize Europe’, we deploy the notion of ‘provincializing the social sciences’ as a point of departure for such an exchange. The workshop thereby aims not only to foster reflection about false claims to universality and tendencies to marginalize ‘other’ knowledges in the social sciences, but also to work towards a more political and theoretically reflective formulation of area studies. The workshop is designed as the inauguration of a longer conversation leading to a broader research project located at Freie Universität Berlin.

The workshop was organized by Berlin Graduate School Muslim Cultures and Societies in cooperation with the Center for Area Studies.

Flyer (pdf)

Further information