Subversive Semantics in Political and Cultural Discourse.

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Inspired by the large-scale occurrence of phenomena of semantic transfer and rhetorical inversion currently to be observed in right wing discourses and ‘alternative knowledge’ production, the symposium seeks to analyze processes of resemanticization (Umdeutung) of cultural concepts and narratives aimed at establishing hermeneutic hegemony in the political field. Special attention will be paid to discourses on “development” (with reference to the relations between Global North and Global South, e.g. the argument of overpopulation); reformulations of the meaning of nation and national identity; the rhetorical maneuvers of right-wing populism (how does it differ from leftist populisms?); the discursive construction of the urban-rural divide (in the context of climate change, corporate agroindustry, and rural ecofascism); and the seductiveness of conspiracy narratives concealing reality denial (e.g. climate denial, Covid-19 denial).

In all named fields, we can observe reinterpretations of existing narratives and motifs, aimed at obtaining power of interpretation/discursive hegemony and to prevent necessary reforms. The symposium will analyze to what extent such maneuvers serve to establish new and powerful belief systems beyond rational and democratic control, and why it is that societies priding themselves with their technological and rational excellence, as well as the accessibility of an immense amount of knowledge, yet have to fear that democracy, and planetary survival itself, may fall victim to an expanding communicative ‘culture’ of ignorance and doubt frequently coupled with a general hostility toward life.

The Conference will be held online.

Due to uncertainties regarding the Covid-19 situation, we decided to convene the symposium online. Check back here for more news as the date approaches. We kindly invite guests to apply for your participation by writing an e-mail to We will then share the zoom link with you.


Götze, Tobias




  • DFG-Graduiertenkolleg „Deutungsmacht. Religion und belief-systems in Deutungsmachtkonflikten“


  • Aula, Universitätshauptgebäude, Universitätshauptplatz 1, 18055 Rostock

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