Discourses of weakness and the futures of societies

We cordially invite you to attend our phase-ending conference on June 28th-30th 2018, including a keynote lecture given by distinguished economic historian Prof. Joel Mokyr (Northwestern University). Please see the text below for first information on the conference. The program will be added shortly. Please register at info@sfb1095.net

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Reflecting one’s own weakness and putting it into words almost always includes a certain amount of willingness to change. Or, to put it the other way round: for a historical formation, the willingness to develop its own abilities or to find new orientations towards the future quite often is linked to the establishment of a variety of discourses of weakness.

Adopting such a perspective has an impact on assessing processes of social innovation: the motivation to employ something “new” is less related to the question of genuine innovation but much more to the wish to change a social formation, since one’s own current status has been recognized as “being weak” in one or several respects. Innovation thus needs to be related not only to ingenuity but rather to the willingness to change oneself or the social formation to which one belongs, which in turn often is a consequence of perceived weakness.

In order to better understand how societies prepare themselves for the future, how they deploy and adjust resources and the role of assessments of weaknesses in this process, the conference will discuss the following topics:

1. Regional specifities and global entanglements.

2. How are discourses of weakness articulated in the domains of politics, economics, law, knowledge and other fields of the humanities?

3. How were discourses of weakness articulated in different historical periods including the distant past?

4. How are discourses of weakness related to cultural heritage, memory and imaginations of futures (past and present)?