New Lecture Series: “Ties that Bind Us: Transcultural Perspectives on Social Forms”


VUB research groups CLIC and VISU are pleased to announce a new lecture series at the Faculty of Languages and Humanities at Vrije Universiteit Brussel. The impact of global and geopolitical crises on European societies is becoming increasingly noticeable. Common reactions to them manifest themselves in a growing societal divide and a rise in anti-democratic positions. The public imaginary appears to be ‘highjacked’ by a rhetoric in which the erection of walls, the demarcation of territory and claims of ownership dominate. Crushed between polarised camps are vulnerable members of our societies and thus humanity itself. Individuals with their complex identities are categorised into groups whose belonging, right to existence even, is called into question.  

Social Forms of Solidarity: A Response to Polarisation
The series “Ties that Bind Us: Transcultural Perspectives on Social Forms” responds to the urgent need for advocating the value of an open society that is equipped to accommodate diversity in a changing world. The creation and maintenance of an open society based on the premises of human rights involves continuous efforts. These efforts, however great they may be, are worth taking, because the ‘alternatives’ are inevitably projections that involve the domination of some and the oppression of others. Undisguised models of the latter are detectable in white supremacist or anti-LGBTQ positions which have become increasingly vocal across the globe and also in Europe. Problematic demarcations of belonging have also been a constant, longstanding feature of debates about migration, which have a tendency to surface in moments of crisis. Although the social fabric and lived experience of individuals is marked by highly complex engagements and interactions with others and although a variety of models of kinship determine individuals’ lived experiences, the “Us versus Them” mode has once more become a dominant pattern in the public imaginary in our present era of ‘multicrises’. The dominant imaginary appears to be increasingly divorced from the complex reality inhabited by individuals and threatens viable models of conviviality.  

“Ties that Bind Us”, hence, advocates the need to reimagine, and work towards, a society that is able to (1) accommodate the realities of diversity and change and (2) frame these dynamic processes as strengths. It seeks to create a platform for a wide range of perspectives, life experiences and cultures of knowledge about forms of kinship, solidarity and conviviality in order to counter an increasingly widespread, yet dangerously reductive binary thinking.  

Transcultural Perspectives on Europe and the Anthropocene
Importantly, when beheld in the larger, geopolitical perspective, the future viability of European societies will depend upon their capacity for opening up to non-European narratives. Life in Europe and Western Societies is, like perhaps nowhere else, marked by the transcultural entanglements of its members. Europe has been a destination and a point of departure throughout the anthropocene. It has never been an island, and neither should it imagine itself as one in a world facing challenges that afflict humans across the globe. While awareness of the pitfalls of placing the human centre stage is apt, a return to a culture which embraces humanity in its diversity and individual human rights as nonnegotiable common ground seems a prerequisite for tackling the challenges that the world is facing.

The first event in this series is a guest lecture by Prof. Dr. Kwame Anthony Appiah (NYU).
24/06/2024, 16:30-18:30
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Would you like to get involved?

Prof. dr. Benoît Henriet, History 
Prof. dr. Eva Ulrike Pirker, English and Comparative Literature / CLIC / LIST  
Prof. dr. Katarzyna Ruchel-Stockmans, Art History / VISU / CLIC

Cross-faculty cooperation: 
Prof. dr. Caterina Carta, BSoG, CSDS, FACES 

Lieven Gevaert Centre
KU Leuven, Faculty of Arts
Blijde Inkomststraat 21 pb 3313
B-3000 Leuven

Lieven Gevaert Centre
UC Louvain, Archéologie et d'histoire d'art
FIAL - Place Blaise Pascal 1 bte L3.03.13
B-1348 Louvain-la-Neuve