Topics in Philosophy

Boris Buden
Arts and Society, Cross-Disciplinary Strategies
2023S, scientific seminar (SEW), 4.0 ECTS, 2.0 semester hours, course number S04491


The origin and persistence of normative identity blocks: the West, the (former) East and the Rest


Commenting on an exhibition held 1996 in Stockholm that ended in a scandalous confrontation of “western” and “eastern” artists, Slovenian art critic Igor Zabel, appalled by the persistence of the old antagonisms, poignantly wrote: “[T]he East is still the East although it is now called ‘the former East’.” And then, in a gesture of an almost desperate provocation, he added: “Does anybody speak of ‘the former West’?”

But what is this persisting West beyond being one of the four cardinal directions? And why the East, having survived the end of the cold war, find its entire raison d'être in catching-up with the west? Is the former east is something else than a scene of a belated, non-historical present whose only future was someone else’s already existing reality?

The course will explore and discuss the historical, cultural and epistemic origin of the normative identity blocks, the hierarchical structure of the global world they constantly reproduce and focus especially on the cognitive premises and effects of the division of the world into identity blocks, before all on the concepts of universality and particularity.

The course is a follow-up of the WS course on Area Studies.

Reading list:

Buck-Morss, Susan, Dreamworld and Catastrophe: The Passing of Mass Utopia in East and West, Cambridge: MIT Press, 2000.

Buden, Boris, “Translation and the East: There is No Such Thing as ‘Eastern European Studies of Culture’”, in Doris-Bachmann-Medick (ed.), The Trans/National Study of Culture: A Translational Perspective, Berlin: De Gruyter, 2014, p. 171-181

Goldsworthy, Vesna. 1998. Inventing Ruritania. Yale: YUP.

Boaventura de Sousa Santos, Epistemologies of the South: Justice Against Epistemicide, London, New York: Routledge 2016.

Graeber, David, “There Never Was a West. Or, Democracy Emerges From the Spaces In Between”, in, David Graeber, Possibilities: Essays on Hierarchy, Rebellion, and Desire, AK Press, 2007 329-375

Hobsbawm, Eric and Ranger, Terence (eds.). 1992. The Invention of Tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hall, Stuart. 1996. “The West and the Rest: Discourse and Power.” In Modernity: An Introduction

to Modern Societies, edited by Stuart Hall, David Held, Don Hubert, and Kenneth

Thompson, 184 – 227. Malden, MA: Blackwell

Huntington, Samuel. 1996. The Clash of Civilisations and the Remaking of the World Order.

New York: Simon and Schuster.

Močnik, Rastko, “Will the East’s Past Be the West’s Future?” Les frontières invisibles. Ed. Caroline David. Oostkamp: Stichting Kunstboek, 2009.

Sakai, Naoki. 2000. “The Dislocation in the West.” In Specters of the West and Politics of

Translation. edited by Naoki Sakai and Yukiko Hanawa, Vol. 1 of TRACES: A Multilingual

Series of Cultural Theory and Translation, 71 – 94. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.

Todorova, Maria. Imagining the Balkans. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 2009 [1997].

EAM, East-Art-Map Project,

Examination Modalities

Consists in the active participation and contribution (discursive, textual and performative). The module grading is based on the mentioned contribution, active in-class participation, a presentation (10-15 min.) to be held during WS 2022, and submission of written assignments (700-1000 words).


“Students from other departments or universities will be given a place on the course subject to room capacities.

Key Words

the west, the (former) East, the Rest, universality, particularity, identity, geopolitics, hierarchy, historcal temporalities


07 March 2023, 14:00–18:00 CDS Lecture Room
09 March 2023, 14:00–17:00 CDS Lecture Room
10 March 2023, 14:00–17:00 CDS Lecture Room
23 May 2023, 09:00–13:00 CDS Lecture Room
24 May 2023, 09:00–12:30 CDS Lecture Room
26 May 2023, 09:00–12:00 CDS Lecture Room

Course Enrolment

Via online registration

Cross-Disciplinary Strategies (Master): Study Areas: Study Area 6: Transcultural Studies 569/020.06

Cross-Disciplinary Strategies (Master): Elective Field: only students without a bachelor's degree in CDS: from Study Areas 1-6 569/080.10

Cross-Disciplinary Strategies (Bachelor): Philosophy: Deepening / Application 700/003.20

Co-registration: possible

Attending individual courses: possible