International Conference 

The perception of social threats and crisis in public life and education

Seminarzentrum Gut Siggen
July 16 – 18, 2017

Report on the International Conference “The Perception of Social Threats and Crisis in Public Life and Education”

From July 16th to July 18th, 2017, in the idyllic location of Gut Siggen, an international conference centered on “The Perception of Social Threats and Crisis in Public Life and Education” took place. Owned by the Alfred-Toepfer-Stiftung F.V.S., a non-profit organization with its seat in Hamburg and dedicated to many projects related to culture, education, and nature preservation, the Gut Siggen Seminar Center is located on the far eastern coastline of Schleswig-Holstein, close to the town of Oldenburg in Holstein, not far from Lübeck and Kiel.

The idea of this meeting came up within the frame of an international and interdisciplinary research project called “The Discursive (De)Construction of Anxiety Culture”, lead by Prof. Dr. Ulrich Hoinkes, from Kiel University, in collaboration with researchers from the Teachers College at Columbia University, New York. The “Anxiety Culture” research project focus was born from a common interest to understand our so-called “risk society”, as Ulrich Beck puts it: how fears, threats, and dangers affect us at an individual level and as a community as a whole. The Gut Siggen conference, preceded by several research symposiums and colloquiums in the same field, culminates the 2016/2017 academic year.

Our aim was to bring together researchers from different fields and from different nationalities in order to present their own fields of research within the area of “anxiety culture”, as well as their findings. Thus, twenty-four international representatives from several German and American universities, including Kiel University and Teachers College, worked together for three days finding common grounds in the very diverse topics that were touched upon within the four main areas of research that the “Anxiety Culture” research project focuses on: health, climate, migration, and communication.

All throughout the conference, the role of anxiety in aspects such the situation of minority languages in the world and its threatened status in a globalized world, the legal voids and troubles related to transgender people, the way certain critical aspects of our daily lives are portrayed in the media or from the political spheres, such as the refugee crisis or sociopolitical changes, or even the way that anxiety is portrayed and dealt with in other, non-Western cultures. Click here to find the full program of the conference and to read the complete abstracts of each talk.

In name of the team, we would like to warmly thank our collaborators from the following institutions: Teachers College at Columbia University, Hofstra University, Bremen University, the Unabhängiges Landeszentrum für Datenschutz Schleswig-Holstein (ULD), the Walter Schücking Institute for International Law at Kiel University, as well as the Social Sciences Center, the China Studies Center, and the Romance Studies Center at Kiel University. Additionally, we are immensely grateful to the Alfred-Toepfer-Stiftung F.V.S. for letting us use their facilities and for the wonderful treatment that we received.

Conference Program


Ulrich Hoinkes
On “Anxiety Culture”

In our current world, everyone is likely to feel anxious in the face of a very broad spectrum of threats and dangers we are all exposed to, whether as a matter of fact or in latent expectation. … Get complete abstract here.

Angelika Messner
Social Threats, Pain and Suffering in Chinese Past and Present

Pain and suffering in Chinese history and today is been used as a mental source for counter-discourses, as means of critique of ongoing threatening situations, on a societal Level. … Get complete abstract here.

Tim Giesler
The langue of Innovation in (Foreign Language) Education

The basic conditions under which teaching languages in school contexts takes place have not undergone drastic changes within the last 200 years of institutional schooling. … Get complete abstract here.

Jens Theilen
Gender Trouble(s), or: Anxiety about Gender Authenticity in Legal Discourse

This presentation aims to apply the framework of anxiety culture to the production and application of gender norms. … Get complete abstract here.

Felix Bieker
The Judiciary’s Response to Anxiety in Legislation: Mass Surveillance in the UK, Germany and the EU

Legislators on the national as well as the EU level have introduced surveillance measures in reaction to a public discourse focused on threats of terrorism and serious crime. … Get complete abstract here.

Dirk Nabers
Crisis and Change in Global Politics

The presentation develops a discourse theory of crisis and change in global politics. … Get complete abstract here.

Elaheh Salehi Rizi
How “silent violence against women” can threaten public life

Despite the positive evolution of women’s conditions in Western societies, violence against women still exists in various forms. … Get complete abstract here.

Meike Hethey
Digital communication as a Topic for Foreign Language Education

Fake news, hate speech, self-aggrandizement in social media, “global logorrhea” (T. Garton Ash)… Get complete abstract here.

Alastair Walker
Developments Concerning Indigenous Linguistic Minorities in a Globalized Society

In this paper I should like to touch upon two aspects concerning indigenous linguistic minorities, both of which may well have a bearing on the future of our society. … Get complete abstract here.

Elmar Eggert
“Death” of Minority Languages: A Social Threat?

Some developments in society can be perceived as social threats if they entail drastic changes to the traditional social status or relations that the people concerned consider a disadvantage for themselves. … Get complete abstract here.

Anika Schewe
Language Use and the Refugee Crisis – an Analysis of Spanish Newspaper Articles

Nowadays the refugee movement has become one of the most popular topics in the public discourse. … Get complete abstract here.

Lambert Schultz
Arguments in Online Discourses: A Linguistic Analysis Including Frame Semantics

Classic arguments base upon data and warrants that lead to a conclusion. … Get complete abstract here.

Fernando Henríquez
The Dangers of Paradigms in Education

In free and advanced societies, the education system faces formidable tensions and paradoxes. … Get complete abstract here.

Michael Schapira
From Romance to Tragedy. Some Reflections on the Importance of Genre in Anxiety Culture

“Philosophy, and in particular moral philosophy, is still deeply attached to giving good news.” … Get complete abstract here.

Bàrbara Roviró
Catalonia’s Independence Process and its Hindrance by “Anxiety Culture”

Catalonia at present is an Autonomous Community (‘Comunitat Autònoma’) and an integrative part of the Spanish State. … Get complete abstract here.