At the End of the World: A Transdisciplinary Approach to the Apocalyptic Imaginary in the Past and Present
Deeply rooted in the biblical tradition, the idea of the world’s imminent end has long been a fixture of Western history. By bringing together a multidisciplinary research team, "At the End of the World" will study apocalypticism as an imaginary, a transhistorical complex of texts, images, and symbols that continues to resonate beyond its original theological context. The overarching objectives of our 22 subprojects include both in-depth analyses of how the apocalyptic imaginary shapes conceptions of time, agency, justice, gender, corporeality, otherness, and nationhood; and critical reflections on the apocalyptic imaginary’s ambiguity in the past and present. For example, we will interrogate the use of apocalyptic imagery in historiography, legal-political thought, and populist rhetoric, but also the deployment of apocalyptic tropes in debates about AI, climate change, and migration. How does the apocalyptic imaginary define which futures are thinkable and desirable, and thereby shape political choices in the present? When do apocalyptic motifs ignite our capacities for ethical engagement or political resistance, and when do they function merely to paralyze us? Drawing on multiple methodological skillsets, "At the End of the World" will tap into resources from the history of apocalyptic thinking to expose the deeply rooted, but largely unconscious ways in which apocalyptic imagery resurfaces during today’s cultural and political challenges.