Home Office-Ästhetiken: Ein Blogbeitrag

by Miriam Oesterreich, Universität der Künste Berlin, and Moritz Schwörer, Heidelberg University

Zu Beginn

Der Beginn unserer Arbeit im Worlding Public Cultures-Projekt (WPC) am Lehrstuhl von Monica Juneja fiel in eine Zeit voller Neuerungen. Nicht nur für uns – eine neue Arbeitsstelle bringt schließlich immer viel Unbekanntes mit sich –, sondern für den gesamten universitären Betrieb. Denn unsere Verträge galten ab März bzw. April 2020 und COVID-19 entwickelte sich in dieser Zeit zu einer Pandemie. Als Heidelberger WPC-Team konnten wir noch ein erstes und vorerst letztes Treffen abhalten, an dem fast alle Mitglieder teilnahmen, bevor von solchen Zusammenkünften ab dem 15. März abgeraten wurde: „Internal meetings also should be cancelled or transferred to telephone or video conferencing unless they are of utmost importance for the continuation of the regular working of the institutions.“ Unser neuer Arbeitsplatz war von nun an also das Home Office und zu unserem bevorzugten Kommunikationsweg wurde zwangsläufig die Videokonferenz.

Im Gegensatz zu vielen anderen hatten wir allerdings das Glück, dass Videokonferenzen schon einige Monate zuvor in unser Leben getreten waren: Als globales Projekt basierte WPC von Beginn an auf regelmäßigen virtuellen Treffen aller Mitglieder, an denen auch wir schon seit Dezember 2019 teilgenommen hatten. Der Schock des Neuen hatte uns somit schon etwas früher getroffen – „30 Teilnehmer*innen in einer Videokonferenz und es klappt! Wahnsinn!“ – und wir mussten nicht gänzlich unvorbereitet in die Welt von Zoom, WebEx, Teams, Skype und Co starten. Die Unsicherheit und die Aufregung, in die leblose Leere des Bildschirms aber dennoch zu einer größeren virtuellen Menschenansammlung zu sprechen, hatte sich daher für uns schon teilweise gelegt. Die Situation führte uns auch zum kollaborativen Denken und Schreiben, und wir nutzen hierfür radikale Assoziativität als Methode, um den verzweigten Spuren in unsere(n) Home Offices zu folgen. Continue reading “Home Office-Ästhetiken: Ein Blogbeitrag”

Hundreds of Facets: Reconfiguring Sight and Vision in Norman Sicily

by Jennifer Bürk, Heidelberg Centre of Transcultural Studies, Heidelberg University

Exploring New Worlds

When I first met Monica Juneja, on an October afternoon in 2009, to start working as her new student assistant, little did I know how crucial this work relationship would become for my further education and how formative this work would be for developing my own research interests and nurturing my critical thinking. At the time, I was about to complete my bachelor’s degree in art history, and in retrospect, my naïve knowledge of art (history) was mostly limited to the clear-cut bounds of European western art with only some basic awareness of East Asian art, let alone the art of the Islamicate or any other regions of the world.

My tasks were mainly administrative in nature but being part of Monica’s seminars and lectures and initially, only loosely following the contents of the sessions opened up many facets of the world (or worlds) for me. These facets included the vibrant Mughal miniatures and other visual objects and collection practices across the globe, alongside challenging questions as to what the term ‘Islamic’ means in conjunction with the notion of art. Gradually, this led to realizing a keen interest in all those art objects, places, and histories that fell strangely ‘out of place’ within the master narrative of European art history. In these objects, places, and histories the complexities and negotiation processes of cultural encounters felt more tangible (and often more visible), while at the same time providing a deeper understanding of art history as a discipline constituted to not only include, but also deliberately to exclude large parts of artistic production. Consequently, I decided to write my master’s thesis about the garden manors of the Norman king, William II of Sicily. Mary Louise Pratt’s term “contact zones”[i] seemd especially fitting for Norman Sicily as it was often dealt as both exotically fascinating because of the sheer richness of multicultural artistic creations and also impossible to grasp given its history as a site of conquest and power struggle.[ii] I believed that there was more to this story that required unraveling. Thus, I raised and addressed the question of how the Normans dealt with the artistic abundance. My answer, at the time, was that the Norman kings, specifically William II, were engaged in a deliberate and selective process of reconfiguration, irrespective of issues such as ‘origin’. Of utmost importance was that the artistic outcome would be able to address a multiplicity of societal and cultural strata while at the same time artistically linking kings and princes across the Mediterranean. While not being a supervisor to this thesis, I am grateful for Monica’s enthusiasm about this topic which also allowed me to give a guest lecture on Norman Sicily in her course “Europe and the Arts of Islam” (summer term 2013) and to participate in the workshop “Art Histories and Terminologies I” held in Berlin in 2013. Continue reading “Hundreds of Facets: Reconfiguring Sight and Vision in Norman Sicily”

What’s in a Bindi and a Hand? Or: The Way Monica Juneja Enabled Me to World Myself by Sharing Her Worlds

by Franziska Koch, Heidelberg Centre for Transcultural Studies, Heidelberg University

Getting to know and working closely with a scholar and a personality such as Monica Juneja has been an absolute treat. It has been a process of becoming for me, an ongoing process of becoming aware of the cultural and ethical perceptions that govern my scholarly and general views. It has entailed puzzling over something she said and re-shaping my views in ways that find me a bit more flexible, and often, reevaluating the limits of my understanding. Sometimes, I slightly ache from the revelation of an unwelcome truth and struggle with an impulse to disagree but fail to formulate it quite as articulately as her. Normally, I am more sensitive and open to embrace new knowledge and always curious about what she is going to share next.

It is precisely the skillful and generous ways in which she shares: in her research, teaching, writing, and communication that make me think of her as a second mother. One who taught me the ropes of academic professionalism and has encouraged me (and many other emerging scholars) to believe in a scholarly world that is ultimately not separate from our social lives.

Working as an assistant professor for her newly founded Chair of Global Art History since July 2009, her 65th anniversary now provides me with an auspicious occasion to look back at the truly transformative work that she has achieved at the Heidelberg University’s Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe in a Global Context – Changing Asymmetries in Cultural Flows,” now known as the Heidelberg Centre for Transcultural Studies (HCTS).[i] I thought, why not bring both these perspectives together; my personal and professional experience of working with the distinguished Geburtstagskind and share in turn how I grew beyond my initial self while participating in the transformation she enabled. Continue reading “What’s in a Bindi and a Hand? Or: The Way Monica Juneja Enabled Me to World Myself by Sharing Her Worlds”