Interdisciplinary Graduate Programme 619: Contact Area Mare Balticum: Foreignness and
Integration in the Baltic Region.
Call for Papers
Alfried Krupp Kolleg Greifswald
Love, Strangers and the Foreign. Xenophilia from the perspective of the Humanities and
Encounters with the foreign are usually considered as a disruptive or incongruous experience
that the individual perceives in his/her totality, and which refers to his/her emotions at the
same time. Thus, the stranger or the foreign can become the object of animosity, antipathy or
even hatred, and intensify existing tendencies towards separation or legitimate these anew. On
the other hand, love for the stranger or the foreign (xenophilia) is also frequently found in
different contexts. Xenophilia can be described as a phenomenon that crosses boundaries or as
a means of convergence between different cultural and individual positions. Both perspectives
on the foreign implicate changes that are manifested in the emotions, the thinking and the
actions of the protagonists. The interdisciplinary conference organized by the Graduate
Programme “Contact Area Mare Balticum” in Greifswald aims to analyse the manifold facets
of these processes of change which occur between the poles of love and foreignness.
The term Fremde(n) (the strange, the foreign) in general should be understood in the sense of
the German philosopher Bernhard Waldenfels. He points out: „Fremd ist erstens, was
außerhalb des eigenen Bereiches vorkommt […] und was in der Form von ‚Fremdling’ […]
personifiziert wird. Fremd ist zweitens, was einem Anderen gehört […]. Als fremd erscheint
[aber auch] drittens, was von fremder Art ist und als fremdartig gilt […]. Es sind also die drei
Aspekte des Ortes, des Besitzes und der Art, die das Fremde gegenüber dem Eigenen
auszeichnen.“ (Topographie des Fremden, Frankfurt am Main 1997, p. 20.)
From this point of view, the strange is seen as an idea, but also as reality in three different
dimensions – location , property and nature – which serve to distinguish it from the known.
Waldenfels’ concept also refers to the personal level. Our conference opens the floor for
interdisciplinary discussions on the role of love in the context of contact and exchange
between the representatives of foreign cultures.
In literature, the love of foreign is shown and discussed as subject, topos, idea, myth or taboo.
Literary studies examine the effects of the love of a foreigner, language, culture, idea etc.,
how this is depicted in literary texts, and propose ways of interpreting these representations.
Relevant questions include: the importance of cultural myths in the problematic nexus of love
and foreignness, and how love of the foreign(er) can help to overcome xenophobia? Another
interesting area of inquiry is firstly what it is about the foreign that the person experiencing
such a love loves, and secondly whether the loss of the sense of foreignness through the
appropriation of the foreign makes a contradiction of the love of the foreign. If love by
definition requires contact with an Other, this Other must remain other, i.e. in order to speak
of love, the individuality of the Other must be maintained. This raises the question of how
much difference love is able to endure, and whether any experience of love for the strange(r)
does not in fact necessitate some form of appropriation of the foreign. These issues open up a
field of research on how the notion of love can be related to the key philosophical distinction
between the self and the other. This may be of crucial importance for the philosophical
interpretation of intercultural contacts. To this end, we welcome contributions from different
perspectives of the current philosophical discourse, ranging from phenomenology to cultural
Relations between people from different cultural backgrounds also mould communicative
processes. In addition, cultural distinctions become tangible especially due to the fact that, in
such contexts, interlocutors use of different languages. For this reason, the field of linguistics
can make an important contribution to the conference topic. On the one hand, the
characteristics of the language of love may serve as the point of departure in a discussion,
which could be based, for instance, on Roland Barthes’ “Fragments d’un discours amoureux”.
On the other hand, by adopting a contact linguistic perspective, it is possible to focus on the
tension between the appreciation or love of one’s mother tongue and the love of foreign
languages, i.e. on the progressive change and potential alienation of a language as a result of
its contact or amalgamation with other linguistic codes. Issues worth considering concern, for
example, the concrete outcomes of language contacts as well as the question of how these
outcomes are perceived socially and ‘assessed’.
Further insights into the issue may be gained from social psychology. Reflections on the
development of empathy and affection for or trust in foreigners and the effects of this are of
particular relevance here. In addition, it may be interesting to examine the causes of
intergroup conflict and xenophobia as well ways to overcome these. How can antipathy and
animosity turn into acceptance, affection or even love? What role does intergroup contact play
in this context? How can intergroup conflicts be reduced by friendships or love relations
between members of different groups?
These issues provide the basis for an academic approach to the topic of xenophilia in the
humanities and social sciences. The conference offers a forum for interdisciplinary discussion
on the latest research, and the proceedings may be published at a later date.
Applications (including a short curriculum vitae and an abstract (ca. 200 words)) should be
sent by post or e-mail to the following address:
"Contact Area Mare Balticum"
Department of History
Dr. Alexander Drost
Coordinator of the Graduate Programme
"Contact Area Mare Balticum"
Department of History
The deadline for applications is 29th February 2008.
Successful applicants will be informed by 31st March 2008.
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