« Une autre politique du monde ne reposant plus nécessairement sur la différence ou l’altérité, mais sur une certaine idée du semblable et de l’en-commun, est-elle possible ? »

– Achille Mbembe, Politiques de l’inimitié


The Minor Universality project aims to contribute to the debate on universality after Western universalism. Starting from the essential role narration plays in collective imaginaries, it seeks to understand how a new consciousness of universality is under way of being produced in contemporary social practices and cultural expressions such as oral transmissions and narrations of the self, literatures and archives, films and festivals, curatorial spaces and museums. Building on the importance of such concepts as concreteness, reparation, relation and translation, it wants to re-expand the material and medial turns to processes of experience, reflection and agency.


Minor Universality, Cultural Translation, and the Politics of Language after Western Universalism

University of Hong Kong, June 26-28, 2024

Roundtable co-organised by The School of English at the University of Hong Kong (Christopher HUTTON) and the ERC-Project Minor Universality, Saarland University (Hélène THIÉRARD)

At the heart of power relations throughout modern history, translation and the politics of language have played an essential role in shaping the narratives of collective imaginaries, whether we think of the alleged superiority of English (and more generally of Western languages) over the languages of colonised people, or the construction of national languages and identities, not to mention postcolonial counter-discourses on translanguaging. Building on this centrality of translation and politics of language in both universalist and relativist discourses, we seek to understand how new, minor forms of universality are under way of being produced in contemporary cultural practices.







Panel discussion: Restitution of African cultural heritage

May 24, 2024 - Institut français Mainz – 07:00 PM

On 24 May 2024, Clément Nde Fongang took part in a panel discussion on the future of the restitution of African cultural heritage at the Institut français Mainz. Initiated by the New Afro Team as part of their exhibition "Restitution ... und dann? / Restitution... et après?", the discussion featured panelists, including Dr Anna-Maria Brandstetter, curator and director of the Institute of Ethnology and African Studies at the University of Mainz, along with four artists.

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22 May 2024 – Closing event of the ERC Project Minor Universality

In cooperation with the Käte Hamburger Centre for Cultural Practices of Reparation (CURE)

The ERC Project Minor Universality. Narrative World Productions After Western Universalism took up its work in September 2019 and will now be concluded with a day of discussions, presentations, and lectures with our esteemed guest and collaborator Prof David Scott (Columbia).
We will also be launching for the first time all books published until now in our series Beyond Universalism? Studies on the Contemporary (de Gruyter).

Organised by the Minor Universality project (ERC) in cooperation with the Käte Hamburger Centre for Cultural Practices of Reparation (CURE).

If you have any questions, feel free to contact the scientific coordinator of the ERC project Minor Universality Dr. Jonas Tinius (jonas.tinius(at)uni-saarland.de).




Lecture "Champollion before the College de France: a Micro-Historic Inquiry"

May 2, 2024 | 11:00 AM - 01:00 PM | Bibliotheca Hertziana, Max Planck Institute for Art History, Rome

On 2 May 2024, Professor Markus Messling will hold a lecture-cum-seminar at the Bibliotheca Hertziana - Max Plack Institute for Art History (Rome):
The statue of Jean-François Champollion, the decipherer of the Egyptian hieroglyphs, was designed by Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi for the 1867 Universal Exhibition in Paris. The Third Republic installed it in the Collège de France. As an expression of the imperial consciousness of world and knowledge, the statue is undermined by its own pictorial programme and refers to problems of French universalism that Champollion himself had already reflected on.

It will be possible to follow the event also online on a VIMEO channel through the following link: https://vimeo.com/event/4177261

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La littérature face au monde

Regards croisés franco-allemands avec Markus Messling et Jean-Marc Moura

L'Institut d'Études Françaises Saarbrücken reçoit le 23 avril 2024 deux professeurs invités, Markus Messling (Université de la Sarre) et Jean-Marc Moura (Université Paris Nanterre) pour un dialogue croisé autour de leurs deux livres parus récemment : Universalität nach dem Universalismus. Über frankophone Literaturen der Gegenwart (2019) et La totalité littéraire. Théories et enjeux de la littérature mondiale (2023). Originairement conçue pour la semaine franco-allemande en février, la soirée a été repoussée pour des raisons de santé.

Nous vivons une période mouvementée qui pose de manière parfois douloureuse la question de la communauté. Comment envisager le « faire ensemble » lorsque les conflits sourdent sur tous les continents ? Comment construire un futur commun après les vicissitudes de l’héritage colonial et la violence des guerres passées ? Quels sont les liens qui nous unissent aux autres, au sein d’une société mondialisée ?
La littérature nous fournit, tout au long de son histoire et jusqu’aux écritures les plus contemporaines, différents modèles pour envisager ces communautés culturelles, mondiales, universelles – et pour réfléchir aux fondements, peut-être, de celles qu’il nous appartient d’inventer.

Modération : Anne-Sophie Donnarieix

19h | IEF | Villa Europa | Kohlweg 7 | 66123 Saarbrücken
Entrée libre



Lectures and discussions: State of the Arts. A Ethnography of German Theatre and Migration

March 7 & 13, 2024 - University of Cambridge and University College London

Our scientific coordinator and postdoc in Cultural Anthropology, Jonas Tinius, has held two book presentations on his recent monograph State of the Arts  (Cambridge University Press, 2023) at the Department of Anthropology at the University of Cambridge and University College London. The event in Cambridge was co-hosted by the German Graduate Research Seminars and the Cambridge University Social Anthropology Society, and Prof Martin Ruehl (German / History) responded to the presentation. In London, Profs Martin Holbraad and Georgina Born (both UCL) responded to the lecture. 

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Lecture "Universalism and the Politics of Memory: The Case of Jean-François Champollion"

March 14, 2024 | 15-17 Uhr | Napoli

Seminar Series "AROUND MODERNITY: Genealogies, Critiques, Deconstructions"

On 14 March 2024, Professor Markus Messling will hold a lecture-cum-seminar at the Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II. The lecture is dedicated to the public memory of Champollion and the problem of French universalism from Champollion's world consciousness to today's discussions about the Champollion statue standing in front of the Collège de France. The event takes place by invitation of Professor Raffaele Carbone as part of the lecture series "Around Modernity: Genealogies, Critiques, Deconstructions" at the Dipartimento di Studi umanistici. Further information: raffaele.carbone@unina.it









Universalism & reparation

A conversation with David Scott (Columbia, New York)

For this edition, we spoke with anthropologist David Scott about postcoloniality, utopia, and cultural practices as a prism for reflecting upon questions of universality. Starting from the question of what happened to the promise of freedom after 1989 and to anti-colonial utopias, David Scott argues that these promises have failed, and that understanding the reasons for this failure must provide the basis for repairing and refashioning our future. Drawing on different perspectives - philosophical, socio-cultural and literary - we first discussed how to think about universality from a situated position, or how to conduct research in post-colonial spaces. Then, using the concept of an "ethic of generosity", Scott elaborates on how such an ethic can inform contemporary cultural politics and the questioning of identity and difference. Refocusing the importance of style and form for intellectual traditions and artistic practice, the conversation ends with a reflection on the past and the future: how can we link literature, postcolonial history and tragedy, so as to avoid fatalism and open up new possibilities of our societies? Does this involve revolution or reparation?

The interview on YouTube




Lecture "Vers la négociation de nouvelles formes de relationnalité : Les enjeux du passé colonial entre le Sud global et l'Europe"

October 27, 2023 - Europäische Akademie Otzenhausen

As part of the Académie Européenne d'Automne of the Europäische Akademie Otzenhausen in cooperation with the Asko Europa-Stiftung, the Konrad Adenauer-Stiftung and the Centre international de formation européenne on the topic "L'Union européenne et le Maghreb : défis, enjeux et perspectives de coopération pour l'avenir", in which politically and civically engaged young people from Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Mauritania took part, Azyza Deiab gave a lecture as a doctoral student in the Minor Universality Project on 27 October 2023 on the topic "Vers la négociation de nouvelles formes de relationnalité : Les enjeux du passé colonial entre le Sud global et l'Europe".



Recently published: The English translation of "Universalität nach dem Universalismus"

Following the French translation, Prof Messling's book Universalität nach dem Universalismus. Über frankophone Literaturen der Gegenwart  (2019, Matthes & Seitz) has now also been translated into English by Michael Thomas Taylor as Universality after Universalism. On Francophone Literatures of the Present (Berlin/Boston: de Gruyter, series "Beyond Universalism. Studies on the Contemporary").

The idea of universalism inherited from the French Revolution has been strongly discredited by its colonial history; today, it is also the target of nationalist attacks. What remains of it? Now available in English, Markus Messling's critically acclaimed study shows how contemporary Francophone literatures seek, after European universalism, approaches to a new universality, without which knowledge and justice cannot be organised in world society. 

With a foreword by Souleymane Bachir Diagne

More on the book






Présentation de « L'universel après l'universalisme » à Paris

A l'occasion de la parution de L'universel après l'universalisme. Des littératures francophones du contemporain (trad. Olivier Mannoni, préface de Souleymane Bachir Diagne, Presses universitaires de France), Markus Messling est invité à des présentations de son livre à Paris.

Il sera à la Maison de la recherche de la Sorbonne nouvelle le lundi 16 octobre 2023, pour une présentation de son livre et un débat avec Alexandre Gefen. Vendredi 20 octobre, il sera en discussion au Théâtre du Vieux-Colombier, modérée par Anne-Sophie Donnarieix, dans le cadre de la 14e édition des rencontres « Littérature, enjeux contemporains », organisées par la Maison des écrivains et de la littérature.

La soirée-débat à la Sorbonne nouvelle

Les rencontres Littérature, enjeux contemporains






Just published: Minor Universality. Rethinking Humanity After Western Universalism / Universalité mineure. Penser l’humanité après l’universalisme occidental

edited by Markus Messling und Jonas Tinius (de Gruyter, 2023)

The circulation and entanglements of human beings, data, and goods have not necessarily and by themselves generated a universalising consciousness. The "global" and the "universal", in other words, are not the same. The idea of a world-society remains highly contested. Our times are marked by the fragmentation of a double relativistic character: the inevitable critique of Western universalism on the one hand, and resurgent identitarian and neo-nationalistic claims to identity on the other. Sources of an argumentation for a strong universalism brought forward by Western traditions such as Christianity, Marxism, and Liberalism have largely lost their legitimation. All the while, manifold and situated narratives of a common world that re-address the universal are under way of being produced and gain significance. This volume tracks the development and relevance of such cultural and social practices that posit forms of what we call minor universality. It asks: Where and how do contemporary practices open up concrete settings so as to create experiences, reflections and agencies of a shared humanity?

With contributions by Isaac Bazié, Anil Bhatti, Jean-Luc Chappey, Elsie Cohen, Leyla Dakhli, Souleymane Bachir Diagne, Nicole Fischer, Albert Gouaffo, Stefan Helgesson, Fatma Hotait, Christopher M. Hutton, Ananya Jahanara Kabir, Mario Laarmann, Rukmini Bhaya Nair, Olivier Remaud, Gisèle Sapiro, Bénédicte Savoy, Maria-Anna Schiffers, Laurens Schlicht, Sergio Ugalde Quintana, Hélène Thierard, Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll.

Part of the series: Beyond Universalism. Studies of the Contemporary, edited by Markus Messling

More on the book




Book launch and panel discussion: Politics of Memory

16 June 2023, 18:00-20:00, Spreeufer 6, Berlin


On the occasion of the recently published edited volume on Reparation, Restitution, and the Politics of Memory, we cordially invite you to a panel discussion with a reading by hn. lyonga. After the event, the premises of Barazani.Berlin will be open for further exchange over snacks and drinks.

More on the book / Free download­­­









La traduction française de « Universalität nach dem Universalismus » est sortie

Le livre Universalität nach dem Universalismus. Über frankophone Literaturen der Gegenwart (2019, Matthes & Seitz) est maintenant disponible dans la traduction d'Olivier Mannoni sous le titre L'universel après l'universalisme. Des littératures francophones du contemporain paru aux Presses universitaires de France (PUF). Le livre est publié avec une préface de Souleymane Bachir Diagne.

La mise en œuvre coloniale qui en a été faite a fortement discrédité le concept d'universalisme sur le plan politique. Dans le même temps, les idéaux d'une société mondiale cosmopolite, qui vont de pair avec lui, font l'objet d'attaques toujours plus vives des forces nationalistes. Que reste-t-il des idéaux universalistes ? Cette question est traitée dans des littératures contemporaines francophones que Markus Messling analyse comme une remise en cause radicale de ces idéaux qui ont jadis trouvé leur capitale à Paris, avec la Révolution française : liberté, égalité et solidarité. Comment trouver après l'universalisme européen les approches d'une nouvelle universalité sans laquelle il est impossible d'organiser connaissance et justice dans la société mondiale ? Cette question se révèle être un problème de mise en forme narrative du monde.

« Le livre de Markus Messling pose une thèse, essentielle, qui est que la fin de l'universalisme européen n'est pas celle de l'universalité mais peut-être bien son commencement. Les lectures d'auteurs 'francophones' aussi divers que Mathias Enard, Léonora Miano, Kossi Efoui, Camille de Toledo, Shumona Sinha ou Wajdi Mouawad disent, à leur manière propre, contre la seule 'soumission' à une 'mélancolie' n'ouvrant sur rien, que la fin de l'universalisme européen est la tâche de retourner la 'nostalgie' en 'ressource pour l'avenir'. C'est-à-dire, contre la prétention d'un universalisme impérialiste, de savoir faire usage de la capacité de relativiser et de la force décolonisatrice qui lui est attachée, mais en sachant également ne pas s'enfermer dans un relativisme qui ne traduirait alors qu'une conception carcérale des identités culturelles. Ce livre invite et aide à penser cet universel (multi)latéral dont le temps est maintenant. »

Souleymane Bachir Diagne, Columbia University

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