GKAT Events – Summer Term 2018
Thursday, April 19, 2018 | 6:15 PM
"Post-History, Post-Democracy, Post-Truth, Post-Trump." Really? Argumentation Strategies in Modern Political Discourse
Interpreting and Translation, Bologna University
Thursday, April 26, 2018 | 6:15 PM
Die Gesellschaft der Singularitäten
Comparative Cultural Sociology, University of Frankfurt/Oder
Tuesday, May 15, 2018 | 6:15 PM
The Publishing Trapeze: Trust and Communication in the Book Trade
International Publishing and Communication, University of Stirling
On May 15, Claire Squires came to the HCA. She is the director of the Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication at Stirling University, where she focuses on the publishing of contemporary literature. Having previously worked at Oxford Brookes University as well as in publishing and as an author herself, Claire Squires offered the insights of a scholar, a publisher, and an artist to the GKAT lecture series “Authority and Trust in the United States.” According to Professor Squires, trust is a key aspect within publishing, as the industry was built on contracts and informal agreements but is facing times in which “gentleman handshakes” are not sufficient anymore. She made use of the trapeze as a metaphor to illustrate how fragile the relationships between authors, editors, publishers, and readers can be in the publishing industry’s communication circuit.
This complex net of relationships is built on varying levels of trust, which Professor Squires illustrated through the example of The Gunks Guide by Todd Swain. Typically, a guidebook’s success – and this proves particularly true for guide books that speak about potentially dangerous activities like climbing – results from the reader’s trust in the author’s expertise and accuracy. Interestingly, these works use large amounts of paratext to negate the trust in their accurateness and state explicitly that there is no guarantee and no warrant, and the paratext usually includes a non-liability statement. This branch of the publishing industry that is largely based on trust illustrates that trust might be selling guidebooks, but the players within the industry need to rely on legal terms and safety nets to protect themselves.
Another example to illustrate the complex relations in publishing regards the morality clauses: A legal term that refers to behavior considered intolerable in a community, moral turpitude is something publishers had rarely worried about in the past. In light of the recent debates about misconduct and sexual harassment, the idea of morality clauses in literary contracts might seem appealing at first glance; however, Claire Squires argued that many problems can arise from these clauses. They could pose a danger to free speech, and the vague phrasing could serve as a loophole to dispose of unsuccessful authors. Professor Squires used Dangerous by Milo Yiannopoulos as an example to illustrate the issues that can result from the ambiguous morality clauses. S&S’s purchase of this book in December 2016 caused a backlash, and several S&S’s authors threatened to leave, causing the publisher to drop the book. Yiannopoulos in turn sued the publisher, and the trial shed light on processes within publishing that commonly remain hidden from the public eye. According to Claire Squires, the comments of the editors in the manuscripts illustrate the complex relationship between editor, publisher, and authors, how they trust and depend on each other in the complex process, and what happens if this trust is broken. Claire Squires also mentioned the new influences and power shifts in the literary market. On the one hand, companies like Amazon interfere more in the process through highly aggressive negotiations and contracts, and on the other hand, costumer reviews and booktubers become more and more influential as platforms for amateurs increase. These are new players in the field of publishing, and the relationships and power structures will need to form and be negotiated to ensure that the balance between individuals on the publishing trapeze remains somewhat intact in the future.
Thursday, May 17, 2018 | 6:15 PM
The Authority of Experience Revisited: Public Protest and Civil Sentimentalism
American Studies, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg
The GKAT Lecture Series continued on May 17 with a talk by Heike Paul, who has held the chair of American Studies for culture and literature at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg since 2004 and won the renowned Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz-Preis in 2018. Her research interest spans various fields in American Studies, including American myths, feminist and gender studies, African American Studies, and Cold War culture in Germany and the United States. In her talk, Professor Paul revisited the concept of the “Authority of Experience” and analyzed its development over time. The “Authority of Experience” can fulfill various functions. It can be used as an unconditional authorization, a means of empowerment, or the ultimate justification for one’s actions or words. This last strategy was frequently applied by feminists in the 1960s, in the so-called second wave of feminism. In large parts, it served to critique the depiction of women by male authors and attempted to recognize female writers instead of male voices about women. The main goal of feminists that referred to the “Authority of Experience” was to make women heard.
Heike Paul also explored the voices that questioned the effectiveness of the “Authority of Experience.” She mainly spoke about post-structural feminism, in particular its leading figures Judith Butler and Joan Scott, who took issue with the unconditional power of experience as they saw it as a dangerous feminist strategy that reproduced rather than contested given ideologies. It is important to distinguish between the two: While experience serves different groups in different ways, women were often believed to be influenced by their subjective feelings and to be compromised by knowledge, which lead to an absence of authority. Therefore, experience can be viewed as an instrument and obstacle at the same time, which led to a sentimental view of the “Authority and Experience.”
As a next step, Paul addressed the current sentimental glorification of historical feminisms and focused on feminist manifestos and their prominent reappearance. Quoting Walter Fähnders’ four key aspects of a manifesto – programmatic, public, unequivocal and collective – Professor Paul analyzed different feminist works of literature: Mary Beard’s Women & Power, Sarah Ahmed’s Living a Feminist Life, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions. Professor Paul argued that Ahmed’s work is most similar to classic manifestos, whereas Beard’s work fulfils few aspects of this type of text, and Adiche’s work can even be considered the very opposite. Accordingly, one could argue that the term manifesto serves mainly as an attention-grabbing device independent of the actual text. Heike Paul maintained that these sentimental manifestos evoke a nostalgic longing for feminism’s glory days leading to civil sentimentalism rather than civil disobedience. In conclusion, Heike Paul argued that “Authority of Experience” proved to be an intergenerational issue within the feminist community and that one can perceive a change of the genre “feminist manifesto.” She concluded by asking how much contemporary feminism and populism have in common, as both frequently rely on simplifications to target a larger audience.
Tuesday, June 5, 2018 | 6:15 PM
The Societalization of Social Problems: Financial Crisis, Church Pedophilia, Media Phone Hacking
Cultural Sociology, Yale University
On June 5, the Graduiertenkolleg Authority and Trust (GKAT) welcomed Jeffrey Alexander, the Lillian Chavenson Saden Professor of Sociology at Yale University, at the HCA. His talk “The Societalization of Social Problems: Financial Crisis, Church Pedophilia, Media Phone Hacking” was part of the lecture series “Authority and Trust in the United States.”
Professor Alexander commenced his lecture by conceptualizing modernity as an era in which societies are not monolithic but made up of various differentiated and specialized spheres. The separation of these spheres is characteristic for modern society, and their relation with each other is uneven and conflicting. The civil sphere in particular, which is an idealized set of attributes necessary for democracy, stands in constant conflicts with other spheres of modern societies. As the degree of democracy increases, he argued, the civil sphere trumps others. Not only among but also within the different spheres, strains are part of the regular condition. However, when society is in a steady state, these strains within the spheres and are handled intra-institutionally through the culture of that particular sphere.
Based on this understanding of modern society, Professor Alexander then introduced the concept of the societalization of social problems. Societalization denotes the moment in which an intra-institutional problem produces a crisis, a new state of eventfulness. The scandal marking the tipping point of the crisis, evokes a civil trauma that shakes the conscience of society and calls for a civil repair. As a result, code switching evolves in societal discourse and transforms interpretations of practices from normal to evil or the other way around. One of the examples that Professor Alexander used to illustrate this transformation process is church pedophilia. Although pedophilia has been practiced in the Catholic church for a long time, the problem did not break down the boundaries of the sphere and was handled intra-institutionally. Only when the Boston Globe’s investigative journalism drew societal attention to the extent of church pedophilia, the problem was societalized. Code-switching from Catholic language to civil references to the crisis such as “cover up at the highest level” and “abuse of office” took place. Also in the case of the financial crisis, a moment of societalization is clearly visible. The autonomy of markets, commercialization of banks, and financialization of mortgages has increased instability in the financial industry for a long time. These processes have produced many individual scandals over the years, but only the scandals in the subprime mortgage crisis, which lead to an international banking crisis, produced a societalization of the problems that had been handled intra-institutionally before. As in the first example, this resulted in code switching that portrayed common practices within the industry as evil and called for regulatory interventions in the financial industry.
In the final part of his talk, Professor Alexander pointed out the limits of the societalization of social problems. Strains within spheres do not always lead to societalization, and societalization can be reversed. When in effect, societalization can create backlashes as reactions and attack the recently emerged code switching. Further, societalization can lead to increased polarization within society, particularly if only one part of society adapts the code switching. After a civil repair of the problem, society goes back to the steady state, in which intra-institutional self-regulation dominates. However, Professor Alexander also emphasized the potential of social movements to produce societalization and its positive effects on bringing the problems of marginalized, subaltern groups to mainstream discourse.
Professor Alexander ended his talk by emphasizing the importance of social movements. By producing counter-hegemonic narratives and contributing to societalization of social problems, he argued, social movements play an important part in moving toward a more democratic society.
Tuesday, June 12, 2018 | 6:15 PM
Die Macht des Heiligen: Eine alternative Geschichte der Entzauberung
Sociology, University of Chicago; Theology, Humboldt University, Berlin
On June 12, the eminent sociologist and social philosopher Hans Joas, Ernst Troeltsch Professor for the Sociology of Religion at Humboldt University of Berlin and Visiting Professor of Sociology and Social Thought at the University of Chicago, came to the HCA. Professor Joas‘ talk focused on the main thoughts of his new book The Power of the Sacred - An Alternative to the Narrative of Disenchantment. Indeed, Max Weber’s famous dictum of the “disenchantment of the world” had become a key concept of modernity. In the prevailing interpretation, religion no longer dominated modern societies; rather, it had become one of a number of social or cultural spheres. Hans Joas’ work sets out to demystify Weber’s “disenchantment“ by looking at exemplary cases of religious engagement. Thus, Professor Joas argued, the eighteenth century was not only a century of enlightenment but also witnessed the rise of Pietism and Methodism as well as the “Great Awakening” in the United States.
He also pointed toward today’s immense growth of Pentecostal churches in North and South America as well as the rise of Political Islam – hardly signs for a demise of religion, Professor Joas concluded. To the contrary, our world is getting more religious and the power of the sacred more pronounced. Max Weber’s narrative of history as an inexorable, progressive process of disenchantment proves to be an illusion, not least because Weber, in a very suggestive manner, linked events from the time of the Old Testament, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, and his own time. Once we understood the disjointed nature of this narrative, it fell apart. Hans Joas, however, did not only refute Weber’s narrative of “disenchantment” but also the antagonism of religion and rationality or science that Weber posits. What then is the alternative to Weber’s narrative? Professor Joas in turn developed the outline of a theory that can satisfy religion’s potential to support existing power structures as well as critique them. The “sacred,” for example, has much to offer when it comes to questions of (social) justice and an ethically “good life.” In many ways, Professor Joas offered a convincing analysis of the contemporary religious experience, as varied and asynchronous as it may be. Maybe more importantly, he outlined new possibilities for a dialogue between believers and non-believers.
Thursday, June 28, 2018 | 6:15 PM
Food System Collaborations in Detroit: Expertise, Participation, and Trust
Urban Studies and Planning, Wayne State University
The GKAT lecture series continued on June 28 with a talk by Kameshwari Pothukuchi, professor at the Urban Planning Department at Wayne State University in Detroit and a distinguished expert on Detroit’s urban agriculture movement. She spoke on “Agri-Food Collaborations in Detroit: Collective Action & Trust.” Detroit has achieved global recognition through its demographic shrinkage (population decline from 1.8 million in the 1950s to around 670,000 today) and the associated problems of impoverishment, vacancy, and food availability. More recently, Detroit has become the hopeful nucleus of urban agriculture, which is designed to address the problem of food availability in urban areas, and has attracted interdisciplinary research interest.
Professor Pothukuchi’s presentation at the HCA centered on the question how important trust was in the negotiation processes and in the institutionalization of urban agriculture in Detroit. She first introduced a theoretical concept, which she then enriched with analyses of the actual activities of urban agriculture organizations in Detroit. Her talk focused on three local organizations with different compositions of social capital. This diversity offers an opportunity to make statements about the integration of organizations in a field defined by tension between insiders and outsiders in relation to mistrust and trust. The analysis of the different policies of three organizations thus shows the acceptance of the organizations on the part of the residents in the surrounding neighborhoods. In this sense, Professor Pothukuchi understands her work not least as a beneficial contribution to the prosperity of an integrated and sustainable urban agriculture system in Detroit. The individual organizations in particular should therefore be able to benefit from her findings in practice.
Thursday, July 5, 2018 | 6:15 PM
Culture, Cognition, and Reliance
Sociology, University of Notre Dame
On July 5, the HCA’s Baden-Württemberg Seminar welcomed Omar Lizardo to a public lecture jointly organized with the Graduiertenkolleg “Authority and Trust” (GKAT). Omar Lizardo came to the HCA from the University of Notre Dame but will soon be the LeRoy Neiman Term Chair Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles. Professor Lizardo elaborated on the potential of dual process models from the field of sociology for the study of trust. Following a brief introduction by Günter Leypoldt, professor for American Literature and Culture at Heidelberg University’s English Department, Professor Lizardo commenced his lecture by introducing the concept of the dual process model. This model separates thought processes into highly rational thinking on the one hand and more instinctual processes on the other. In contrast to the prevailing distinction of emotionality and rationality, the various dual process models regard both types of thinking as differently influenced by emotions and rationality. The goal was therefore, said Professor Lizardo, to connect theoretical and philosophical ideas to concrete empirical data. In the study of culture and how individuals come to acquire it, he introduced the four categories of learning, memorizing, acting, and thinking. According to Professor Lizardo, emotional and rational thinking manifested themselves in different ways in all four categories, and therefore culture was learned both rationally and instinctually. Together both thinking processes constituted the implicit learning of “know-how” and the explicit deliberate learning of “know-what,” which enabled individuals to acquire and employ habits and make culturally informed judgements.
Professor Lizardo then elaborated on the implications of this model to the study of trust, which rested largely on the dichotomy between trust as the result of calculation and trust as the result of intuitive affection. Here, especially the notion of calculated trust bore inherent value to the economy and the field of business management. Investigations into trust in these fields, so Professor Lizardo, often made use of three overarching approaches that studied who or what we trust, how we form trust, and what trust makes us do. Yet, contemporary research was often unclear about the exact difference between calculated trust and trust out of affection, a distinction he termed as both inadequate and unhelpful. Professor Lizardo proposed instead to improve the categories through which trust was studied by applying the structure used in the dual process model. This would differentiate a deliberate rational trust from what he called an intuitive faith and enable researchers to investigate how people learn, memorize, act, and think about both forms. Professor Lizardo concluded that this would potentially provide new insights into the development of intuitive faith, the form of trust technological advances and complex structures of modernity increasingly demanded from us. Following this fascinating talk, the audience used the opportunity for questions to further elaborate on Professor Lizardo’s categories and explore thought experiments regarding the study of trust and faith.
Thursday, July 12, 2018 | 6:15 PM
Reading, Not Reading, and the Tangible Humanities
English and American Studies, Yale University
On July 12, Amy Hungerford gave a talk at the HCA as a part of the Baden-Württemberg-Seminar, once more in cooperation with the Graduiertenkolleg “Authority and Trust” (GKAT). Günter Leypoldt, professor of American Literature and Culture at Heidelberg University, welcomed the scholar who owes her prominence not only to her array of publications and to the co-founding of post45, a professional association for scholars working in post-45 literary and cultural studies. Professor Hungerford also offers a free-of-charge online lecture series where she publicizes her work with undergraduate students at Yale. She is a professor of English and dean of the humanities division at Yale University. She is also working on a companion open-access journal called CA: A Journal of Cultural Analytics, which deals with literary scholarship that uses computational methods. At the HCA, she shared part of her research of the assessment of the authority of words, ours and others’ reading, and not reading.
In his column “Stuff I’ve Been Reading,” in The Believer magazine, Nick Hornby presents the readers the texts he came across. Feeling awful about reading too few books, he once asked himself, “What if I never read a book again?” Professor Hungerford explained. There were those amongst his readers who were persons of letters, demanding authority since they read the classics, and those who read what they liked – book lovers. They typically read what they bought. However, what we do not read can be as telling as what we read, Professor Hungerford claimed. Phillip Roth typically ignored books on his shelf until he discovered a connection between the author and himself, leading to the book later on. Another of Amy Hungerford’s topics was "the problem of abundance," as her Notre Dame colleague Matthew Wilkens refers to it. Especially in the age of the Internet, people suffer from an overload of information and texts. In 2011, more than 50,000 new novels were published in the United States alone. Professor Hungerford offered solace: We could not listen to or read everybody who deserved our attention.
Losing oneself in a story is considered the tangible company of a book – we do not feel lonely, we are in company. There is an imagined community of readers, as Abigail Williams argues in The Social Life of Books about reading as a past time in the eighteenth century. Modernist novels, Professor Hungerford argued, made readers aware of themselves and of the possibility of introspection. Today, it is hard for scholars to curate their own reading and for teacher to curate their teaching. Amy Hungerford ended her talk by speaking about the glass classroom, created for outsiders to look in and linger. Here, humanities have become tangible; the classroom created a special social space in which reading becomes a shared experience. Nick Hornby’s answer to his own question is simple: “Read what you enjoy, not what bores you.”
After the talk, Professor Leypoldt invited the audience to chime in. What could stimulate students to read in a classroom, a member of the audience asked? The problem, Professor Hungerford responded, often was not the reading in school, but after graduation. School presented the “innocent reader” with books which emphasized social lessons were empathy was key. Classrooms and readers in general needed multiplicity. What did the literary scholar or well-read person have to offer to society, another member of the audience asked. Being well read was still valued, the professor said, being a connoisseur of anything was cultural capital. The evening drew to an end and left the audience wondering, what do we not read?
Thursday, July 19, 2018 | 6:15 PM
Trust Obliges? On Rational, Routinized, and Reflexive Responsibility
Organization and Management, Witten/Herdecke University
The GKAT lecture series “Authority and Trust in the United States” concluded on July 19 with a talk by Guido Möllering, the director of the Reinhard-Mohn-Institut für Unternehmensführung at the Universität Witten/Herdecke. He also holds the Reinhard-Mohn-Stiftungslehrstuhls für Unternehmensführung there. In his talk, “Trust Obliges? On Rational, Routinized, and Reflexive Responsibility,” Professor Möllering looked at the benefits that trust research can bring to the social sciences. He argued that trust has a basis in reason, in routine, and in reflexivity, the “three Rs” of trust research that are interconnected.
Yet, we cannot apply these categories too strictly. In our daily lives, we all have to deal with the question how to trust those with whom we have to interact. Ultimately, all trustors have to suspend individual reasoning about their social or personal vulnerability and uncertainty, since they cannot receive the full and unbiased data to make a rational decision; thus, we have to leap to a state of trust, since we are usually not able to completely “calculate” whether someone is trustworthy or not. A similar need for relaxation is found when we look at routine as a base of trust. We simply do not have the skill or time to deconstruct the institutions we have grown up with fully; familiarity with the situation merely assist the trustor in making the leap of faith. Finally, Professor Möllering encouraged the audience to reflect on the bases of trust, asserting that actors can engage in processes that might create trust and in doing so modify the processes and assumptions that were in place before. By moving forward with “blind” trust, an actor can create a situation in which trust develops; later data acquisition may confirm trusting behavior or not. This challenging and at times provocative talk certainly left the audience in the HCA Atrium with new approaches to understand trust.