Subversive Semantics in Political and Cultural Discourse

International Symposium at Rostock University, November, 12 – 14, 2020

Inspired by the large-scale occurrence of phenomena of semantic transfer and rhetorical inversion currently to be observed in right wing discourses and ‘alternative knowledge’ production, the symposium seeks to analyze processes of resemanticization (Umdeutung) of cultural concepts and narratives aimed at establishing hermeneutic hegemony in the political field. Special attention will be paid to discourses on “development” (with reference to the relations between Global North and Global South, e.g. the argument of overpopulation); reformulations of the meaning of nation and national identity; the rhetorical maneuvers of right-wing populism (how does it differ from leftist populisms?); the discursive construction of the urban-rural divide (in the context of climate change, corporate agroindustry, and rural ecofacism); and the seductiveness of conspiracy narratives (e.g. in the discourse of climate denial).

In all named fields, we can observe reinterpretations of existing narratives and motifs, aimed at obtaining power of interpretation/discursive hegemony and to prevent necessary reforms. We want to analyze to what extent such maneuvers serve to establish new and powerful belief systems beyond rational and democratic control, and why it is that societies priding themselves with their technological and rational excellence, as well as the accessibility of an immense amount of knowledge, yet have to fear that democracy, and planetary survival itself, may fall victim to an expanding communicative ‘culture’ of ignorance and doubt frequently coupled with a general hostility toward life (including non-human life).

Contributors are asked to address any one of the mentioned thematic fields, or a combination of several of them, and to pay particular attention to the rhetorical manufacturing of opinions through the control of emotions and the manipulation of tacit knowledges. The aim is to arrive at a complete knowledge of the arsenal of methods, topoi, and mythical narratives employed in processes of resemanticization (Umdeutung), as well as a better understanding of how these tactics establish hermeneutic power.

Graduate School “Deutungsmacht. Religion und Belief Systems in Deutungsmachtkonflikten / Hermeneutic Hegemony and Hermeneutic Conflict in the Context of Religions and Belief Systems”

Tobias Götze: deutungsmacht(at)uni-rostock(dot)de
Gesa Mackenthun: gesa.mackenthun(at)uni-rostock(dot)de
Jörn Dosch: joern.dosch(at)uni-rostock(dot)de

See the Event Website (Link)