The World

Foto: jk_scotland

The examination of the concept of the world within the framework of Kultrans will primarily transpire through several seminars, which will comprise both workshops and seminars with invited lecturers. The seminar series will commence in spring 2009 and will lead up to an international conference in autumn 2011. In addition, research will be conducted and projects and applications will be developed in connection with this research topic.


Overarching theme: The World - Concept, Imagination, Reality

As an overarching theme for Kultrans, intended to help generate a shared, overarching discussion across the main areas of research, we have chosen to take as our point of departure a few transdisciplinary and transnational concepts, understood as concepts that cross the boundaries between national and disciplinary discourses.

To begin with we will follow up on our platform, which highlights both ‘globalization’ and ‘the age of globalization’ as key concepts. But such concepts are precisely examples of concepts that come with clear disciplinary provisions and that give precedence to certain scientific perspectives, primarily ones from sociology. However, the basis for these and other concepts from the globalization discourse is another concept, one that is imbued with a different historical depth and thematic complexity – namely the concept of ‘the world’. Without a concept of the world as a spatial and temporal whole, the entire idea of globalization is as good as meaningless. It is nevertheless highly unclear whether the historical and sociological perspective is capable of encompassing the final, absolute and definitive associated with the concept of the world.

In response to this disparity, the German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk differentiates between a ‘celestial or cosmic globalization’, which since Antiquity has been a prime area of interest for mathematicians, geometers and philosophers, and which focuses on the planet itself as a perfect object, and a ‘terrestrial globalization’, which conversely has been promoted by sailors, explorers, cartographers and economists who viewed the world as something infinite, unlimited and diverse (Sloterdijk 1999). Sloterdijk’s reflections also illustrate the diversity of scientific perspectives that emerge as soon as the focus is transferred from ‘globalization’ to ‘the world’, and which we wish to recreate in Kultrans. Our ambition is to encourage historians, philosophers, sociologists, anthropologists, literary scholars, jurists, physicists and climatologists to reflect on the role played by the concept and notion of ‘the world’ within their respective sciences. Such contemplation seems to be an absolute necessity today, in order to remedy a self-evident deficiency in the highly impassioned globalization discourse (Senghaas 2003).

Because when it comes down to it, Sloterdijk’s partition solves nothing – since it is increasingly evident that also the practitioners and theorists of terrestrial globalization must come to terms with the cosmological truth that the world is an absolute, but simultaneously limited and historical whole.

Helge Jordheim is in charge of the World seminar series.