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Last year, against the backdrop of intensifying global crises, the annual conference of ReCentGlobe asked whether the framework for social transformations is fundamentally shifting. The beginning of 2023 is again marked by political, ecological, social, and economic crises of global dimensions. We want to focus on the interactions between such crises and epistemic fragmentations, i.e. the fundamental contestation of established worldviews, knowledge and value systems.

Crisis interpretations are built on the foundation of comprehensive worldviews, knowledge and value systems, which we would like to call epistemes. These often claim universal validity although they are usually formulated from particular perspectives. Crisis accumulation, subjectively perceived and then postulated by political actors and the media, together with competing interpretations of the crisis, has often triggered a meta-crisis: an epistemic crisis.

The epistemic crisis of the present is intensified by the fact that the diversification of value systems within limited territories is radically accelerated by a highly differentiated media system, migration, religious and cultural pluralisation, and changing knowledge cultures. In the process, the coexistence of fundamentally different narratives leads to the formation of epistemic milieus with a limited ability to communicate with each other. At the same time, in the digital age, these milieus are increasingly networking globally and thus spreading their narratives, for example in the form of conspiracy theories. Socially binding plausibility structures are eroding, as is the epistemic authority of science, media and politics. Since the hyper-complexity of the modern world, characterised by multiple crises, increases the need for cognitive and normative orientation, those interpretations that offer simple, monocausal explanations for the causes of the crises seem to be particularly successful in order to avoid cognitive dissonance.

This local diversification and global diffusion of competing epistemes, radically accelerated by digital communication, marks a new global dynamic that makes the present seem all the more like a critical juncture. Global crises and epistemic fragmentation accelerate each other.

But even if the range and speed of the global spread of competing epistemes have massively increased, the often-used counter-image of a pre-modern epistemic homogeneity is hardly tenable. Crisis awareness has always and everywhere been part of basic human experience. Religious orders, brotherhoods, and sects, for example, have often emerged both in Europe and in Asia as a reaction to multiple crises. The extent to which one can speak of overarching common knowledge and value systems below basic cosmological assumptions across often rigid social status boundaries would also have to be examined in detail.

Last but not least, from a global perspective, the value order of the "West" with its self-assured claim to universal validity and permeating global expansion proves to be a particular episteme that competes with others.

We invite proposals for panels that examine the interactions between social, economic, political, or ecological crises and epistemic fragmentations in the present and the past. Possible questions in this context could be:

  • How do crisis events, their perception and interpretation in different regions of the world influence each other in the past and present?
  • Which epistemic milieus with their actors, interests, and strategic alliances can be identified? What are their hierarchies, conditions of emergence and underlying demarcation mechanisms?
  • Under what conditions do comprehensive and lasting paradigm shifts occur that result in the overthrow of a given (epistemic) order?
  • Can parallels be identified in historical comparison between present and past epistemic and social upheavals (Reformation, Enlightenment, imperialism, colonialism)?

Panels will last two hours and should therefore include 3 to max 4 contributions and eventually a comment. The composition of panels should respect as much as possible the various aspects of diversity in terms of gender, disciplinary backgrounds, perspectives.

Deadline: 21. February 2023

Please send your panel proposals to miriam.meinekat(at)