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States of Exceptionalism: Globalization, Difference, Power

International Conference organized by RA7: Global Studies and Politics of Space and the International Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture (GCSC)
Wann 08.05.2014 um 09:00 bis
09.05.2014 um 18:00
Wo Alexander-von-Humboldt Guest House, Rathenaustraße 24 A, Justus-Liebig University Giessen
Termin übernehmen vCal

With the conference “States of Exceptionalism” we are offering a forum to take a closer look at the emerging term and to compare and discuss how it is conceptualized and utilized in different places and contexts. It is dedicated to an exploration of the notion of exceptionalism as a discursive tool to distinguish the self from not only an inferior but also from a coequal other. Thus, exceptionalism seems to gesture toward a peer relation within an imaginary on serial places, regions and nation-states, not one of domination between colonial center and colonized periphery.

While the contemporary world is increasingly characterized by conflict and crisis, challenging imagined geographies and geopolitical patterns formerly regarded as stable, exceptional identity positions seem to gain ground. As the world becomes more equal, there seems to emerge a growing need to construct the Self as special, superior, unique and exceptional. Nations, countries, regions and cities as well as social groups claiming to be exceptional, obviously follow a mission. They use their alleged superiority, be it of an economic, a power-related or an imagined ethical and moral kind to supply the “more ordinary parts of the world” with strategies of good governance and exemplary models.

Our intention is neither to verify nor to falsify whether Europe, the United States, Germany, the Nordic Countries, South Africa, New York City or the South Sandwich Islands indeed are exceptional. We rather regard the exceptional proclamations as social constructions based on discursive mechanisms and narrative structures. At times nostalgic narratives about what Christopher S. Browning (2007) called the “decline of exceptionalism”(s) may be seen as an effect of the circumstance, that globalization strictly speaking handicaps the emergence of any actual exceptional position. As a matter of fact, choosing a comparative approach, already anticipates a deconstruction of the idea of exceptionalism itself.

James W. Ceaser (2012) has rightly pointed to the fact that the concept of exceptionalism  may have become more popular in recent years, but at the same time still remains vague, blurred and lacks definition. This, however, makes the idea of exceptionalism, its functions and its uses an even more worthwhile issue to study. Thus, we will discuss papers from broad interdisciplinary perspectives from different fields within the social sciences and humanities. We will look at particular cases, and papers making a broader analytical and theoretical contribution to a deeper understanding of what the imagination or self-conception of being special in a globalized world are about.


Keynote Speakers:

Prof. Dr. James Ceaser, University of Virginia (USA)

Dr. Ylva Habel, Södertörns Högskola (Sweden)

PD Dr. Gabriele Dietze, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (Germany)


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