Syncing… Subject, Media, Society: 25th Annual Interdisciplinary German Studies Conference

“Not all people exist in the same Now,” claimed Ernst Bloch in his seminal 1932 book Erbschaft dieser Zeit (“Heritage of Our Times”). The rhythms of modernity had fractured society into isolated temporal worlds. While individuals occupied the same space, he argued, they lived ungleichzeitig—out of sync. Synchronism speaks to a temporal relation, a shared rhythm, or attunement between subjects, media, and societies; it emerges (or does not) at points of contact: at the threshold or the border and in networks of communication and exchange. More so than simultaneity or contemporaneity, synchronism holds the promise of a collapse of separation, a coming together of disparate objects or states of being. Yet the promise of synchronism is also an aporia, always pregnant with the threat of its own negation or of stagnant homogeneity.

Grown out of our hyper-networked society that is simultaneously polarizing on concepts of nation, citizenship and freedom—on what it means to be in sync—this conference interrogates the promise inhered in synchronization through interdisciplinary panels, workshops and media presentations. Keynote addresses will be delivered by philosopher and art theorist Christoph Cox (Hampshire College) and cultural historian Helge Jordheim (University of Oslo).

In the lead-up to the conference, the Department of German will host an interdepartmental reading group featuring texts from philosophy, media studies, affect theory, sociology and on. Please contact berkeleygermanconference@gmail.com if you would like to participate.

This is a two-day conference. Program details are available here.

Christoph Cox is Professor of Philosophy at Hampshire College. He is the author of Sonic Flux: Sound, Art, and Metaphysics (forthcoming) and Nietzsche: Naturalism and Interpretation (University of California Press, 1999) and co-editor of Realism Materialism Art (Sternberg, 2015) and Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music (Continuum, 2004). The recipient of an Arts Writers Grant from Creative Capital/Warhol Foundation, Cox is editor-at-large of Cabinet magazine. His writing has appeared in OctoberArtforumJournal of the History of PhilosophyThe WireJournal of Visual CultureOrganised SoundThe Review of Metaphysics, and elsewhere. He has curated exhibitions at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, The Kitchen, CONTEXT Art Miami, New Langton Arts, G Fine Art Gallery and other venues.

Helge Jordheim is Professor of Cultural History at the University of Oslo, Norway. He received his PhD in German literature from the University of Oslo in 2006. At that time he had already published his first book, dealing with the history and theory of the humanities, entitled The Art of Reading: Toward a New Philology (in Norwegian, translated, 2001). This has become a continuous interest, resulting in a series of articles and most recently a report on the state and future of the humanities (“What is it about the Humanities?,” in Norwegian, 2014). His second monograph was on genre and political culture in 18-century Germany (Der Staatsroman im Werk Wielands und Jean Pauls, 2007). Subsequently, he moved into the broader field of 18th-century literary and intellectual culture in Europe, and has written extensively on topics like political manuals, medical history, historiography and encyclopedias. Another central field of interest is the history of concepts, which he has explored in several articles and most recently in a global history on the concepts of civility and civilization, written with an international team of scholars (Civilizing Emotions, 2015). At present, his main project, funded by the Norwegian Research Council and tentatively titled “Synchronizing the World: the Making of Modern Progress,” investigates the cultural history of time and temporality from the 18th century onward, focusing especially on genres like universal histories, encyclopedias, and dictionaries.  The project is based on theoretical work published mainly in History & Theory (2012, 2014). For many years Jordheim has been part of The Re:Enlightenment Project, working together with Cliff Siskin and Bill Blake, both at NYU.

Co-sponsored by the Department of German, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), Townsend Center for the Humanities, the Department of English, the Department of History, the Department of Film and Media, the History of Art Department, the Institute for European Studies, the Folklore Program, the Peder Sather Center for Advanced Study and Berkeley Center for New Media.

In collaboration with the Program in Critical Theory and the Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies.