The End of Modernity (and the Rise of the Marginal-Man)

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Despite its many currents and revisions, the notion of modernity has recently assumed a particular consciousness in relation to identity, history and global politics. Even in the innocent worlds of art and architecture, notions of affirmation, heterogeneity, fragmentation, and even marginalization are almost universally affirmed today as the desired conditions and tactics for many reasons, not least of which is overcome the fundamental mistakes of Western Modernism: namely, its negational stance relative to all (local) contexts, and its yielding to the temptation of ideological and cultural totalization, by which together are understood its adherence to autonomous, total systems, a singular aesthetic of universal applicability.

Plotted against the modernist (Western) desire for universal abstraction, and the post-modernist liberationist stance with respect to social norms and cultural meanings, this emerging modernity is giving rise to a wide thematic network, a complex and diverse web of ideas, within which cultural practice is situated today, and against which it is reclaiming its coherence, legitimacy and global validity.

The primary object of this paper is to probe this consciousness, and to look at the important ideas and social shifts that emerged in recent years in order to reveal the ways in which these ideas, through a form of crossbreeding, generated new tools for understanding modernity- while rethinking its historical, social and ideological contexts.

The generative process by which architect Bernard Tschumi produces Parc de la Villette, his highly acclaimed project in the north-east side of Paris is offered as a corrective critique of Western “modernity.” By isolating some of Tschumi’s architectural strategies at La Villette, and interrogating his theoretical concepts, I will attempt to rethink the idea of modernity, and the nature of its objects and events while moving across and mediating between different physical and theoretical domains in order to set up meaningful encounters between varied and distinct levels of cultural production.


Keywords: Modernity, Marginal-Man, Theory
Stream: Aesthetics, Design , Globalisation
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Dr. A. Sameh El Kharbawy

Associate Professor, Art and Design, California State University
CA, USA

Dr. El Kharbawy’s work focuses mainly on questions of modernity, democracy and liberalization in global contexts and multiple disciplines, exploring them in theory and in practice.

Ref: H08P0336