English version

English version

Cultural Turns. New Orientations in the Humanities and Social Sciences

The “cultural turn” in the humanities and in the social sciences has produced in the past two decades a voluminous and polymorphic field of inquiry. The subsequently established study of culture is, however, surely not the result of a new “Master Narrative” according to which the “cultural turn” remained in the spell of an overwhelming linguistic turn. Much more, it constructs an intellectually nuanced, and thus highly dynamic field of force that distinguishes itself precisely through a multiplication of cultural turns. Again and again this leads to new questions being posed, but also to the consideration of cultural and cultural-political developments themselves. These discursive movements result in pioneering changes in orientation, which cross disciplinary boundaries and lead to parallel focuses and new allignments of inquiry: interpretive turn, performative turn, reflexive turn, postcolonial turn, translational turn, spatial turn, iconic turn.

My book “Cultural Turns. Neuorientierungen in den Kulturwissenschaften” is focussed on giving a theoretical and analytical survey on these respective turns (with extensive bibliographical references). The impulse of these turns for new approaches in almost all the different disciplines of the humanities and social sciences are demonstrated – as well as their potential for creating an inter- and transnational study of culture. The book addresses these turns not only by elaborating their systematic posing of questions and their placements of new discursive considerations, but also by showing their relevance for concrete fields of inquiry in the humanities and social sciences. Thus the explicit attempt is made to circumvent the increasing intellectual bottleneck of the current study of culture: with its prevailing interest in the probing of new subject fields. The subsequent fixation on themes has led the development of cultural studies as a whole into a direction, in which basic reflection and methodological further profiling have come up too short. It is the intention of this book to use the potential of particular turns for a further interdisciplinary and transnational profiling of cultural studies – by intensifying the basic reflection of cultural-studies knowledge, but also by a new theoretically reflexive focusing of a critical cultural studies analysis. Precisely the emphasis on changes in approaches of perception, in operative approaches as well as in new categories of analysis, confronts furthermore the predominant proliferation of themes and the expansion of subject fields.
If the humanities and social sciences of the last thirty years are reconstructed systematically from the perspective of their different turns – so this study argues –, a new and specific understanding of cultural studies comes to the fore: not as an autonomous discipline but as a multilayered medium for transdisciplinary encounters and translations – with a high and new productivity for a transnational opening up of the study of culture. The approach put forward in this book also contributes to facing the actual challenges of reconnecting humanities and natural sciences, as they are at present pushed by the so-called “life sciences”, like neurobiology and brain research. The more fundamental analysis of the various turns suggested here will even enable us to decipher and critically assess the essential cultural dimension in the emerging “neuro-biological turn”. In this way the book should be of great use for the actual debate between the humanities and natural sciences concerning their mutually exclusive claims to analyze and interpret human thinking and acting. A systematic reevaluation of cultural turns thus leads to a more critical reflection of the actual blurrings and terminological displacements which are under way to absorb – if not to resolve – the special competences and key terms of the humanities under a new hegemonic regime of the natural sciences.


Anne Chalard-Fillaudeau, in: Territoires Contemporains -nouvelle série 17 janvier 2017, Review link

Will Straw: Twists and Turns: Splits, Snowballs and Tweaks in Cultural Theory, in: ETopia (Intersections/Cross-Sections) 2016: 1–11. PDF-Datei