To this day the European image of the Humanities in Asia is that pragmatism and an orientation toward mundane concerns dominate work in the humanities there. The image is of a learnedness that might more accurately be labeled “wisdom” and that concerns itself with such pragmatic questions as how to deal with particular religions, or with the absence of institutionally determined faith, or with religious conflicts. This image is in contrast to the systematic search for truth associated with the Western concept of Philosophy. The new cultural studies approach in the Humanities in Europe, particularly in the context of international cooperation in the Humanities, has modified this view of the Humanities in Asia by bringing under scrutiny images of the self and the other as well as processes of adaptation and border-making. Rather than speaking about Far-Eastern syncretism, it turns out, it makes more sense to speak of realms of knowledge and their institutionalization, about networks and hybrid formations. The Asian tradition has not brought forth but rather assimilated the (European) division of myth and logos, belief and knowledge, theology and philosophy.
With the growing self-confidence of Asian countries in terms of educational and research policy, there is nowadays an increasingly skeptical attitude on the part of mostly younger scholars toward the adaptations of Western philosophemes, which are now perceived as foreign imports. This skepticism often leads to an even more selective apprehension of the European philosophical tradition but is, on the other hand, influenced as well by the desire to find a public philosophy capable of holding society together and of doing justice to one’s own tradition in the face of the ever more egregious effects of modernity in Asia. In this context, the apparent processes of reconnecting to Confucian, Buddhist, or Taoist traditions are new acts of self-determination. Overall, this is expression of a deficit, of a non-existing global exchange of thought that takes into consideration the changing asymmetries in exchanges in terms of culture and the Humanities.
The Graduate Group intends to address the issues that pertain to a process of understanding by bringing together scholars in the Humanities with an interdisciplinary orientation and through a very wide range of topics.
The initial thesis here is that the major philosophic and religious traditions can only establish and develop themselves via reciprocal contact with each other. The range of topics of doctoral dissertations or research at the Graduate Group is to reach from Cultural Studies, Comparative Cultural Studies, Religion Studies, Theater Studies and Art History to Philology and Philosophy, but the focus is to be on discourses of knowledge that support cultural understanding.