Matthias Theodor Vogt, Görlitz
Ilia State University Tbilisi
January 26th, 2017[1]

A Question of Singular

Ought We to Tackle Research on Interculturality in an Interdisciplinary Approach?

Rector Magnifice, dear colleagues, dear students, dear guests!

Georgia is one of the richest countries which I have the pleasure to know – rich in hospitality! This evening with its warm welcome shows this richness anew – please accept my sincere thanks for your kind invitation and for your coming!

You have invited me to speak on the question: Ought We to Tackle Research on Interculturality in an Interdisciplinary Approach? As you will see, this is a question of singular (numerus singularis).

  • Three simple questions arise immediately from this topic: (A 1) What are researchers like? (A 2) What is culture like? (A 3) What means inter?
  • Having found answers to these questions, we might follow the advice of Leibniz: theoria never without praxis.


1. Who is We?

Let us start with the question: Who is We, the researchers - or future researchers - here in the hall? There are now rare cases of human beings, artificially produced from three parents in Ukraine.[2] (Which is highly problematical from an ethical point of view). But we here, resembled at Ilia State University, we all derive from two parents, which gave us their genetical material.

With the effect that we are twofold - each of us has a sort of twin inside. The dominant genes decide about our phenotype. The recessive genes are not materializing but may bequeath information to our children – you may have black hair because the respective genes[3] are dominant, but the unborn, invisible, yet very real twin inside you on the recessive genes might transfer blond or red hair to your children or grandchildren. (Dear students, when you have tonight a look into the mirror and on your body, maybe you should have a consultation with Lord Voldemort on this point. It is much more intriguing than the simple Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde story. Dear colleagues, you might have a look into the Schlemihl story of Chamisso.[4] What happens when you sell your shadow to the devil? What says society, when you remain shadowless?).

Pablo Neruda once wrote: “Of the many men whom I am, whom we are, / I cannot settle on a single one“. Allelomorphically, we are diploid, here is our phenotype and there is the non-pheno, the non-visible, the hidden one. In biochemical terms, the “I” is a “We” that phenotypically will be realized in one concrete form.

Our chemical hereditary system is nothing special. We have it in common with other mammals. It consists of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) threadlike molecules [волокни́стый voloknístyy] and some cell structures. Austrian-Swiss biochemist Gottfried Schatz said about the chemical hereditary system: »It determines what we can be. Transmission errors in the chemical system - so-called mutations - change our body«.[5]

2. Is our “I” a singular?

But is our phenotypical “I” really a singular? The human body only can survive because of a special kind of reciprocal hospitality - the genetic material, which we reeived from our parents, co-exists with microorganisms such as bacteria in the intéstine, about a trillion creatures per milliliter, some two kilograms in each of us, which is heavier than our brain.

So what looks from the outside, from the phenotype to be a Homo sapiens, actually is a composite organism. Iin the Caucasus region,[6] you find many lichen [лиша́йник lisháynik], a symbiotic organism of fungi and/or algae/bacteria. In Northern Europe,[7] some of them combine cyanobacteria capable for photosynthesis (Prokaryota) living in symbiosis with filaments of multiple fungi (Eukaryota). In a way, Homo sapiens combines Prokaryota and Eukaryota, too. When you have tonight a look into the mirror and on your body and on your belly, please remember that you have two quadrillions (the 15th power of 10) of bacteria inside you. Only thanks to these two quadrillions you can convert or metabolize food to energy, and survive. Our “I” is not a singular; our “I” is multifold.

Bacteria have written history, you even might say they are at the roots of our republican system. On the eve of 20th September 1792, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe noted at Valmy: »From here and today a new epoch of world history starts, and you can say, you were there when it happened«. The Austrian-Prussian troops, the professional elite of then European armies, marched through the Champagne on their way to Paris. At Valmy they met the French Army, mostly volunteers without training. But alas! The Austro-Prussian soldiers were not victualled, for days they had eaten nothing but unmature green wine grapes. So they became victims of shigellosis [жи́дкий стул zhídkiy stul]; their intratestinal symbiosis of prokaryota and eukaryota collapsed. Unable to climb up the modest hill, the battle field was full not with their blood but full with their excrements. The Braunschweig duke ordered retreat in a sort of tie, and at Paris arrived notice that the French troops not had been vanquished. The next day, the French Republic was proclaimed. French history books tell us about General Kellermann and his »Vive la Nation!«. It would have been more correct to erect a monument to gram-negative bacterium Shigella from the family Enterobacteriaceae instead, a monument to the first form - still unconciusly - of modern, biological warfare.

3. We are links in a double inter-generational chain

The world history of symbiosis and of shigellosis tortured combattants enabling the triumph of La Grande Nation bring us back to Gottfried Schatz and to a second term in today’s topic, to ‘culture’.

Schatz continues: »The special thing about mankind is that we have two hereditary systems - a chemical and a cultural one. […] The cultural system consists of the inter-generational dialogue. It determines what we actually become. Our chemical system does not raise us above other mammals, but our cultural system is unprecedented in nature. Its shaping power gives us language, art, science, and moral responsibility.« [8]

Some behavior scientists such as Whiten tend to speak about »Cultures in Chimpanzees«, too.[9] But this only refers to intergenerational reproduction of tools of production, different between several grooups of apes in the East African Rift System. Human culture is by far more. When you have a look at the sculpture “Muza” (M. Berdzenishvili, 1971), the lady in front of the Tbilisi Philharmonics, you will find that she represents some of the means of this inter-generational dialogue which even allows a pluri-generational dialogue. In her hands, she holds the symbols for liber, sonus, imago, ludus. Without Book, Sound, Image, Playing - you could not refer to culture in this country, bequeathed to you through so many generations.

Culture has been always open for changes. Schatz continues: »The accuracy with which these two inheritance systems carry knowledge from one generation to another is high, but not absolute. Transmission errors - so-called mutations - in the cultural system change our thinking and behavior.«

Such a cultural mutation was the change from a royal to a republican system. And what about the recent change from a static communist party rule to a dynamic democratic system? According to Oliver Reisner, we might use genetics as a metaphor for better understanding the shifting. The seemingly “static Communist party rule” was so only in its formal appearance, let us call this: in its “phenotype”. The hidden half of the “genotype” provided for a lot of informal (cultural, social & economic) practices to circumvent the stagnation on the political level. The “dynamic democratic system” offers more changes on the political level (phenotype) while being counteracted by informal practices to secure the privileged positions by the elites in its deeper social make-up or the hidden half of the “genotype”. So, cultural mutations are all but simple.

The Latin word mutation in Greek language would be μεταβολή metabolē, a word which you all know from the metabolic processes in your body, and about which you all know that it must constantly keep going in order to live. We might call the French revolution or the post-communist swing a cultural metabolē, and we might reflect about the need of constant changes in order to constantly adapt to new group situations on the social level. (And we might reflect about the difficulties to adopt such changes institutionally or individually. There are very old people in nowadays Eastern Germany who have seen and lived through four systemic changes, each of them with a different vison of the world. Similar with university institutions, per definition less flexible than individuals. According to the mutations which they underwent or not underwent, they will imprint their students’ thinking and behavior for the rest of their lifes).

So, a preliminary answer to the question Who is We? might be: We are links, links in a inter-generational chain which is a double one. Our DNA comes from our mother and from our father, as their DNA plus mutations came from their ancestors, and as it will be given later to our children and grand-children. Similarly, each of us is a link for language, art, science, and moral responsibility in the long chain of mutations between our ancestors and our grand-children.

But we scholars have a specific advantage, even when we are only links in a chain, and even when we are truly modest, and call us dwarfs in respect to the many generations aforehead, as Bernard of Chartres (1120) said. Isaac Newton (1676) put it this way: “If I have seen further [than others] it is by standing on ye shoulders of giants.”[10]

4. Is culture a singular?

At the core of many a conflict in this very world is the presumed singularity of the respective culture. National leaders feel themselves giants on the shoulders of giants. So, it seems to be necessary to ask: Is culture a singular? How could we otherwise talk about inter-culturality which per definition seems to require a plurality of cultures, the one in dialogue (or non-dialogue) with the other and with a third?

In linguistics, grammatical number is a category that expresses count distinctions. When you learn a modern foreign language, most grammars will tell you that there are two grammatical numbers and basta: singularis and pluralis.

In Europe, many languages have been or are by far more differentiated. Look to the word politics. It stems from Greek language, which had, as all early Indo-European languages, a One-numbering, the singularis, a Two-numbering, the dualis, and a More-than-Two-numbering, the pluralis. The Greek word for more-than-two is poly. So, politics is when you have to find agreements between more than two parties. Politics goes beyond the dualis, therefore differentiation is very useful.

Semitic languages are by far richer than modern Western standard. According to Wilhelm von Humboldt, Arabic language has singularis for one item; dualis for two; limited pluralis - the paucalis from pauci, just a few - for three to nine items; the multitude pluralis for ten and more items; and even the plural-pluralis for an unlimited number. (In modern chemistry you will find a perfect example of oriental-occidental unity in a counterpart to such a numbering: monosaccharide simple sugar, disaccharide double sugar, oligosaccharide sugar of a few, and polysaccharide multiple sugar with more than ten simple-sugar molecules). Some Austronesian languages additionally have a trial. Linguists thought for a long time that there would be a quaternal. Many languages have a paralis for items which you normally find pairwise, like hands, or twins, or scissors.

In old German books you will find Chapter one - The other chapter [not Second Второ́й vtoróy] - Third chapter. In Russian or Polish languages, you find important signs of dualis, in some Bavarian dialects, you will find such a diploid wording still in use. »There are more things in [grammar and on] earth, Horatio, / Than are dreamt of in your philosophy« as Shakespeare might have put it.[11]

But what about words which gain a plurality not by declination, but which bear plurality inside? What about non-count nouns such as water in English, and mayim in Hebrew? Both mean the same, one is a singulare tantum, having only a singular form; the other is a plurale tantum, having only a plural form.

And what about collectivum words, such as team. You may remember that Wilde, Shaw, and Churchill, likewise are blamed for saying: “England and America are two countries separated by the same language”.[12] In regard to the use of collectiva, you will find such a separation, indeed. British speakers would say: “The team are fighting among themselves”; American speakers invariably would use the singularis: “The team is fighting among themselves”. Therefore Georgia are winning the next Olympics, not is winning.

What kind of word is culture? Is is it a normal singular with a possible plural? Is it a singulare tantum? Is it a collectivum? Is it a dualis which, like a twin, needs a complementary term?

We know that culture is a very young word, in the year 2017 is it just two thousand and sixty two years old. Therefore it has nothing to do with proto-Europeans describing plants, animals and ghosts in a peasant’s language, far from modern language setting. We know precisely, who invented the term culture. It was Cicero in his Tusculanae disputationes written 45 before Christ and dedicated to Marcus Iunius Brutus Caepio (the one who killed Caesar the next year and so declenched a cultural metabole similar to the French revolution).

First Cicero speaks about the need of complementarity between the field and its cultivation, ager quamvis fertilis sine cultura fructuosus esse non potest. res sine altera debilis. [A field, though fertile, cannot yield a harvest without cultivation. The one is feeble without the other.] Then he speaks about the need of complementarity between cognition and its cultivation, sine doctrina animus fructuosus esse non potest. [Without learning the mind cannot yield a harvest.] And then he tells us that he would use an image, a metaphora, transferring the cultivation idea from the earth field to the young persons head.[13]

Culture is basically a metaphor, not more and not less. It is a metaphor for what you, dear students, are doing: learning. (Or should do at least.) Philosophy, which in this context basically means just the ability to distinguish ideas and terms, is the cultivation, in Latin: cultura, of the soul. Learning with studium, which means zeal, (стара́ние starániye) draws out your vices by the root, prepares your mind to receive what your professors try to sow, and will make you able to deliver the most abundant fruit when achieving the academic goal.

Dear students, the word culture has been invented by a frustrated professor. My impression is, he preferred mute cabbage to young bright people.

Dear colleagues, a metaphor is a non-count word. You can not count it by cubit, hollow body, light years. It is an image made of words, not a physical object. You may call the ability, to recognize a metaphor as such, cultural alphabetization. It is e.g. the ground for the law system, and for each complex society. Cultural alphabetization might be the most important tool for orientation in a changing environment.

5. A fast history of the term culture

For understanding, whether culture is a singular or not, let us rush very fast through the reception of the new wording.

One and a half millennia after Cicero, within the French language area, Bruyère, Montaigne, Voltaire, or Rousseau tied up to Cicero by using „culture“, whithout any attributes, in the meaning „éducation“ (e-ducere which means to lead out of somewhere, you may complement: out of barbarousity).

Within the English language area, since the 16th century we find composita like „culture of the body“, „culture of their manners“ and „culture of the mind“. (You may say: Unbarbarousity of the body, of the manners etc.).

Within the German language area, Samuel von Pufendorf takes culture as opposed to barbery and brutal nature, too. Perfectibility in the era of enlightment means, that the human being can flower out what he carries as potential in him, presupposed he avoids the likewise inherent corruptibility. Culture in this context means a sort of count down till humanity comes to full display. (By the way: if you want to understand the difference between school, loading you with knowledge, and university - imagine Ilia University as a sort of Байқоңыр Baikonur institution of education counting ten-nine-eight-…-two-one-start, charged with unveiling your inner potentials. Remember Humboldt’s idea of the university as a place forming a personality.)

The Spanish and Italian language areas went with the French, the American with the English, the Russian and Scandinavian with the German. (In Russian language “kul’turnyj chelovek” still today represents an educated human individual). As to the term culture; we find a tripartite Europe. But within all three language areas, culture is a singulare tantum. There can not be another culture and not a third culture.

Pufendorf’s culture as opposed to barbery and brutal nature, gave legitimation of political power, too. Imagine the sovereign’s missionary task to free his subjects from natural barbery, and to open their cultural potentials. This is important to understand the German or Russian investment in the arts from Baroque times till socialism. On the contrary, Bristish scholars are raised in a country where public subsidies for the arts have been forbidden since 1689, American scholars write in a country where public subsidies for the arts have been installed as late as 1965 and have been cut to zero in 2017. Greater Europe is divided by the different use of a similar word.

Let’s return to Valmy. In the eternal fight between the Gauls and les Allemands, both sides used sometimes cannons and always words. Kant and other frenchophobian German writers distinguished between culture and civilization, a term coined 1757 by Mirabeau, for German men an ape-like behaviour uncomparable to truly sophisticated German Kultur. Heinrich Heine would comment this approach in his Germany. A Winter’s Tale: “The Russians and the French held the land, / The British rule the seas, / But our sway is uncontested / In the airy realm of dreams. – Franzosen und Russen gehört das Land, / Das Meer gehört den Briten, / Wir aber besitzen im Luftreich des Traums / Die Herrschaft unbestritten.“ Please note, that both, civilization and Kultur, were still used as singulare tantum, not limited to one of the countries involved. The difference between the countries was, which paradigm men priorized. (Women have not been asked. I am shure that German women would have depreciated French civilization much less than Mr Kant).

In French and English languages, the two terms culture and civilization coincided. Edward Burnett Tylor would define 1871: “Culture, or civilization, taken in its broad, ethnographic sense, is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society”.[14] (From this ethnological approach Russian Культурология Kul'turologiya should develop, which has nothing to do with British Pop Art and its Cultural Studies.) Culture, or civilization, for Tylor is a singulare tantum. But accordning to Tylor, not everybody on our planet is partaking in culture, the Pacific people the least, the Florentine renaissance more, the city of London the most, with Tylor on top.

Many years later, 1934, when the British Empire had severely weakened, and accepted parity with the US marine, and slowly gave les adieux to the idea of a British dominated globe, a certain Toynbee,[15] in A Study of History, again at London, used the pluralis form civilizations, which in German reads Hochkulturen. Toynbee described the Babylonian civilization, the Egyptian one etc., all of them early societies, religiously hierarchical, urbanized, based on the division of labour.

Again some years later, in his search for an enemy image - the cold war had come to an end and the Military-Industrial Complex of both sides of the former Berlin Wall showed serious exhaustion, close to shigelosis risk - a certain Samuel Huntington relocated these early societies to present-day societies. 1993 he staged a Clash of Civilizations in Foreign Affairs, 1996 he re-encated this in his book The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. Hence we have a war of Islam against…, against what? Against the occident, a medieval term coined against the negatively seen orient and now used by Neo-Nationalists throughout Europe. (We will immediately turn back to this argument, because here is the political need of intercultural studies.)

After World War II, between Toynbee and Huntington, Americans found it easy to buy things in Dollars even when knowing nothing about the language of the other. But they found it difficult to sell things knowing nothing about the habits of the other. Hence they founded intercultural studies as well as area studies. Thanks to Huntington, intercultural studies have left the mongerial zone and become important in serious matters like war, terrorism, and the like.

But when you search for “cultures” in the plural form, you will encounter a problem. E.g. the American Society for Microbiology works with cultures of prokaryota, of bacteria, and edits the “cultures-magazine”. You will find a “Cultures of Resistance Network Foundation” (“which aims to promote and support organizations, activists, and artists who seek a more peaceful, just, and democratic world [and] does not accept unsolicited grant requests”. You easily see, this is within the British tradition of 16th century, “culture of something”, making appeal to unbarbarousity.) You will find The Festival of Cultures at Charlottesville Community („Come and celebrate the cultural and linguistic diversity of our local community”). But you will hardly find “cultures” in the plural form in the same sense as in inter-cultural studies.

To make it short: The latter take their name from culture, but they deal with differences and/or similarities between civilizations.

6. A first conclusion

Rector Magnifice, dear colleagues, dear students, dear guests!

Before we come to a first conclusion, let us have a pragmatic shift. Why are we discussing the question: Interdisciplinary studies in Interculturality? We are doing so because our world confronts migration. 2015 has been the year when the virtual community of migrants has conquered a virtual place # 20 in the ranking of nations, between France and the UK.

Up to this very day, and since 1648, politics is organized on the national scale. The underlying paradigma for nations is unity. First, since 1648 and the introduction of inter-national law, unity was granted by the figure of an absolute monarch. Ethnic, linguistic, religious heterogeneity just didn’t matter. After 1806 we see the rise of a new paradigm, national unity granted by ethnic, linguistic, religious homogeneity of a distinct people which will fight for political autonomy by inventing a unique culture through Georgian or Czech or Bulgarian language schools, national museums, national theatres and the like. Singular culture serves as a tool for fostering political autonomy, for self-regulation.

By the way: It is a double fighting. In Geogia e.g. bottom up against Tzarist oppression, and upside down against other ethnic utterances on the territory, which are now, in a new political mathematics, called minorities. From a juridical perspective the point here is that when you establish a demos replacing the absolute monarch on a given territory, you have to load up the demos spiritually claiming it a para-sacral “nation” in the modern sense, worth sacrifying one’s life for the “nation”.[16] This is what happens throughout the 19th century. The most significant example is the Tanzimât (reorganization) of the Ottoman Empire (1839-1876. It used an Arabic word millet (nation) to provide autocephaly / autonomy to its diverse personal collectivities identified as confessions such as the Greek Orthodox community, the Armenian community, the Jewish community and the like. Later, the Young Turkish Movement adopted the paradigm of Territorial Collectivity as a base for its claim of territorial authority. Hence it denied the rights of minorities and proclaimed a homogeneous Turkish national culture as the cultural basis for the Turkish demos replacing the sultan. [17] The juridical and political problem is finding the way back from a territorial collectivity definition (in the numerus singularis) to a personal collectivities definition (allowing a numerus pluralis on one and the same territory). What we call democracy, is based on a static paradigm horrifying any societal change.

When you want to understand the successful America First!, Mexicans back to Mexico, you just have to look to the statistics: “Caucasians” will become a minority of less than 50 percent in the United States around 2040. Hispanics, Aseans, the Black and the Native Indians Communities will count more citizen together.

Emigration, Immigration, Transmigration as well as Elitist and Global Companies’ overcoming of local boundaries is a new reality, lethal for the internal concept of nation states, and lethal for the multilateral concept of inter-nationality. We see with Trump in the US and his American singularity, with LePen and her French singularity, with the AfD and its German singularity, we see in Austria, Hungary, Poland, Turkey, that heterogeneity is inacceptable for both, for populistic nationalists and for their followers. Everybody calls for a singularis for his or her singularity. Culture has become a singularis exclusivum, it is no longer a singulare tantum.

Let us have a look on an example. The newest scandal in Turkish ideological battles concerns Ahmet Güneştekin’s sculpture Kostantiniyye (2015) installed outside of the A Plus shopping mall in the Ataköy district of Istanbul. osanīnīy in Ottoman Turkish (قسطنطينيه) was for four centuries the official name to Konstantinopolis after Ottomans took over in 1453 - instead of the Greek ending –polis, city, the Arab ending –iyye, place, was used. Only in 1928, the new Turkish government changed the official name back to a Greek one - eis tin polin means into the town. So, Istanbul is not at all a Turk naming, but an Armenian way of stammering Greek language, dating back to the 10th century. Güneştekin’s sculpture addresses the many names of the town since Byzantion. But immediately after installation, the mob called for take-it-away, threatening to burn down the shopping mall. And so was done in December 24th, 2016.

Threehundred years before, Daniel Defoe started his The True-Born Englishman (London 1701) with the phrase: »Thus from a Mixture of all kinds began, / That Het'rogeneous Thing, An Englishman«. Please imagine the fate of a Turkish poet when writing to Erdoğan in 2017: »Thus from a Mixture of all kinds began, / That Het'rogeneous Thing, A Turkishman«. Politicially, he could not do wrong more than doing so. Genetically, he would be right. And culturally? This question I would like to leave to you and to the debate.

So let us conclude:

  1. Inter-cultural studies take their name from culture, but they deal with differences and/or similarities between civilizations.
  2. Each single civilization is presumed, to have an inner unity called culture in the singularis and meant to be a singulare tantum without pluralis.
  3. It is most important to see that such unity-setting is a teleological approach typical for Romantics (Wilhelm von Humboldt “The origin and the end of all shared being is unity”).[18] In a way, today’s nation states are victims of a too simple understanding of German Romanticism. (Actually, the same Wilhelm von Humboldt once spoke on behalf of the dualis - about a “Collectiv-Singular, which brings back multifoldness to unity”.)
  4. As we have learned, heterogeneity, multifariousness, the plurality of “I” and “We”, is one of the biological keys to the human being. For quite many effects, homo sapiens is a composite organism.
  5. From all what I mentioned on history, on literature etc. you may have understood that culture is such a composite organism, too.
  6. But when, in the Romantic epoch, the nation was idealized to have a body of itself (named Volkskörper), from the unity approach derived a homogeneity principle. Within a teleological approach, heterogeneity does not combine with the sacralization of a nation.
  7. What normatively is needed, is a political (and academic) conception, which overcomes the unity paradimg and understand societies as a composite organism

7. What means inter?

A last one more term needs to be clarified. What means inter?

The opposite term to inter would be ultra. In antiquity it described Herakles unable to go beyond the street of Gibraltar - non plus ultra, you can not go beyond this boundary. Emperor Charles V. cancelled the non and coined plus ultra, as a sign of his universal power without limits. You will find it in nowadays Spanish coat of arms.

Plus ultra is normality in every academic research. If you would limit yourself there where the beforegoing publication had stopped, too, there would be virtually no progress in science, in sciendum (in that what we need to know). Each discipline, each researcher has such columns of Herakles every morning at departure. There is no need, to name this and to speak about ultradisciplinary research or something like that. Research is ultradisciplinary research, or it is not research.

When you go to Rome and cross the river Tevere, you are at Trans- or Trastevere. So trans means crossing a bareer. Transnational companies are a kind of business operating beyond national borders and beyond traditional national fiscality, such as Google. Transnational organized crime (TOC) refers specifically to crime offending fundamental values of the international community (culture in the singular). Transnational cultural artefacts is a term within cultural studies to describe a certain type of literary production and reception which one can not curtail to one specific culture or nation. The Armâńi or Aromanians or Vlach are a migrant group in the Balcans, named after the Roman Empire, and a typical example of transnational migration. In GDR, a capitalist car was not allowed to stop at the Transit-Autobahn, it had to go straight through. The Transsib does not connect Moscow and Nowosibirsk, instead it connects Moscow and Wladiwistok. Trans means avoiding what you pass.

Transdisciplinary research “allows investigators to transcend their own disciplines”.[19] So we might at first hand describe transdisciplinarity as a utopia, comparable to Heine’s “But our sway is uncontested / In the airy realm of dreams”. But what happenes when philologists asked IT specialists to help collecting big data from Shakespeare and the like. They asked for an Extensible Language Markup. The result was Extensible Markup Language XML which you all know and which you all use every day. So, transdisciplinarity may result in practical findings. But as all geniality, one can not command such findings. One has to start within one’s own discipline.

We therefore should modest ourselves to inter-disciplinarity. Quoting Aboelela this is a kind of research “undertaken by scholars from two or more distinct scientific disciplines. The research is based upon a conceptual model that links or integrates theoretical frameworks from those disciplines, uses study design and methodology that is not limited to any one field, and requires the use of perspectives and skills of the involved disciplines throughout multiple phases of the research process.”[20]

8. From inter to intra

Concerning our question “What means inter?” we can also find an answer in intra-affairs. Some of you may have wondered why they have to fill in “Caucasian race” when flying to the United States. Why are Europeans considered as Homo sapiens caucasicus? The answer is: with Johann Friedrich Blumenbach (Gotha 1752 – Göttingen 1840), a theorist of epigenesis, who criticized the theory of preformation. Blumenbach was a renowned antiracialist, criticizing the presumed superiority of Europeans vs. African people. In his dissertation De generis humani varietate nativa (On the Natural Variety of Mankind, University of Göttingen, 11775) he developed a matrix of “4 [later 5] varieties of man kinds, one evolved from the other”. He explains: “Caucasian variety—I have taken the name of this variety from Mount Caucasus, both because its neighborhood, and especially its southern slope, produces the most beautiful race of men, I mean the Georgian; and because all physiological reasons converge to this, that in that region, if anywhere, it seems we ought with the greatest probability to place the autochthones (original members) of mankind.”[21]

250 years later we know, that the origin of mankind lies rather in the East African Rift System (for Eve and her mitochondrial DNA) resp. on West African Congo delta (for Adam and his Y-DNA). But as to Out-of-Africa, Greater Georgia corresponds indeed.

More interesting than the questions of origin is it to have a look to the Blumenbach position within the Lewontin 1972--Mitton 1977--Edwards 2003 controversy. Lewontin argued (on the base of a 17 marker analysis) that 99.99 % of genes are non variant between human individuals, from the remaimg 0.01 % are

  • 85.4 % variations within populations
  • 8.3 % variations between populations within one race
  • 6.3 % variations corresponding to racial classification. This is 0.00063 percent of all variations.

What does this mean for you, dear students? When you step outside Ilia University, the chance to meet genetic diversity, is 12 times higher than travelling to Timbuktu. Lewontin concludes that races have “no genetic or taxonomic significance”. Many later testings have approved these findings. 1998 the American Anthropological Association stated that racial classification would be meaningless.

Only a few years later Mitton 1977, followed by Edwards 2003 with a world wide controversy, argued that while Lewontin's statements on variability are correct when examining the frequency of different alleles at an individual locus between individuals, it is nonetheless possible to classify individuals into different racial groups with an accuracy that approaches 100 percent when one takes into account the frequency of the alleles at several loci at the same time. This happens because the frequency of the alleles tends to cluster differently for different populations. In Edwards's words, “most of the information that distinguishes populations is hidden in the correlation structure of the data.”

So, within one scientific discipline, genetics, we have a first scientific truth (Lewontin 1972) and we have a second scientific truth (Mitton 1977, Edwards 2003). Both stand parallel. The first one corresponds to a certain political position, 1968 was the Flower Power peak year, normatively based on the equalness of people and of peoples. From this normative position arose a center left mainstream. It is dominating e.g. in Germany since the 1970s. The second one corresponds to another political position which George Orwell shortened to “All animals are equal. Some are more equal”. This non-normative position accepts inequalities between people and between peoples. All politics in modern democracies has to find a balance arrangement between these two positions.

Let us have a look on one of the inventors of ethnic differentiation, the biologist Blumenbach. He includes among the Caucasian or white variety all Europeans (except Saami and Finish), western Asians up to the river Obi, the Caspian Sea and the Ganges. Finally the inhabitants of Northern Africa. This kind of geography places Tiflis indeed in the middle of a cultural or anthropological triangle.

  • Simplified map of the Blumenbach Triangle (1775)

You might argue that Blumenbach wrote 250 years ago. So what says contemporary genetics? (By the way you may note that genetics bases its research on a singular, on haplotypes - from ἁπλόος haplóos “single”, combined with εἶδος eîdos “form” - a single set of chromosomes). Human being has 23 pairs of chromosomes. 22 of these pairs are autosom, equal for both genders. Chromosome nr 23 is a gonosom, either a female homozygous XX, or a male heterozygous XY. You can test either (1) autosonomal atDNA, or (2) mitochondrial mtDNA or (3) Y-DNA. Nucleobases are the alphabet of DNA. There are four of them: adenine (A), thymine (T), guanine (G) and cytosine (C). They always go by pairs, A with T, and G with C. Such pairs are called “base pairs”. The 46 chromosomes of human DNA are composed of a total of 3,000 million base pairs. Researchers concentrate on the Y chromosome since it possesses 60 million nucleobases (comparable to 153 million for the X chromosome). Mitochondrial DNA is found outside the cell's nucleus, and therefore outside of the chromosomes. It consists only of 16,569 bases. A SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) is a mutation in a single base pair. At present, only a few hundreds SNP's define all the human haplogroups for mtDNA or Y-DNA. Maps of Y-findings are rather complex. (

Maps of mt-findings are less complex. Without entering into details, a simplified map of human wanderings based on mt-findings corresponds roughly to Blumenbach: (1) a first variation group in sub-Sahara Africa, (2) wandering to Northern India with the R and U groups installing themselves in the Blumenbach triangle, (3) parallel to other groups installing themselves in the Asian area from where (4) settlement of the American double-continent started, and (5a) a last migration wave starting from nowadays Malaysia, contemporary (5b) to Northern settlements after the glacial maximum.

  • Simplified map of human wanderings based on mt-findings (Lucioni 2014)

Please not that these are not yet hard facts, ethnicity determination through haplogropus still is rather a model in constant evolution. For a complex interdisciplinary study - combining genetical, archeological, and linguistic findings for the Kaukasus area - see e.g. Yunusbayev et al. 2011 The Caucasus as an Asymmetric Semipermeable Barrier to Ancient Human Migrations.[22]

With Blumenbach in the 18th century, and with contemporary genetics in the 21st century, Samuel Huntington and his Clash of Civilizations encounters a serious problem: Within the Blumenbach trinagle of orient and occident, his clash becomes an internal, an intra-cultural affair between brothers which basically converse in only five families of language (three of them in the Caucasus plus the Indo-Europen and the Semitic families). All of them believe historically in the same god. Normativelly speaking and politically, it might be good, they would know more about their relatedness. And somebody would dare to open intra-cultural studies.

9. What means all this in practice?

Rector Magnifice, dear colleagues, dear students, dear guests!

I conclude. What means all this in practice?

Leibniz[23] reminded us to combine theoria cum praxis, Ilia is proud not to forget the teaching component. Supposed, Ilia State University and its partner institutions would open Intercultural Studies (or even intra-cultural Studies), how should this program look like?

I propose to you a slogan which might guide the reserchers and the candidates, and which might guide the university in case building up such a program: You may remember Schatz: “Our cultural system is unprecedented in nature. Its shaping power gives us language, art, science, and moral responsibility”. Illia therefore might say: “Without cultural competence, no intercultural competence”.

As for researchers, senior fellows, PostDocs and PhD-candidates:

  • Fellows have to understand the individual and the society as composite organism.
  • Fellows have to understand the hidden twins in each of us, on individual and on societal level.
  • Fellows therefore may need a critical conscience of singularity discurses.
  • Fellows may need a thorough knowledge in order to break singularity discurses.

They need a broad historical knowledge as a base of all. And they need familiarity with a couple of disciplines such as:

  • Parameters of Identity in European Cultural History
  • Orient and Occident: A History of Distrust and Similarities
  • Intercultural Law
  • Sociology of Migration
  • Economic and Cultural Areas such as Subsahara-Africa; Iberoamerica, Middle East and North Africa, Far East
  • Intercultural Psychology
  • Intercultural Philosophy and Esthetics
  • Intercultural Transformation-Processes and the Role of the Arts
  • Intercultural Encounters through the Arts
  • Strategies of Intercultural Cultural Policies (Enculturation Policies: Minorities, Immigration, Multiculturalism, Parallel Societies and Citizenship, Cultural Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution)
  • Elements of an Interdisciplinary Approach on Interculturality.

Dear colleagues

from Ilia University School of Arts and Sciences, the School of Law, the Iliauni Business School, the School of Natural Sciences and Engineering,

I would be most interested to hear from you, which aspects and which disciplines are missing for a truly interdisciplinary approach to the phenomena of inter-culturality and intra-culturality, according to you, and in which way your chairs might participate within your RESULT approach.

Thank you for your hospitality and your kind attention! I am looking forward to your remarks, and to learning from you.



[1] Special thanks go to Oliver Reisner (political science), Willi Xylander (biology), Valentin Frank (medicine) for their critical suggestions on the draft manuscript. Remaining faults are mine (mtv).

[2] [01.02.2017]

[3] The colour oft he hair is one of the complicated items; probably there are more than ten genes involded deciding about the propotion in various stages of one’s life of the two variants Eumelanin (dark) and Pähomelanin (light) of melanin pigment. For an introduction see the Forensic Molecular Biology Department of Erasmus Uinversity Rotterdam at


[5] Schatz, Gottfried: Jenseits der Gene. Verlag Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Zürich 2008.

[6] cf. Onipchenko, Vladimir G. (2004 ed.): Alpine Ecosystems in the Northwest Caucasus. Chapter 8: Soil algae and cyanobacteria in the alpine plant communities, p. 233 sq. Dordrecht: Springer.

[7] Paulsrud, Per: Lindblad, Peter (1998): Sequence Variation of the tRNLeu Intron as a Marker for Genetic Diversity and Specificity of Symbiotic Cyanobacteria in Some Lichens. In: American Society for Microbiology (ed): Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Vol. 64, No. 1, Jan. 1998, p. 310–315. “The lichen species used in the present study were Nephroma arcticum, Peltigera aphthosa, P. membranacea, and P. canina.”.

[8] Schatz, Gottfried: Jenseits der Gene. Verlag Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Zürich 2008.

[9] Whiten et al. (1999): Cultures in Chimpanzees. Nature 399, 682 – 685

[10] Isaac Newton: letter to Robert Hooke, 5th February, 1676.

[11] cf. Hamlet 1.5.167-8.

[12] Actually there is no source for this except The Canterville Ghost (1887) by Oscar Wilde: “We [the British] have really everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language”.

[13] Nam ut [analogy! Mt, v] agri non omnes frugiferi sunt qui coluntur. […] sic [icon! mtv] animi non omnes culti fructum ferunt. Atque, ut in eodem simili verser, ut [analogy! mtv] ager quamvis fertilis sine cultura fructuosus esse non potest, sic [icon! mtv] sine doctrina animus; ita est utraque res sine altera debilis. Cultura autem animi philosophia est; haec extrahit vitia radicitus et praeparat animos ad satus accipiendos eaque mandat eis et, ut ita dicam, serit, quae adulta fructus uberrimos ferant. | For as not all cultivated fields are harvest-yielding, and as there is no truth in what Attius says,—“Though seed be sown on unpropitious soil, / It springs and ripens by its innate virtue,” [From the Atreus of Attius]—so do not all cultivated minds bear fruit. To continue the figure: as a field, though fertile, cannot yield a harvest without cultivation, no more can the mind without learning; thus each is feeble without the other. But philosophy is the culture of the soul. It draws out vices by the root, prepares the mind to receive seed, and commits to it, and, so to speak, sows in it what, when grown, may bear the most abundant fruit.

[14] Tylor, Edward Burnett (1871): Primitive Culture, London 1871, S. 1.

[15] Toynbee, Arnold Joseph (1934 – 1961): A Study of History, Bd. I – X, London 1934 – 1954, Zusatzbde. XI – XII ebda. 1959/61

[16] See for example Paul James, Nation Formation: Towards a Theory of Abstract Community, Vol. I, Sage, London, 1996

[17] Matthias Theodor Vogt: Wie weiter in der Armenienfrage? Ein Vorschlag zu den möglichen politischen Folgerungen aus dem „Ökumenischen Gottesdienst im Berliner Dom anläßlich der Erinnerung an den Völkermord an Armeniern, Aramäern und Pontos-Griechen“ am 23. April 2015 und der „Debatte zu den Deportationen und Massakern an den Armeniern vor 100 Jahren“ im Deutschen Bundestag am 24. April 2015. Europäisches Journal für Minderheitenfragen Vol 8 No 3 2015. Verlag Österreich, Wien 2015

[18] In a way it is theological. The Old Testament shows traces of henotheism. A specific typ of a One God religion based on belief in and worship of a single god while also believing in the existence or possible existence of other deities (Schelling on early Ancient Greeks, Max Müller on religion in Inidia). Abrahamatic monotheism developed only later and became a fundamental dogma for all three Jewish, Christian, and Islamic religions in a wide distance from multipolar Eastern traditions which e.g. allowed Jesuits in China inculturation strategies. One and nothing more? Or unity in diversity? It would be intriguing to analyse the United Nation’s cultural policies and the motto of the European Union with linguistic and theological methods.

[19] According to Rosenfield (1992), Transdisciplinary Research consists in a »collaboration in which exchanging information, altering discipline-specific approaches, sharing resources and integrating disciplines achieves a common scientific goal.« Harvard University defines it »as research efforts conducted by investigators from different disciplines working jointly to create new conceptual, theoretical, methodological, and translational innovations that integrate and move beyond discipline-specific approaches to address a common problem.«

[20] Aboelela, S. W., Larson, E., Bakken, S., Carrasquillo, O., Formicola, A., Glied, S. A., Haas, J. and Gebbie, K. M. (2007), Defining Interdisciplinary Research: Conclusions from a Critical Review of the Literature. Health Services Research, 42:329–346. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-6773.2006.00621.x

[21] Blumenbach 1798, p. 204: „Dieſe Race erhielt ihren Namen von dem Berge Kaukaſus, weil die ihm benachbarten Laͤnder, und zwar vorzuͤglich der Strich nach Suͤden, von dem ſchoͤnſten Menſchenſtamme, dem georgiſchen bewohnt ſind. Es wird genug ſeyn, aus der Menge von Augen- zeugen einen einzigen, aber klaſſiſchen, anzufuͤhren, Jo. Chardin Th. 1. S. 171. —Der Stamm der Georgier iſt der ſchoͤnſte des Orients, und ich kann wohl ſagen der Welt. Ich habe in dieſem Lande kein haͤßliches Geſicht unter keinem der beyden Geſchlechter bemerkt; aber ich habe Engelsgeſichter geſehen. Die Natur hat hier die meiſten Weiber mit Reizen geſchmuͤckt, welche man ſonſt nirgendsſieht. Mir ſcheint es unmoͤglich ſie zu ſehen, und ſie nicht zu lieben. Reizendere Geſichter, ſchoͤnern Wuchs als der Georgirinnen, kann man nicht mahlen, u. ſ. w.“

[22] The Caucasus as an Asymmetric Semipermeable Barrier to Ancient Human Migrations. Bayazit Yunusbayev, Mait Metspalu, Mari Järve, Ildus Kutuev, Siiri Rootsi, Ene Metspalu, Doron M. Behar, Kärt Varendi, Hovhannes Sahakyan, Rita Khusainova, Levon Yepiskoposyan, Elza K. Khusnutdinova, Peter A. Underhill, Toomas Kivisild, Richard Villems, Molecular Biology and Evolution (2011) 29 (1): 359-365.

[23] Leibniz' Denkschrift in Bezug auf die Einrichtung einer Societas Scientiarum et Artium in Berlin vom 24. März 1700, einer wahrscheinlich für D. E. Jablonski bestimmten Skizze der gleichnamigen Denkschrift für den brandenburgischen Kurfürsten vom 26. März 1700 und lautet vollständig: „Wäre demnach der Zweck theoriam cum praxi zu vereinigen, und nicht allein die Künste und die Wissenschaften, sondern auch Land und Leute, Feldbau, Manufacturen und Commercien, und, mit einem Wort, die Nahrungsmittel zu verbessern, überdieß auch solche Entdeckungen zu thun, dadurch die überschwengliche Ehre Gottes mehr ausgebreitet, und dessen Wunder besser als bißher erkannt, mithin die christliche Religion, auch gute Policey, Ordnung und Sitten theils bey heidnischen, theils noch rohen, auch wol gar barbarischen Völkern gepflanzet oder mehr ausgebreitet würden.“