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Transculturality, European Colonialism, and German Discourse, 1756-1835

Date and Time: 
Wednesday, April 20, 2016. 05:00 PM - 06:30 PM
Meeting Location: 
Stanford Humanities Center, Board Room
Workshop: 
Seminar on the Enlightenment and Revolution, 1660-1830
Meeting Description: 
While the Enlightenment is commonly related to the process of nation building, my forthcoming book delineates the contour of a transcultural discourse, in which I highlight the influence of non-European cultures on German thinking in a key period of global modernity between 1756 and 1835. Although German intellectuals were fascinated with non-European cultures, the German lands, unlike Britain and France, did not have a central political power and colonies of their own. This difference challenges the basic assumptions of the critique of Empire and the Orientalist representations. Yet German thinkers also developed seminal (and disturbing) concepts such as racial hierarchy and historicist thinking about civilizations. This fact makes it difficult to uncritically embrace Enlightenment legacy. Moving beyond the question of empire or enlightenment, I use the German case as a less-trodden path to shift ground from predominantly critiquing Eurocentrism toward diligently detecting global connections and enhancing the visibility of non-European contributions in global modernity. Non-European cultures are not exotic or on the margins – rather they perform a constitutive force in German travel writings, literature, and philosophical discourse in the age of European colonial expansion. More concretely, my talk will focus on Kant’s lecture course Physical Geography as an example to demonstrate my general thesis. 
 
Chunjie Zhang is Assistant Professor of German at University of California, Davis. Her research focuses on eighteenth-century studies and Chinese-German literary and cultural relations. Engaging with postcolonial theory, her first book explores representations of non-European cultures in German discourse through the lenses of travel writing, literature, and philosophy. Her second book project engages with different visions of the global in German and Chinese modernisms.

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