Lecture series “Narration and community”

The lecture series on "Narration and community" features three lectures with subsequent discussion by Carla Seemann (Saarland University), Adania Shibli (HKW Berlin/Bir Zeit University) and Laurent Demanze (Université Grenoble Alpes).


The programme of the series



Universalism & knowledge(s)

A conversation with Gisèle Sapiro (EHESS, Paris)

For the third episode of our series, the Minor Universality research team spoke with sociologist Gisèle Sapiro. This conversation reflects on the political relevance of a sociological quest for objectivity and rationality in an era of alternative facts and identity politics. Building on the Bourdieuian sociological tradition, she surveys the pervasive impact of a thinking across the threshold of a subject-object distinction. Can the habitus operate a cross-cultural analytic for interrogating fields for the concrete production of a minor universality? The emphasis on processes for the production of knowledge leads, eventually, to the relation between Pierre Bourdieu and Jacques Derrida, who were close to one another since the Algerian war. Do we have to defend Derrida and deconstruction against the accusation of rendering impossible any notion of truth?


The interview on YouTube




Launch of ERC & HKW Residency Programme


We are excited to have launched our residency programme in collaboration with the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW) in Berlin with a first digital meeting. Over the course of 2021, the six invited artists will develop idiosyncratic perspectives on narration, curation, and minor universality, leading to an exhibition in Berlin in 2022. For more information on the residency and the fellows, please visit the dedicated project website.



Universalism & concrete (hi)stories

An Encounter with Giovanni Levi (Università Ca’ Foscari di Venezia)

Historian Giovanni Levi is in conversation with the Minor Universality research team about the tradition of the microstoria, which he co-founded in Italy in the 1970s. The historiographic approach of the microstoria, which found a resounding echo first in Europe, and then later in the United States, responded at the time to a crisis of the discipline by proposing to abandon the study of masses and structures, and to place individual actors and concrete narratives at the centre of its inquiry. Looking at ordinary worlds through a microscope, as it were, produced the kind of shift that changed our understanding of History. For this reason, the microstoria has for years been debated within the framework of a global history. What resources does the microstoria offer to rethink universalism?


The interview on YouTube



New book series: Beyond Universalism. Studies on the Contemporary / Partager l’universel. Études sur le contemporain

The first volume 1769-1989: The Epoch of Universalism / L’époque de l’universalisme, ed. by Franck Hofmann & Markus Messling, has just been published.

2019 witnessed the 30th anniversary of the German reunification. But the remembrance of the fall of the Berlin Wall coincided with another event of global importance that caught much less attention: the 250th anniversary of Napoleon Bonaparte’s birth. There is an undeniable historical and philosophical dimension to this coincidence. Napoleon’s appearance on the scene of world history seems to embody European universalism (soon thereafter in the form of a ‘modern’ imperial project); whilst scholars such as Francis Fukuyama saw in the events of 1989 its historical fulfilment. Today, we see more clearly that the fall of the Berlin Wall stands for an epistemic earthquake, which generated a world that can no longer be grasped through universal concepts. Here, we deal with the idea of Europe and of its relation to the world itself. Picking up on this contingency of world history with an ironic wink, the volume analyses in retrospect the epoch of European universalism. It focusses on its dialectics, polemically addressing and remembering both 1769 and 1989.


More on the book


Free download



Histoire / histoires

Le concret et l’universel dans les SHS

Konkretheit und Universalität in den Kultur- und Sozialwissenschaften

Atelier de recherche à la Villa Vigoni, 2-6 septembre 2020

Internationaler Workshop in der Villa Vigoni, 2.-6. September 2020

ERC Minor Universality en coopération avec/in Kooperation mit:

Villa Vigoni – German-Italian Center for the European Dialogue

Der internationale Workshop des ERC-Projekts „Minor Universality“ widmet sich einer zentralen Frage der gegenwärtigen Kultur- und Sozialwissenschaften: Wie kann Universalität nach der notwendigen epistemischen und ethischen Kritik am westlichen Universalismus (noch) gedacht werden? Ausgehend von Konzepten wie Konkretheit und Situiertheit, Erzählung und Übersetzung, Erinnerung und Geschichte, lädt die Tagung NachwuchswissenschaftlerInnen aus den Kultur- und Sozialwissenschaften ein, Fallstudien zur Erforschung von Situiertheit und Universalität aus verschiedenen disziplinären und wissenschaftskulturellen Perspektiven zu diskutieren. Von einem methodenkritischen Standpunkt aus möchte das „Minor Universality“-Forschungsprojekt neue Impulse zur Erforschung von Universalisierungsprozessen setzen, wie sie aus Spannungen zwischen Lokalem und Allgemeinem, Verkörperung und Bewusstsein, Empirie und Theorie auftreten. Eine wesentliche Grundlage der Diskussion wird die Microstoria darstellen.

L’atelier de recherche du projet de recherche ERC « Minor Universality » sera dédié à une question fondamentale des sciences humaines et sociales contemporaines : comment aborder l’universel après la nécessaire critique épistémique et éthique de l’universalisme occidental ? En s’appuyant sur des concepts tels que la matérialité et la réparation, la narration et la traduction, l’atelier de recherche invite de jeunes chercheur_e_s à répondre à la question de savoir comment des pratiques culturelles et sociales contemporaines produisent, à partir de contextes concrets, des expériences, des réflexions et des agentivités qui contribuent à faire émerger une humanité partagée. Mettant l’accent sur les défis méthodologiques de l’étude du concret et de l’universel, le projet de recherche vise à réfléchir sur les processus d’universalisation générés par des tensions entre le local et l’universel, l’incorporation et la conscience, l’empirisme et la théorie. Une source importante d’inspiration sera la micro-histoire.

Keynote und/et interview mit/avec Giovanni Levi (Università Ca’ Foscari di Venezia)

Leitung/Sous la direction de Markus Messling (ERC Minor Universality, Universität des Saarlandes)

Veuillez trouver le programme par le lien; das Programm finden Sie hier.


Universalism & Revolution

An Encounter with Leyla Dakhli

The Minor Universality research team interviews the historian Leyla Dakhli about universalism and the recent revolutions in the Arab Mediterranean region. Can we understand the revolutionary events of the contemporary world based on models of the French Revolution of 1789? Which claims to universality are at stake in revolutions and their interpretations?

A conversation about revolution and world history, transregional perspectives and multilingualism, events and the quotidian, materiality and archives, as well as the Mediterranean as a space for the negotiation of a new common world-society, which cannot be thought without taking into account colonial violence. These aspects connect to the core question of the Minor Universality research project, which addresses the potential of micro-perspectives to narrate universality anew.

Leyla Dakhli is a historian and a specialist in the intellectual and social history of the contemporary Arab world. She is researcher at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and the Centre Marc Bloch in Berlin.

You can watch the edited conversation on the Minor Universality YouTube channel.


Universalisme & Révolution

Entretien avec Leyla Dakhli

L’historienne Leyla Dakhli répond aux questions de l’équipe de recherche Minor Universality sur l’universalisme et les récentes révolutions de la Méditerranée arabe. Peut-on rendre compte des événements révolutionnaires du monde contemporain à partir du modèle de la Révolution Française de 1789 ? Quelle universalité les révolutions – et les lectures qui en sont faites – font-elles valoir ?

L’entretien porte sur la révolution et l’histoire mondiale et interroge les rapports entre approche transrégionale et plurilinguisme, événementialité et vie quotidienne, matérialité et archives. Envisager la Méditerranée comme un espace où se négocie une nouvelle société mondiale commune, c’est penser celle-ci à partir de l’histoire de la violence coloniale. Tous ces aspects renvoient à une question centrale du projet Minor Universality concernant le potentiel de la micro-perspective pour appréhender l’universalité autrement.

Leyla Dakhli est spécialiste de l’histoire sociale et intellectuelle du monde arabe contemporain. Elle est chargée de recherche au Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) et rattachée au Centre Marc Bloch à Berlin.

L’entretien sera disponible sur la chaîne YouTube du groupe Minor Universality à partir du 14 juillet.



A first conference was organized at Villa Europa Saarbrücken in September 2019, bringing together many project partners:


The current year will be characterized by the 30th anniversary of the German unification. But the remembrance of the fall of the Berlin Wall coincides with another event of worldwide importance that finds much less attention: Napoléon Bonaparte’s 250th anniversary. However, the historical-philosophical dimension of the coexistence of these two circumstances cannot be neglected: Napoléon’s appearance on the scene of world history marks the victory of European Universalism (very soon in the form of a ‘modern’ Imperial project); and some intellectuals, as Francis Fukuyama, thought that 1989 would have signified its historical fulfilment. Today, we see more clearly that the fall of the Wall stands for an epistemic earthquake which the Parisian philosopher Lionel Ruffel has called the “brouhaha” of a world that can be grasped no more through universal concepts. Here we deal with the idea of Europe and of its relation to the world itself. Picking up this contingency of world history with an ironic wink, the symposium seeks to analyse in the aftermath the epoch of European Universalism, focussing on its dialectics which are polemically addressed together remembering 1769/1989.