Philosopher Christoph Brunner wins John G. Diefenbaker Award

2019-12-03 Chris­toph Brun­ner, Ju­ni­or Pro­fes­sor of Cul­tu­ral Theo­ry, was awar­ded the pres­ti­gious John G. Die­fen­baker Award of the Ca­na­da Coun­cil for the Arts. Through the award, the young sci­en­tist is able to spend one year re­se­ar­ching at McGill Uni­ver­si­ty in Ca­na­da.

McGill Uni­ver­si­ty, to­ge­ther with Con­cor­dia Uni­ver­si­ty whe­re Brun­ner ear­ned his doc­to­ra­te, is one of the two Eng­lish-spea­king uni­ver­si­ties in the other­wi­se French-spea­king Mon­tre­al re­gi­on. It is re­gar­ded as the Ivy Le­ague equi­va­lent of Ca­na­da. To be con­side­red for the $95,000 John Die­fen­baker Award, a Ca­na­di­an Dean has to pro­po­se a can­di­da­te. "So far, the pri­ze has only been awar­ded to 50+ pro­fes­sors. I was qui­te ama­zed when I got a call from Ca­na­da and heard that they wan­ted to no­mi­na­te me," Brun­ner says en­thu­si­as­ti­cal­ly. In Ca­na­da, he will be working on his re­se­arch pro­ject "Ac­tivist Sen­se. Towards a Po­li­ti­cal Aes­t­he­tics of Ex­pe­ri­ence". "I will use this op­por­tu­ni­ty to pre­sent my work in dif­fe­rent con­texts, to ad­van­ce it, and to ex­plo­re the ques­ti­on of the ac­tiva­ti­on of the sen­su­al and the mea­ningful in ac­tivism. Mon­tre­al is an ide­al place for this, as it has a very long his­to­ry of the­se is­su­es. It is also a very mul­ti­fa­ce­ted place, both in the arts and me­dia and aca­de­mi­cal­ly.

Chris­toph Brun­ner's re­se­arch pro­ject in Ca­na­da will in­ves­ti­ga­te the re­la­ti­ons­hip bet­ween po­li­tics and aes­t­he­tics. The tit­le of the pro­ject, "Ac­tivist Sen­se", re­fers to Brun­ner's re­se­arch on dif­fe­rent po­li­tics of the sen­su­al and their me­dial­ly ge­ne­ra­ted con­texts of mea­ning in so­ci­al mo­ve­ments. Fol­lo­wing Wal­ter Ben­ja­min, he dis­tan­ces him­s­elf from the aes­t­he­ti­ci­sa­ti­on of the po­li­ti­cal. In other words, he does not in­ves­ti­ga­te how po­li­tics is char­ged aes­t­he­ti­cal­ly (e.g. to distract from cer­tain con­tents), as was and is the case in fa­scism and other to­ta­li­ta­ri­an re­gimes. Ins­tead, Brun­ner pro­po­ses "to grasp the aes­t­he­tic as so­me­thing pri­ma­ri­ly po­li­ti­cal," in the sen­se that po­li­ti­cal dis­cus­sions and strugg­les al­re­a­dy start in the sen­su­al and the sen­so­ry be­fo­re they are ra­tio­na­li­sed. To this end, he uses the con­cept of af­fect in­tro­du­ced by the Dutch-Je­wish Ba­ruch De Spi­no­za as a coun­ter-con­cept to the one-si­ded em­pha­sis on Car­te­si­an re­a­so­n­ing in phi­lo­so­phy.

As a vi­sit­ing pro­fes­sor, Brun­ner will con­duct work­shops and teaching for­mats and col­la­bo­ra­te with the cul­tu­ral sci­en­tist Prof. Dr. Al­an­na Thain (his 'host'). In ad­di­ti­on, he will spend two re­se­arch stays: One at the New School in New York, the other at Emi­ly Carr Col­le­ge of Art & De­sign in Van­cou­ver. "The aim, of cour­se, is to ex­pand our own net­work as well as to rea­li­se a stu­dent ex­ch­an­ge", Brun­ner says, "I get a lot of en­qui­ries from lo­cal stu­dents who would like to go to Ca­na­da and es­pe­cial­ly to Québec. One sti­cking point is the tui­ti­on fees that have to be wai­ved by the Ca­na­di­an uni­ver­si­ty for ex­ch­an­ge stu­dents, be­cau­se we don't know any­thing like that in Ger­ma­ny. So we have to de­ve­lop high-qua­li­ty co­ope­ra­ti­on and pro­jects that are worthw­hi­le for both si­des; I be­lie­ve that we can achie­ve a lot".

Brun­ner is loo­king for­ward to the ex­ch­an­ge with his Ca­na­di­an col­le­agues and to their sci­en­ti­fic cul­tu­re, which is qui­te dif­fe­rent from that of Eu­ro­pe: "It is a cer­tain open­ness and not bound to di­sci­pli­nes, which I al­re­a­dy en­coun­te­red in my Mon­tre­al ye­ars, and which of­fers ad­di­tio­nal space for 'lis­ten­ing to each other', a per­so­nal and in­ten­si­ve ex­ch­an­ge. This ex­pe­ri­ence en­cou­ra­ges me time and again to pro­mo­te crea­ti­ve for­mats of joint teaching and learning, such as the Ar­chi­pel­agoLab. In ad­di­ti­on, the vi­sit gi­ves me the op­por­tu­ni­ty to take up and in­te­gra­te new im­pul­ses and ques­ti­ons. Dis­cour­se to rai­se the awa­ren­ess of co­lo­ni­al set­t­le­ments in for­mer in­di­ge­nous ter­ri­to­ries for ex­amp­le is a cen­tral com­po­nent of cur­rent aca­de­mic and non-aca­de­mic de­ba­tes in Ca­na­da”.

Prof. Dr. Christoph Brunner ©Leuphana/Patrizia Jäger
Prof. Dr. Chris­toph Brun­ner heads a sub­pro­ject of the DFG re­se­arch group "Me­dia Par­ti­ci­pa­ti­on" and is the re­s­pon­si­ble ap­p­li­cant for the DFG net­work "A Dif­fe­rent Form of Co­gni­ti­on in Ar­tis­tic Re­se­arch and Aes­t­he­tic Theo­ry”. He is di­rec­tor of the In­sti­tu­te of Phi­lo­so­phy and Art Stu­dies and foun­der of the Ar­chi­pel­ago Lab. His most re­cent pu­bli­ca­ti­on is "Af­fec­tive Me­dia Prac­tices du­ring the G20 Sum­mit in Ham­burg".