Researchers discuss the concept of abyss at an international conference

On 1 and 2 October, the University of Tartu College of Foreign Languages and Cultures hosts a conference where scholars from Estonia, France, Poland, Latvia and the UK will provide a comparative investigation into the conceptual history of the abyss and on its corresponding notions in fifteen languages from three continents to gather insights into the meaning of depth in human cultures. This is in order to better understand the contemporary human condition where figures of the abyss are abundant.

The conference stands out by presenting papers from a multitude of disciplines, including various language areas, philosophy, semiotics and theology. The papers vary and mix their approaches, they combine ethnolinguistics with history of ideas, literature and other cultural forms, based on the conviction that language and our linguistic concepts give evidence of and shape our ideas about the world and about ourselves. Prof Marko Pajević, the organiser of the conference and Professor of German Studies, states: “By offering such a wide scope, traversing time and space, covering a vast spectrum of humanity, this conference offers unique insights into the ambivalent dimension of depth in the ideas that humanity has about itself.”

Forms and figures of the abyss and the abyssal pervade contemporary culture. This preoccupation suggests a significance for our conception of the human. The evident correlations of changing media and technological conditions for the vision of the human impose the question of how digital media, the internet and human engineering shape the ideas of the abyss. An investigation into the abyss in the history of ideas and the history of culture thus holds much promise with regard to the intense debates on the human, including the post-human and the trans-human. Prof Pajević says: “The conference intends to provide a foundation for making the notion of the abyss into a concept of cultural theory and thus into a useful tool to better understand the human today.”

For further details and the programme, visit the conference homepage.

Further information: Marko Pajević, University of Tartu Professor of German Studies,


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