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Language and identity in an intercultural perspective

Do you think language constitutes identity? If so, what does that mean for our approach to foreign languages and plurilingualism? In this CIVIS course, we will look for answers to these questions.

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CIVIS focus area
Society, culture, heritage
Open to
  • Phd
Field of studies
  • Social Science and humanities
  • Blended Intensive Programmes (BIP)
Course dates
20 October 2022 - 7 July 2023

When reflecting upon identity, we must bear in mind at least two levels on which we can analyse this concept: on one hand, the level of personal identity, on the other hand, the one of collective identity. But, under both of these perspectives, identity can be put itself into question as a concept. In the philosophical tradition, identity stands for stability, sameness and unity as opposed to changing and multiplicity. But is the concept of identity understood in these terms suitable for expressing our social being, or should we rather replace it with a notion that takes into account multiple allegiances and diversity, like for example the notion of “belonging” (appartenance)? On a personal level, one can belong to several groups or “social identities”, while on the collective level, we may ask the question of what insures the cohesion of a community, and what defines its belonging.

Such an endeavour leads us to the problem of language: is speech the foundation of this cohesion, in such a way that the relation between language and identity is constitutive for both terms? Or, on the contrary, is linguistic congruence only a type of identification among others, language itself being but one of several markers of identity, along with ethnicity, tradition or religion? However, unlike religion, language is not exclusive. One can be born in several mother tongues, or one can displace oneself by learning other languages. Therefore, the question of a foreign language, just as the one of an identitary translation, comes to the fore. In what our individuality is concerned, and how does our relation to our mother tongue change, if we experience our belonging to a community through a foreign language? In what the community itself is concerned, does its perception of identity change, by any means, through the encounter of the foreign?

What kind of in-between develops itself, then, in the middle ground of different cultures, which may speak the same religion or ethnicity, but not necessarily the same language? What kind of intercultural undergoing takes place, for example, between countries like Turkey, Iran and Iraq within Islam, or within Switzerland as a plurilinguistic nationhood? Is plurilingualism itself an indisputable reality, or should we all rather affirm, as Jacques Derrida invites us to do, that we have only but one language, which though never belongs to us? In this respect, the question of identity is set upon a new ground, opening an inner finitude proper to any inclusion, just as to any ownership.


The program aims at providing PhD students with the opportunity to discuss topics related to their own dissertation projects with fellow students as well as faculty from different departments and even different subjects. This should help PhD-students to (1) gain a better overview of their area of research and (2) to network in an internationally appealing environment. Since at most universities there is not that many faculty-people in the field of the course’s topic the international exchange will foster the student’s dissertation projects.

In addition, we intend to connect participants with the alumni of two earlier editions of a blended CIVIS course we pursued in 2020/21 and 2021/22. Since we intend to continue the program in the years to come this will establish an alumni-network of more than one-hundred PhD-students amongst CIVIS universities within the next few years.

Main topics addressed

  • Identity / Identities
  • Foreignness
  • Belonging
  • Plurilingualism
  • Relation between language and identity
  • Intercultural Philosophy and gloabl epistemologies

Learning outcomes

  • Insights into current research around the topics of the course.
  • Results with regard to at least some of the research questions students formulated in the beginning.
  • Ability to work in an interdisciplinary group and to exchange cross-disciplinary.
  • Ability to present own research.
  • In addition, the course is meant to provide opportunities to network amongst different CIVIS universities.
  • Therefore, one expected outcome is the establishment of a PhD-network amongst participants (and alumni of earlier classes).


Dates: 20 October 2022 - 7 July 2023 Language: English (C1)
Format: Blended ECTS: 6
Location: Tübingen, Germany Total workload: 160
Contact: Niels Weidtmann  

Recognition of ECTS depends on your home university. 

The blended course is part of a PhD-network that we are about to establish amongst CIVIS-Universities in the broader field of "Intercultural Philosophy and Global Epistemologies". The course brings together some 24 PhD-students from all CIVIS member universities.

Participants have the chance to work with lecturers of 6 different CIVIS universities on the topic of "Language and Identity" during the year.

During the in-person workshop, each participant presents a paper on parts of her/his dissertation project related to the class's topic.

The program is structured and interdisciplinary. PhD-students are accepted from a broad range of subjects.

Course elements will comprise lectures, as well as plenary discussions and students, work in small groups of fellow students.

Virtual part

The virtual part will be running from 20 October 2022 to 15 June 2023. 

The course topic is “Language and Identity in an Intercultural Perspective”.

The course will be offered online (via Zoom) and consists of 24 units, and 12 sessions (2h/week) each semester namely: October 2022-January 2023 and March 2023-June 2023.

It is scheduled for Thursdays, 16:00-18:00.

The course provides different perspectives on the general topic:

  1. Recent developments and perspectives in the phenomenology of language.
  2. Different concepts related to identity and belonging in the area of social and political philosophy.
  3. Sociological concepts of identity and belonging.
  4. Intercultural critique of identity-concepts.
  5. Language and Foreignness; multilingualism and identity. Each one of the six lecturers will be responsible for two sessions each semester. Students will be provided relevant literature that they have to prepare for each session. On the basis of the literature different perspectives will be discussed during the sessions. All literature will be provided in English. In addition to lectures and plenary discussions there will be working phases in small groups of fellow students.

Physical mobility

The physical mobility part will take place from 3 to 7 July 2023.

The workshop runs for five days in July 2023 at the University of Tübingen. It combines lectures given by all six professors from six different CIVIS member universities with presentations given by participants.

All lecturers attend the entire workshop and provide feedback to all participant’s presentations. In addition, there will be guest lectures by international research fellows of the College of Fellows, Tuebingen University, during evening sessions.

In addition to the academic program, the workshop includes some social programmes: University of Tübingen on-campus tour, dinner, punting trip on river Neckar, guided city tour, and Biergarten-visit.


  • Participants need to have language proficiency in English at C1-level
  • The class is interdisciplinary with a focus on philosophy, sociology, anthropology, and psychology; students should come from one of these or related disciplines/ subjects
  • Applicants must be willing to pursue the entire course program and attend the in-person workshop in July 2023 with a presentation of their own research project
  • Participants should pursue their PhD at one of CIVIS member universities
  • The dissertation projects of applicants should be related to the topic of the class
  • Willingness to work and exchange interdisciplinary

Master's students may be accepted exceptionally.

Application process

Interested students should apply by filling in the online application form by 30 September 2022. Students should include their research project outlines and their level of English. 

Apply for this course


Participants will be granted 6 ECTS.

They have to prepare the literature dealt with during the online phase of the program weekly. In addition, they will give a presentation during the in-person workshop.

Lecturers will assess students' commitment to the class by (1) noting their attendance, (2) checking whether they have prepared for the respective session, and (3) assessing the willingness to contribute to the discussion as well as the quality of their contributions.

The main assessment, however, will be during the in-person workshop. Participants present part of their PhD projects and all six lecturers will comment on the presentations and provide feedback.

Feedback may even be provided all year long in case PhD students ask for it.

Blended Intensive Programme

This CIVIS course is a Blended Intensive Programme (BIP): a new format of Erasmus+ mobility which combines online teaching with a short trip to another campus to learn alongside students and professors across Europe. Click here to learn more about CIVIS BIPs.

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  • Marina De Palo is Full Professor of Philosophy of Language at the Department of Philosophy, Sapienza University of Rome, Italy. She is the Coordinator of the PhD programme in Philosophy at Sapienza University of Rome. Her research interests focus on the history of the philosophy of language, on the relations that occur among linguistics, psychology and the philosophy of language, on the origin of linguistic semantics, and on De Mauro’s theory of language.
  • Héctor Grad Fuchsel is Full Professor at the Department of Social Anthropology and Spanish Thought at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (UAM). He holds a PhD in Social Psychology from the Complutense University of Madrid, after having studied B.A. and M.A. at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
  • Bogdan Minca is an Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Bucharest, Department of Practical Philosophy and History of Philosophy. His main research topics are classical Greek Philosophy and in Phenomenology and Hermeneutics.
  • Gerasimos Kakoliris is Assistant Professor in Contemporary Continental Philosophy in the Department of Philosophy at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. He holds a PhD in Philosophy from the Essex University (ΒΑ, PhD) after having studied B.A. and M.A. at the universities of Essex and Warwick.
  • Anna Petronella Foultier holds a PhD in Philosophy and is working at the Department of Philosophy, Stockholm University. She is working on 20th Century Philosophy, Intentionality, and Perception, among other topics.
  • Niels Weidtmann is Director of the College of Fellows - Center for Interdisciplinary and Intercultural Studies at the Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen. He is head of a research group in Intercultural Studies. His research is on phenomenology and intercultural philosophy.

Guest lecturers will be invited for evening lectures during the in-person workshop. These guests will be international research fellows of the College of Fellows and come from different subjects, i.e., social anthropology, intercultural studies, and philosophy.