How we present, represent, or envision ourselves is the result of dynamic discursive constructions. These are communicated through dialogue and depend on a range of contextual factors. The way in which we view ourselves is influenced by the way in which we view others and how they, in turn, view us. How we express these often-contradictory views of ourselves and others is, to a certain extent, determined by the linguistic means and discourse traditions of the language we use.
Our tendency to highlight these—often negative—contradictory characteristics makes it easier for us to distinguish between the image we have of ourselves and the image we have of others. This corresponds with the tendency, rooted in popular wisdom and common sense (Mandler 2006: 272), to construct identities using binary opposites. However, any understanding of difference can only make sense when paired with the concept of similarity. Indeed, the social sciences and many other disciplines have attached great importance to similarities and differences in the construction and interpretation of those narratives with which we create identities. Here, emphasis has traditionally been placed on how these processes of constructing and interpreting identity, as well as identity discourse, intersect and exist simultaneously—something which has greatly influenced how the construction of identity is analysed. However, from a global socio-political perspective, and for a variety of political, ideological, and hierarchical reasons, there has been a sharp increase in binary and essentialising—i.e., overly simplistic—stances regarding identity discourse and debate in recent years. This trend can also be seen across the Catalan-speaking territory, where the issue is more relevant than ever.
Hosted by the University of Bern, the 28th German-Catalan Conference 2022 aims to provide an opportunity to reflect on the causes, consequences, and dangers of these binarisms, as well as on the complex nature of how identities (or the images we have of these identities) come about or are constructed in Catalan-speaking areas and communities. If we wish to answer these questions, it seems particularly pertinent to take a multi-, inter- and transdisciplinary approach that incorporates both synchronic and diachronic perspectives from fields as diverse as linguistics, discourse analysis, translation studies, media studies, cultural studies, literature studies, and genre studies.
One example in which the necessity of using a transversal perspective is made clear can be found when observing how certain images of identity, reproduced by Catalan, Spanish or international media, are occasionally the result of perpetuating discursive representations in literary fiction (both contemporary and historical). In turn, these have the ability to create a conceptual framework that influences the perception of many “imagined” Catalan-speaking and foreign communities (Anderson 1983).
The 28th German-Catalan Conference aims to promote this plurality of perspectives and offer a space for critical, theoretical, and methodological reflections and case studies on the processes of creating, transmitting, and subverting images of the Catalan-speaking world—whether within the Catalan-speaking territory itself or from the perspective of other cultures—and thus also on the contradictions that these internal and external perspectives can imply.
Thus, it is with the goal of taking this plurality of perspectives into account—and for enabling its existence in the first place—that the German-Catalan Conference shall encompass the following thematic focal points:
● The construction of binary identities and identities within the literary system which challenge these binary positions.
● Discursive practices with regard to the Catalan-speaking territory; similarities and differences in the field of discourse analysis and media studies.
● How the ‘other’ is viewed and represented through language and translation and how this has changed throughout time as a result of various trends and tendencies.
● The linguistic representation of this relationship between similarity and difference, inclusion and exclusion.