The Principle of Disruption. A Figure Reflecting Complex Societies
Terrorist attacks, rampage shootings, accidents or unprecedented disease patterns – around such disruptions of daily life narratives tend to form, narratives that, while they have an unsettling effect on society, can also serve to stabilise it. For imaginary as well as real disruptions can produce political and socio-cultural coherence by being symbolically re-integrated into the narratives of society. The members of the research group “The Principle of Disruption” have accordingly chosen “disruptions” as a privileged point of departure for the analysis of formulas of societal self-description. Through the research group’s interdisciplinary orientation, spanning literary and media studies, the history of ideas and (cultural) sociology, the goal is to determine the potential of literature, music, film and TV series as well as theoretical figures from the history of knowledge for the perception and processing of disruption.
Disruption is a phenomenon that has gained the attention of a broad and diverse range of academic disciplines: it has found a home as an object of study in mathematical information theory, philosophy, media and cultural studies, as well as in the history of ideas. The most fruitful research has made clear that disruptions are by no means solely destructive – they also have productive consequences.
The research group “The Principle of Disruption” seeks to build on this work by establishing disruption as a starting point for the analysis of formulas of societal self-description. On the one hand, the project is focused on the epistemological and aesthetic aspects of disturbances, which as moments of interruption or loss of order give rise to efforts aimed at the theoretical or practical consolidation of the social sphere. On the other hand, the project is interested in those powerfully repercussive narratives that construct political and socio-cultural coherence through the symbolic re-integration of imaginary or real disruptive incidents, such as terrorist attacks, rampage shootings, technical accidents and new forms of disease.
The program of the research group is divided into three main areas.
Intellectual History of Disruption
The module “Intellectual History of Disruption” endows the project with a historical dimension of cultural knowledge and examines the discourses of disruption beginning with the 19th century, looking at how disruption is constructed within these discourses as the supposed theoretical other of the normal course of things and how theories themselves deal with events that disrupt their routines of description.
In the module “Imagined Disruptions”, a corpus consisting of literary texts, fiction films and TV series is analysed with a view to determining which imagined forms and stagings (Inszenierungen) of disruption are being dealt with, and how they address the social semantics of society.
The module “Practices of Disturbance” examines the performance of disruptions. It is based on the idea that aesthetic provocations internalise a distinctive form of knowledge of the functioning and the transmission channels of disruption.