International Conference: Media Aesthetics of Occidentalism, University of Marburg


January 26–28, 2022


Due to the immense hostile geopolitical dynamics all over the world, an interrogation of the dichotomies of West/East, Occident/Orient, or North/South seems still very necessary. It is with regard to this observation that scholars have been discussing the concept of occidentalism for more than thirty years now. The closeness and affinity of Occidentalism to the concept of Orientalism (Said 1978) cannot be denied nor over emphasized, however, it is now possible to identify a strand of discourse on the concept that has become very heterogeneous. It shows at least four manifestations (Aikin 2019):

a) the patriarchal epistemological pervasion of the world by the West (Armstrong 1990; Muller 1998) b) the stabilization of the self-images of the non-West that is the result of its devaluating constructions of the West (writings of Hassan Hanafi, Buruma & Margalit 2005; Bauhn & Tepe 2017) c) self-images of the West based on its constructions of the non-West (Coronil 1996, Carrier 2003, Brunner & Dietze 2009)
d) a meta-reflective perspective that considers the multiple directions and dynamics of the discourses between West and non-West („Critical Occidentalism“, Ahıska 2003; „Strategic Occidentalism“, Sanchez Prado 2018)

Even if there is this variety of definitions of the concept of Occidentalism, most of the research analyzes the dichotomic relationship between the Orient and the Occident, and the complex discursive and historical entanglements in different regional and national contexts (b and c).

Again, due to the discourse analytical approach of most of these investigations, which are oriented towards textuality, the media aesthetic features of the discourses have often been neglected. Although the investigations focus on films, photographs or other types of media, the non-textual media-aesthetic qualities (image, sound) are hardly considered.

The consequence is that the aesthetic dimension of discourses remains analytically untouched. In order to understand the role of media-aesthetic features of discourses (Mitchell 2015) in the context of the constitution of Occidentalism, the conference pursues the following central question: „How do media aesthetic qualities contribute to the constitution of Occidentalist discourses?“

The goal of the conference is threefold:
Firstly (Theory), the significance of the concept of Occidentalism will be theoretically rediscussed. Secondly (Topical Cases of Occidentalism), the concept will be explored in regard to its usefulness in describing contemporary problems (since the 2000s onwards; also genealogically based). Thirdly (Media Aesthetics), the role of media aesthetic qualities for the effectiveness of Occidentalist discourses will be discussed theoretically and empirically.

The conference explores these three foci through a global spectrum of presentations and a variety of media configurations. The conference language is English.

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