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On Revolutions, Paradigms and Other Liminal Narratives

Panel Chair: David Atwood | Thursday, August 27, 3:30-5:30 p.m. | Venue

To create order in time, one needs to separate and differentiate time periods. This applies to individuals, peer groups as well as to societies in general. By focusing on «turns» – liminal narratives in different contexts ranging from conversion stories (in individual religious lives) to paradigm changes (in science) to revolutions (in politics), to crisis (in economics) and epoch changes (in historiography) – the panel does not try to answer the quest of the legitimation of a particular narrative but concentrates on different techniques and strategies of the positioning in time. It focuses on the discourse of religion in the 20th century by taking its «turns», f.ex. the «hour zero», «1989», the newly announced (and denounced) «arab spring» or “financial crisis” as temporal difference markers that contribute to a mythopoetic landscape of the modern historiography of religion.

David Atwood

The Politics of the Origin Revisited? The Axial Age and the Contribution of Historiography to European Religious Identities

The concept of the Axial Age breakthrough allows an insight into European mythopoesis of Modernity and techniques of time diagnosis. According to philosophers and sociologists since Alfred Weber and Karl Jaspers, what we find as a cultural renewal in the universal breakthrough of the Axial Age (around 800 BC to 200 BC) is always what is needed most for the future of humanity. Be it reflexivity (Jaspers et al, Eisenstadt, Bellah), tolerance (Karen Armstrong), a division between the immanent and the transcendent (Charles Taylor) or the transition of a mythical to a logical worldview (Jan Assmann), the axial breakthrough was usually constructed as the mythicized epoch that provided the major capability, that is usually presented as modernity’s salvation. In this view, the liminal narrative of the Axial Age breakthrough stands for one of the major historiographical accounts that contribute to the construction of ‘religion’ in ‘modernity’.

Stephanie Gripentrog

Revolution revisited? How the ‘Arab Spring’ challenges European narratives on Revolution, Democracy and Religion

In 2011 a new narrative appeared in the media, telling the uprisings in the ‘Arab World’ as the story of an ‘Arab Spring’ or a new, Arabic version of ‘Revolution’. To make them understandable for a European audience it tied these – broadly unexpected – happenings to the broader context of European experiences with political turning points: Reports in Germany for example compared the ‘Arab Spring’ with the French Revolution, 1848 or 1989. Furthermore, they turned the story of the ‘Arab Spring’ into the story of an ‘Arab Autumn’ as soon as Islamic forces appeared to be the strongest new political force in these processes of transformation. So this paper aims at taking a closer look at the framework of European liminal narratives within which the ‘Arab Spring’ was placed and how the relation of religion, revolution and democracy was constructed in that context.

Jens Kugele

Exodus to Palestine – Narrating Liminality in European Zionism

Around 1900, the diagnosis of a deep crisis in European Jewry lead religious, cultural and political intellectuals to rethink the future of Jewish life in Europe and beyond. In this context of liminality, literature of early Zionism offered new perspectives on and redefinitions of the Jewish collective in the national age. Drawing on a wide range of genres, these writings presented visions of a new Jewish identity on the basis of a (re-)discovered cultural and national foundation. In contrast to more traditional voices of religious orthodoxy, supporters of a territorial solution outside of Europe conceived of an explicitly “secular” program, while at the same time drawing on the mythopoetic reservoir of Jewish history. This paper investigates the religious motifs in these narratives of renewal and revolution as they challenge notions of religion, ethnicity, and secular politics.

Christoph Lucas Zapf

Changing Narratives: Metaphysical Charges of ‘the Market’ in Financial Crisis

The term of ‘the Market’ refers to more than a mechanism of exchange. The market can be a guarantor for wealth. And the Market can be a strict, even punishing entity. The paper describes these mythopoetic narratives of ‘the Market’ and their transformation in the course of recent financial crisis (2008–2010). A theoretical overview is presented about the ‘more’ of the market in form of metaphysical charges. The leading narratives being the myth of market-salvation – Smith’s ‘invisible hand’ – and ‘the Market’ as a mechanism to cope with contingencies – the mighty market creating precedents, structuring decisions. The research then turns to the media discourse from the last financial crisis to pinpoint the new nature of ‘the Market’: the change from being a benevolent force towards a fierce force, outweighing individuals, companies, bossing around politics. The crisis serves as a liminal narrative for the metaphysical charge of the market.


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