Intellectuals, universalisms and the logics of universalization 2014

Workshop arranged by the Academy of Finland-project Asymmetries in European Cultural Space (University of Helsinki)

23-24.10.2014, Unioninkatu 38A, room A132 (Thursday 1415-1830, Friday 0900-1230)

Intellectuals, universalisms and the logics of universalization

This workshop addresses the topic of universalism(s) from the perspective of the peripheries.

It is often argued that intellectuals in geo-cultural centers are more prone than those from the peripheries to think that their debates and concepts are universal. This is not necessarily a matter of blind ethnocentrism, but rather a question of logics and values formed through practice and routine. In some cultures, local debates simply stand a greater chance of being universalized, thereby reducing the need to adjust to other particularisms.

By contrast, intellectuals in the peripheries are destined into a condition of constant adjustment to the categories and definitions of the centers. Of course, this does not mean that the intellectuals of the peripheries are passive receivers. Contrary, intellectuals from the peripheries tend to embrace a constructivist outlook, which sometimes translates into a mediating role in the international intellectual community, navigating between and adapting to rivaling universalisms. Indeed, perhaps it is only in the peripheries that that universalism is acknowledged as a plural? It has been argued that the peripheries in being “translation cultures” are more immune to universalistic outlooks (Henrik Stenius).

The “critical potential” of the mediating role of the peripheries lies in highlighting the historical particularities that have been lost out of sight in the de-historicizing process that accompanies the international circulation of philosophical and social ideas. But at the same time, when looking at how conceptual universalization actually happens, it can be argued that the roles are reversed. Here, the peripheries play a key role in appropriating concepts from particular debates in the core as if they were universally valid. Thus, universalization is something that actually takes place in the peripheries (Christopher L. Hill).

This workshop will address the role of the peripheries from the point of view of both of these dimensions: on the one hand we examine the peripheries as a source of de-universalizing historical perspectivism, and on the other hand we discuss the peripheries and their role in the logic of conceptual universalization.

The purpose of the workshop is to explore different approaches to the study of universalism and universalization.

The workshop is free and open for all.




1415-1430    Welcome and introduction, Stefan Nygård (University of Helsinki)

1430-1500    Christopher Hill (University of Michigan/Freie Universität, Berlin):

Universalisation on the Periphery: Process and Product

1500-1530    Comments by Henrik Stenius (University of Helsinki) + discussion


1600-1630    Martti Koskenniemi (University of Helsinki)

Oceanic Feelings: International Lawyers between the nation and the World

1630-1700    Martina Reuter (University of Jyväskylä):

Marginal women? Relocating women in the history of philosophy


1715-1745    Emila Palonen (University of Helsinki):

Hungarian intellectuals: universalizing the particular

1745-1815    Johan Strang (University of Helsinki):

Peripheral eclecticism and Swedish universalism


0900-0930    Jyrki Nummi (University of Helsinki)

Li Po and Finnish Poetry: The Problem of Inter-Peripheral Relations

0930-1000    Agneta Rahikainen (Swedish Literature Society, Helsinki):

The Centre and the Peripheral – Bio(mytho)graphical interpretations of the avant-garde poet Edith Södergran’s poetic landscape and cultural identity

1000-1030    Marja Jalava (University of Helsinki):

Universalism and Particularism in the Interwar Norwegian Social History


1100-1130    Alex Drace-Francis (University of Amsterdam):

Universalism and regionalism in European literary history

1130-1200    Lauri Tähtinen (Brown University/University of Helsinki):

Brazil from Scholastic Millenarianism into the Lusotropical Future

1200-1230    Concluding discussion

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