States of Exceptionalism

International Conference „States of Exceptionalism: Globalization, Difference, Power“

08.-09. 05.2014

Justus-Liebig-University Giessen, Alexander-von-Humboldt-Haus, Rathenaustraße 24A, 35394 Giessen

While the contemporary world is increasingly characterized by conflict and crisis, challenging imagined geographies and geopolitical patterns formerly regarded as stable, exceptional identity positions seem to gain ground. As the world globalizes, a growing need to construct the Self as special, superior, unique and exceptional seems to emerge. Nations, countries, regions and cities as well as social groups claiming to be exceptional, obviously follow a mission. They use their alleged superiority, be it of an economic, a power-related or an imagined ethical and moral kind, to supply the other parts of the world with strategies of good governance and exemplary models.


With this conference we take a closer look at the emerging term in order to compare and discuss how it is conceptualized and utilized in different places and contexts. The conference is dedicated to an exploration of the notion of exceptionalism as a discursive tool and a narrative structure to distinguish the self from not only an inferior but also from a coequal other. Exceptionalism seems to gesture toward a peer relation within an imaginary on serial places, regions and nation states, not one of domination between colonial center and colonized periphery.

Although the concept of exceptionalism has become more popular, it still remains vague, blurred and lacks definition. We will discuss papers from broad inter disciplinary perspectives within the social sciences and humanities. Papers addressing particular cases or making broader analytical and theoretical contributions to notions of exceptionalism will examine, what discursive self-conceptions of being special in a globalized world are about.

Keynote Speakers:
James W. Ceaser, University of Virginia (USA)
Ylva Habel, Södertörns Högskola (Sweden)
Gabriele Dietze, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin