Martin Fuchs


Anthropological lessons? Dialogue and hermeneutics across cultural differences

Starting from the experience of sharing life with people in different life-worlds despite and across differences and maintaining relationships to other people transverse to these differences, or apparent differences, the paper will take lessons from the debates on the crisis of representation and the research on inter- as well as intra-cultural translation led in anthropology, cultural studies and parts of sociology. Turning to academic ‘inter-cultural’ dialogue, these experiences and reflections will serve as a backdrop for inquiries about the status of the subjects of such dialogue, the objects as well as objectives, and the language of this dialogue. Making a plea to replace intercultural comparison with intercultural hermeneutics the paper targets in particular the relationship of intellectual voices to the contexts they hail from (conventionally captured in terms like community, culture, country, society, or civilization). This will provide a framework to discuss the difficulties of doing justice to the diversity of voices in each cultural context, problems of exclusion and inclusion of voices, and the question of spokespersons and scholarly expertise (blending into questions of representation and identity). Finally, these discussions will be embedded in reflections on the power differentials between the participants in ‘inter-cultural’ dialogues.


Martin Fuchs, trained in Sociology and Anthropology, Professor for Indian Religious History, Max Weber Centre for Advanced Cultural and Social Studies, University of Erfurt, Germany. Member, and temporarily Director, of the M.S. Merian – R. Tagore International Centre of Advanced Studies in the Humanities and Social Sciences ‘Metamorphoses of the Political’ (ICAS:MP) in Delhi, India. Books and articles on M. Weber, L. Dumont, B.R. Ambedkar, social movements, religious individualization, bhakti, debates on Indian modernity, urban poor (Mumbai), Dalits and social recognition, reflexive anthropology and ethnographic representation, intercultural translation and comparison.