Normative Conflicts and Transformations

Outline (in brief) :

Principles and norms meant to regulate social interactions, justify options and propose priorities have been under much contestation and critical scrutiny in the 19th and 20th centuries. Such contestation and scrutiny have had enormous bearing on the human-nature axis, ideas of self and subjectivity, conceptions of good life, and actual ways of life. Issues under dispute concern both the contents of norms and normative regimes (concepts of order) as well as the modes of justification and validation (mechanisms of instantiation). The political domain, as the contested yet authoritative site of principles and norms, has vastly expanded its scope and reach, while redefining and delimiting them at the same time. The postcolonial encounters and globalising drive have provided a new impetus to such reordering and transformations. Such a setting calls for epistemically sensitive and methodologically innovative studies and an understanding that can reflect and respond to our diverse contexts of belonging. While considering itself rooted in the contexts of India and Germany/Europe for this pursuit, this module gives itself an expansive mandate reaching out to the wider demands and challenges that inform our public life today.



Latest Workshop             Photos                 Module members (see below)

Participants at the TM 4 Workshop at CSDS (October 2016)

organisers of the event (V.Verma, A.Linkenbach, S.Kumar and  A.Pettenkofer)


Fellows (2016 and 2017):

  • Dr. Siddharth Sareen (1.6. – 30.12.2016); with follow-up fellowship at MWK Erfurt
  • Dr. Juhi Tyagi (1.6. – 30.11.2016 and 1.1.-31.3. 2017);
  • Dr. Rimi Tadu  (15.8. – 15.11.), with follow-up fellowship at MWK Erfurt (2018)



Module Outline (in detail):

This module attempts to understand the direction and the processes as well as the agencies of normative change. Thereby it will pay attention to the positive and especially to the negative effects of norm regimes (e.g. effects of discrimination and humiliation). The module starts from the following assumptions: Firstly, norms do not denote stasis, but are constantly in flux. Consequently, the concepts of order, structure and change need to be re-visited. Secondly, societies are commonly characterised by competing (hegemonic and alternative) norms that regularly trigger conflict. We need to better understand the dynamics of articulation and translation, refutation and combat as well as the modes of validation and justification of norms. Thirdly, normative imperatives do no longer have only local validity or are linked to only one particular societal and cultural order. Rather, an increasing number of norms in nearly all spheres of life – examples stretch from human rights via notions of governance and participation to the principles designed to regulate financial markets – are of a globalising character. While transcending cultural contexts they inevitably meet with norm-saturated local environments, the articulations of both we still have to properly comprehend.

Focussing on competing and conflicting normativities, the modes and mechanisms of struggle and mediation, and the processes of norm transformation, the module addresses four core problem areas: (1) social inequality, justice and recognition (class, caste, gender); (2) social, cultural and religious diversity (“ethnicity“, religious belonging, normativity of secularism); (3) appropriation of nature and definition and practices of development (incl. population movements and displacements); (4) governance, participation, and (state, social) accountability. Crucial norm conflicts in these fields comprise conflicts between hierarchisation and equality; between pressures for homogeneity and the respect for difference; between (accelerated) economic growth and sustainability and de-growth, as well as (deriving from the Indian, esp. Gandhian context) self-restraint und self-transcendence; between vertical organisational structures and participatory modes of decision-making. The modes and mechanisms of politicisation, struggle and mediation include (i) strategies of mobilisation, social and political movements; (ii) cultural imaginaries and interpretive schemes; (iii) forms of conflict management and conflict resolution as well as new and old modalities of reconciliation (setting new standards, new legal practices, constitutional jurisdiction, legal pluralism, new modalities of everyday interaction, new publics).

The module pursues a two-fold agenda of comparison (regarding mechanisms as well as conceptualisation of inter-normative conflicts and trans-contextual interconnections); it follows a bottom-up approach by focusing on the contextual articulation and genesis of norms, values and modes of validation; and it opts for a dialogical approach to theory across historical spaces, research communities and research agendas.

The module will develop the four core problem areas concurrently and in conjunction. Starting with the third year of the pre-phase and continuing during the main phase the focus will be laid on the following five topics (streams): (1) Contestations and tensions around equality/inequality and justice; (2) Deep diversity, belonging and the public good; (3) Environmental justice and regimes of sustainability; (4) Semantics and micro-processes of governance and corruption; (5) Political participation and representation: contemporary social movements. Collaborative research groups of module committee members have been formed around each topic; members of the TM4 committee are each directly involved in the development of one or two streams. TM4 Fellows are embedded in the work of these streams.


Module Committee (in alphabetic order):