CEPS - Cultural Encounters in Pre-Modern Societies

'Cultural Encounters' is a concept which is often used in current public and academic discussions on the conditions of modern societies. The concept is often employed when trying to describe modern phenomena such as globalization, mass migration or the apparently increased importance and fascination of religious groups in secularized and/or traditional societies. From 2006 the concept of Cultural Encounters is central in the teaching of general history in Danish grammar schools, and it features prominently in learning plans and history courses. The concept is thus claimed to be of importance when explaining dynamic changes in history.

It is a key premise for the work in this research programme that a concept of Cultural Encounters - in all its diversity and manifold use - holds explanatory cogency towards understanding the history of also pre-modern societies despite its apparent lack of precision. The question is: How?

The usage of this concept immediately leads to a number of important questions: How are we to define cultural encounters themselves? What does ‘cultural’ actually signify? What does it mean to have cultures encounter each other? What does it mean when we claim cultural encounters to be ‘dynamic’? What are the consequences of viewing historical development as a result of some sort of cultural encounters? How does this influence our thinking of past and present? And if our own preoccupation with history (as teachers and researchers) may be termed a cultural encounter, how do we actually carry it out?

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