Cultures are composite phenomena and open for changes which may be caused by intervention from within or from outside. The term ‘culture’ applied here is not limited to the realms of symbolic forms and semantic networking. Taken within a context, it is rather seen as interrelated with political, social and economic realities. The connection with imperialism already suggests a similar relation: local and regional cultures are seen interacting with other cultures. The conflict-laden, very often violent relationship between Great Britain and India is a strong case in point. My talk will refer to the history of this encounter in the period between approximately 1750 and 1860. During this period, Preceding Imperialism in the strict sense, the British East India Company did not only exploit the distant subcontinent economically but paradoxically also contributed to modernizing the agrarian societies and at the same time safeguarding endangered indigenous traditions. Contradictions in the production of ideas pertinent to culture-theory have fostered that paradox. In addition, the accomplishments and failures of the East India Company influenced the culture of the imperialistic actor, i.e. be it their self-interpretation or concrete meaning of a long lasting socio-economic structural change. My argument is that from the encounter between two so diverse societies an intermediary culture emerged, the effects of which are present in the self-perceptions of both societies even today.
Dr Dietrich Harth studied German Literature, Classics and Sociology at the universities in Frankfurt am Main and Tubingen. After his studies at the University of Erlangen he was appointed professor of Modern German and Comparative Literature at Heidelberg University. As a guest lecturer he read literary theory and history of ideas at various Italian, French, Spanish, Chinese and English university departments. His main research topics include theory of literature, ritual studies, cultural anthropology and memory, and the history of European historiography. He is one of the founders of the publishing house Sybchron Publishers Heidelberg (www.synchron-publishers.com) and of the interdisciplinary research project Ritual Dynamics (www.ritualdynamik.uni-dh.de). He has written and published extensively and is member of several associations.