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12. July 2021, Michael Toggweiler | 0 Comments

Materiality is the Name of a Problem

Prof. Dr. Caroline van Eck

Two major developments have shaped the humanities since the 1980s: the material turn and the renewal of interest in human-thing entanglement. The latter had been a central issue, under the various headings of persuasion, fetishism or Einfühlung, in many disciplines that study human culture, from rhetoric to anthropology, and from aesthetics to psychology, but the emergence of formalism and iconography as dominating paradigms in art history, and behaviourism in psychology, in the early 20th century had driven human-thing entanglement out of academia and into popular culture or psychopathology. In the context of the material turn human-thing entanglement is now often considered a feature of the materiality of objects: of their power to act on humans, their capacity to exercise agency.

These developments have led to a complete rethinking of the study of human culture, both artefactual and visual. But they also raise at least two pressing questions: how to theorize what happens between humans and objects in situations of human-thing entanglement; and how to contextualize it, historically and culturally?

Coming to these questions as an art historian makes it possible on one side to draw on a very old and rich tradition of thought on what makes human viewers become entangled with art works as if they are the living beings they represent, both in terms of design or style and by way of theorizing: the complex tradition of Einfühlung/empathy is a case in point. On the other side, one of the challenges posed by the arrival of the material turn, with its concepts and methods taken largely from the social sciences and archaeology, is how to calibrate historical views and theories with the insights of present-day anthropology or psychology; and conversely, how to historicize these present-day theories and concepts of agency, materiality, or human-thing entanglement.

In my lecture I will consider, starting from Alfred’s Gell’s Art and Agency, various historical theories developed to account for what we now call human-thing entanglement, to investigate the historical and methodological challenges outlined here. The historical focus will be on the rich source material provided by accounts of sculpture-viewing and restoration in Paris and Rome c. 1800.

 

Mandatory reading (available here):

  • Gell, Alfred. “The Problem Defined: The Need Fro an Anthropology of Art.” In Art and Agency: An Anthropological Theory, 1–11. Oxford/New York: Clarendon Press, 1998.
  • Eck, Caroline van, Miguel John Versluys, and Pieter ter Keurs. “The Biography of Cultures: Style, Objects and Agency: Proposal for an Interdisciplinary Approach.” Les Cahiers de l’École Du Louvre, no. 7 (October 1, 2015).
  • Eck, Caroline van. “‘Du lebst und thust mir nichts’!: Fear, Empathy and Protection.” In Aby Warburg und die Natur Epistemik, Ästhetik, Kulturtheorie, edited by Frank Fehrenbach and Cornelia Zumbusch, 91–102. Berlin/Boston: Walter de Gruyter, 2018.

12. July 2021, Michael Toggweiler | 0 Comments

New Materialism and/as Political Theory

Prof. Dr. Christian J. Emden

The lecture will probe the relationship between “new materialism” and political theory, asking whether new materialism can justifiably be regarded as political theory.

While the current “material turn” in the humanities and some of the social sciences can take many forms in different disciplines, from literary theory and gender studies to sociology and law, the theoretical framework of this “material turn” rests on a number of ontological claims about matter, objecthood, life, agency, and the status of the non-human that are central to what is commonly described as “new materialism.” These ontological claims—as they come to the fore in “agential realism,” “speculative realism,” “object-oriented ontology,” “posthumanism,” or “vital materialism”—almost always entail specific ethical or substantive political commitments to egalitarian principles of justice, to radical democracy, and to a strong environmentalism. The emergence of new materialism, then, is also a direct response to some of the most obvious political and social issues of the present from social inequality and political disenfranchisement to racism and climate change. Although new materialism, broadly speaking, is not a homogeneous theoretical movement, the work of Bruno Latour, Timothy Morton, Karen Barad, Rosi Braidotti, or Jane Bennett, among others, provide obvious examples for these ethical and political commitments. The latter seek to correct the primacy of the human, and of normative reason, as it has been central to modern political thought since the Enlightenment by extending the “social” to include non-human actors and actants. New materialism’s attempt to de-emphasize the human, and thus human subjectivity, paradoxically includes an emancipatory project for the human world that surprisingly overlaps with central positions in contemporary critical theory (e.g. Rainer Forst, Axel Honneth, Nancy Fraser).

On the one hand, contemporary political theory, rooted in a specific understanding of human subjectivity and reason, will do well in reflecting on the material conditions for the possibility of justice, power, equality, and democracy, for instance, by extending its conception of the social. On the other hand, new materialism’s emphasis on the non-human is grounded in a flat ontology that resists the ethical and political positions it ostensibly seeks to advance. It is precisely because of this flat ontology that new materialism cannot show why, or how, its ethical and political demands should be more normatively binding, or more legitimate, than any other ethical or political claims. Perhaps, then, new materialism fails as political theory, even though it is able to enrich the perspective of political theory.

 

Mandatory reading (available here):

  • Bennett, Jane. Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. Durham: Duke University Press, 2010.
  • Coole, Diana, and Samantha Frost. “Introducing the New Materialisms.” In New Materialisms: Ontology, Agency, and Politics, edited by Diana Coole and Samantha Frost, 1–43. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013.
  • Emden, Christian J. “Normativity Matters: Philosophical Naturalism  and Political Theory.” In The New Politics of Materialism: History, Philosophy, Science, edited by Sarah Ellenzweig and John H. Zammito, 270–300. London/New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group, 2017.

12. July 2021, Michael Toggweiler | 0 Comments

Formal Material and the Feel of Violence

Prof. Dr. Eugenie Brinkema

How does the material of aesthetic form relate to the things, objects, and vibrant matter at the heart of the various material turns at work in the contemporary humanities? If the latter was an effort to move past the “all structure and no stuff” attributed to the linguistic turn, how might a resolutely radical conception of form reintroduce the problem of materiality in dialogue with formalism instead of opposed to it? This talk departs from the premise that both titular terms of the summer school—materiality and subjectivity—are best reapproached through a reading strategy that regards both as, principally, questions of form. This is illustrated by putting the materiality of the body and the limits of subjectivity to the test at an extreme site: an occasion of great violence. A reading of the 2007 French horror film À l’intérieur in relation to its navigation of seemingly disparate realms—the formal material of tempo, pacing, and rhythm, and a critical interest in the disenfranchised subjects of the Parisian banlieues—will suggest how the material of form opens up novel questions of subjective life under conditions of exclusion and restraint, questions that do not return us to a naive view of subjectivity but that expose subject positions as themselves basic formal material for the state.

 

Mandatory reading (available here):

  • Balibar, Étienne. “Uprisings in the Banlieues.” Constellations 14, no. 1 (2007): 47–71.
  • Brinkema, Eugenie.“Form.” In A Concise Companion to Visual Culture, edited by A. Joan Saab, Aubrey Anable and Catherine Zuromskis, 259–75. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 2020.

Recommended reading (available here):

  • Brinkema, Eugenie. “(Nearly) Nothing to Express: Horror: Some Tread: A Toroid.” In How to Do Things with Affects: Affective Triggers in Aesthetic Forms and Cultural Practices, edited by Ernst van Alphen and Tomáš Jirsa, 82–99. Thamyris, Intersecting, volume 34. Leiden/Boston: Brill Rodopi, 2019.

12. July 2021, Michael Toggweiler | 0 Comments

eugenie-brinkema_bv24 (2)Eugenie Brinkema is Associate Professor of Contemporary Literature and Media at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her research focuses on violence, affect, sexuality, aesthetics, and ethics in texts ranging from the horror film to gonzo pornography, from structuralist film to the visual and temporal forms of terrorism. Her articles have appeared in the journals AngelakiCamera ObscuraCriticismdifferencesDiscoursefilm-philosophy, The Journal of Speculative Philosophyqui parle, and World Picture. Her first book, The Forms of the Affects, was published with Duke University Press in 2014. Her second book, Life-Destroying Diagrams, explores radical formalism’s relationship to horror and love, and will be coming out in November of this year (2021), also with Duke. More information about the new book is available here.

 

Regarding the topic of the Summer School 2021, her areas of expertise include contemporary art and literature, critical theory and psychoanalysis, cultural studies, embodiment and affect, literary theory, popular culture, film theory, continental philosophy, formalist reading, visual culture and iconography, gender and sexuality studies.

 

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Emden, ChristianChristian J. Emden is the Frances Moody Newman Professor and professor of German intellectual history and political thought at Rice University. He is the founding director of Rice’s Program in Politics, Law & Social Thought and currently serves as chair of the Department of Modern and Classical Literatures and Cultures.

Emden’s current work is mainly concerned with varieties of political realism, especially as they focus on the relationship between active political citizenship and the constitutional demands of the modern state. A second line of inquiry is concerned with the emergence of normativity and the conditions of normative order. This approach links discussions in philosophical naturalism and new materialism to central issues in political theory and the history of political thought.

He is currently finishing a longer book project on philosophical nihilism in modern European political thought from the eighteenth century to the present, In a Meaningless World: Philosophical Nihilism and Political Thought, 1750-1960. A second book project, Hannah Arendt, Political Theory, and American Empire, is focused on the writings of Hannah Arendt as a public intellectual in the context of American political life during the 1950s and 1960s.

Emden is one of the chief editors of the journal Nietzsche-Studien and he is also on the editorial board of the Journal of Nietzsche Studies. Previously, he was on the editorial boards of the Zeitschrift für Kulturphilosophie and Modern Intellectual History.

 

Regarding the topic of the Summer School 2021, his areas of expertise include modern intellectual history, history of life sciences, history of scientific materialism and positivism, European philosophy since 1750, new materialism (critical gaze), genealogy of philosophical naturalism and political realism, theories of subjectivity.

 

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Caroline van Eck studied art history at the Ecole du Louvre in Paris, and classics and philosophy at Leiden University. In 1994 she obtained her PhD in aesthetics (cum laude) at the University of Amsterdam. She has taught at the Universities of Amsterdam, Groningen and Leiden, where she was appointed Professor of Art and Architectural History in 2006. She has been a Visiting Fellow at the Warburg Institute and the Paul Mellon Centre for British Art at Yale University, and a Visiting Professor in Ghent, Yale and York. In September 2016 she took up her appointment as Professor of Art History at Cambridge, and in 2017 she gave the Slade Lectures in Oxford on Piranesi’s late candelabra: ‘The Material Presence of Absent Antiquities: Collecting Excessive Objects and the Revival of the Past’.

Her main research interests are art and architectural history and theory of the eighteenth century and early nineteenth century; classical reception; the anthropology of art; Giovanni Battista Piranesi, Gottfried Semper and Aby Warburg.

Recent publications include Classical Rhetoric and the Arts in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007); Art, Agency and Living Presence. From the Animated Image to the Excessive Object (Munich and Leiden: Walter De Gruyter/Leiden University Press, 2015); ‘Art Works that Refuse to Behave: Agency, Excess and Material Presence in Canova and Manet’, New Literary History, 46 (2015), pp. 409-34; ‘The Hôtel de Beauharnais in Paris: Egypt, Rome, and the dynamics of cultural transformation’, in: K. von Stackelberg and E. Macaulay-Lewis (eds.), Housing the Romans (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016);’The Primal Scene of Architecture: Gottfried Semper and Alfred Gell on the Origins of Art, Style and Agency’, Revue Germanique Internationale 26 (2017), and  Restoring Antiquity in a Globalizing World: Piranesi’s Late Work and the Genesis of the Empire Style (Munich: DKV, 2019).

In 2014 she received the Prix Descartes-Huygens, awarded by the Académie des Sciences, the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres in France and the Dutch Royal Academy of Sciences; in 2015 she was made a Chevalier of the Ordre National du Mérite, and in the same year she received the Grand Prix du Rayonnement de la Littérature et Culture Françaises, awarded by the Académie Française. In 2016 she received a honorary doctorate from the University of Neuchâtel. She was elected a Fellow of the Academia Europaea in 2019, and a Fellow of the British Academy in 2020.

Funded by the Cambridge-Paris Sciences Lettres Strategic Partnership Van Eck directs, together with Prof. Isabelle Kalinowski (Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris) the program ‘Entangled Histories: Archaeology, Interiors and Design 1750-1900. Van Eck and Kalinowski als convene a graduate online seminar, organized together with the Labo Translitterae at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris: KUNST. German Theoretical Approaches to Art (1750-2000).

 

Regarding the topic of the Summer School 2021, her areas of expertise include art and architectural history (mainly 18th and 19th Century), anthropology of art, organicism in artistic theory and practice, agency, excess and material presence of art works, entangled history.

 

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11. March 2020, Michael Toggweiler | 0 Comments

2020 - Materialities and Subjectivities 732x416

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation we have decided to postpone our summer school “Materialities & Subjectivities. Accounting for Complicated and Complicating Entanglements in the Humanities” to 2021. We will host our “Materialities & Subjectivities” summer school next year from Monday, September 6 – Friday, September 10, 2021 on the same topic!

 

Materialities & Subjectivities
Accounting for Complicated and Complicating Entanglements in the Humanities

 

31 August – 4 September 2020, Hotel Alpha Soleil, Kandersteg, Switzerland

 

Since the 1990s, the humanities’ interest in material and materiality has been growing steadily. A material turn has been called out in order to coin a programmatic shift away from social constructivism and a text-heavy linguistic turn, which was criticized for maintaining modern and humanist binaries such as matter/subject, or nature/culture.

Feminist new materialists advocated for embracing the vitality of matter as it encompasses humans and non-humans alike (e.g. Donna Haraway, Karen Barad, Jane Bennett). The latter’s rejection of anthropocentrism aligns feminist new materialism both with speculative realism (e.g. Quentin Meillassoux), a branch in philosophy that demanded a recognition of an autonomous reality that is independent of man and their consciousness, and with Actor Network Theory (ANT) (e.g. Bruno Latour), which positions humans as one actor amongst other “actants” who collectively form networks with particular capacities. And in regard to the emergence of New Media, media theorists such as Friedrich Kittler made a case for considering technology as essentially autonomous, leaving the human and written history behind.

While some matter-oriented approaches might have overstated the power of matter and technology by seemingly asserting and sometimes celebrating its primacy and self-sufficient agency (e.g. Kittler’s polemic “driving the human out of the humanities”), for most of them (as well as this summer school), a return to matter does not mean to discount subjective, conceptual/ideal, discursive, or socio-cultural constructions of gender, class or race. The concepts that interest us consider how material objects, bodies, spaces, media stores and tools, technology, conditions are entangled with discourses and subjectivities, and how agency is co-produced—always infected by power modalities.

A mode of thinking through the intersections of (non)human life (bodies, animals, viruses, etc.), inorganic matter (particles, stone, waste, medial tools, technology, infrastructure, etc.), environmental phenomena (climate, streams, pollution, etc.) and socio-cultural or subjective/sensitive constructions puts forward a complicating, connecting, vibrant, processual, transmedial and open way to conceptualize the world, undermining an all too monolithic conception of systems, structures, fields, disciplines, and research objects. It allows us to think from transitions and beyond borders.

The summer school of 2020 analyzes and discusses present and past material and conceptual entanglements both as research topics and as a mode of thinking from (art)historical, literary, sociological, cultural, philosophical, archaeological, intermedial and artistic perspectives. It addresses the following questions a.o.:

  • What do we really mean, when working with broad concepts such as “materiality” and “subjectivity”? How might a post-millennial (digital) approach differ from older conceptions?
  • Since a shift towards the material might decentralize and destabilize the human subject and turns towards non-human performativity, while being a conceptual device nonetheless, how can we reasonably reconcile the material and conceptual/ideal, body/matter and sign/text, or, if necessary redefine it?
  • Since thinking in entanglements is fundamentally about potentially limitless spatio-temporal relationality (“fields of force and flows of material”, as Tim Ingold stated)—how can we still reasonably delimit our research, keep it focused and avoid arbitrariness?
  • In what ways might performative, experiential, artistic or sensorial methodologies and methods help us to study entanglements of materialities and subjectivities? How can we, for example, account for sensual, aesthetic and performative aspects of material culture in our own research output—in text, visual, auditive, or intermedial forms?

 

Keynote Speakers

Prof. Dr. Christian J. Emden (Professor of Politics, Law & Social Thought, Rice University)
Regarding the topic of the Summer School 2020, his areas of expertise include modern intellectual history, history of life sciences, history of scientific materialism and positivism, European philosophy since 1750, new materialism (critical gaze), genealogy of philosophical naturalism and political realism, theories of subjectivity.

Prof. Dr. Caroline van Eck (Professor of Art History, Director of Studies of King’s College, University of Cambridge)
Regarding the topic of the Summer School 2020, her areas of expertise include art and architectural history (mainly 18th and 19th Century), anthropology of art, organicism in artistic theory and practice, agency, excess and material presence of art works, entangled history.

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Call for Application

For further information about the summer school and the application procedure (extended application deadline Mai 10, 2020), please have a look at our call.

 


26. September 2019, Michael Toggweiler | 0 Comments

Reflections on the TransHumanities 2019 Summer School

By Efthymis Kokordelis (Université de Lausanne)

Some six months ago the TransHumanities 2019 Summer School in Murten was announced by the University of Bern and quite a few ‘children’ of various humanities fields were inspired to participate, detecting connecting lines between their own research and the Summer School’s topic Challenging the Sites of Knowledge: Medial and pluri-medial configurations and transformations. A week after its realisation, then, and having processed and digested what was discussed, it is an appropriate time to take a moment and reflect on the Summer School as a whole.

The short answer to the titular question is “Yes, we did!” However, I guess a bit more is expected for everyone to see why and how did we push them, so here it is:

The Summer School was attended by approximately thirty scholars: three guest lecturers, the Bernese team, and twenty-three PhD and PostDocs. Coming from different backgrounds and diverse disciplines, the primary signs were very optimistic since Day 1 (03/09). Prof. Dr. Urte Krass offered an introduction in Bern University and the Graduate School of the Humanities, while later people and their projects were introduced in an evening introductory session followed by dinner and some first discussions in various groups.

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Bildschirmfoto 2019-06-21 um 11.59.24Doris Bachmann-Medick is Senior Research Fellow at the International Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture (GCSC) of the Justus Liebig University Giessen. She held numerous appointments as a Visiting Professor in Literary Studies and the Study of Culture, recently at the universities of Graz, Göttingen, UC Irvine, Cincinnati, and Georgetown University. During her time as fellow at the IFK in Vienna she completed her book on “Cultural Turns“. This cross-disciplinary work synthesizes not only the current theoretical trends and discussions in the humanities and social sciences, but also gives an insight into Doris Bachmann-Medick’s main research fields such as cultural theory, Kulturwissenschaften, literary anthropology (literature and ethnography), and cultural translation studies. She is especially interested in epistemological, cultural and political conditions of transcultural and global developments – in emerging concepts, topics , concerns and practices in cultural theory – and in cultures as manifold translations. In this regard she is currently co-editing a volume on „Futures of the Study of Culture“. She serves on the editorial board of Translation Studies.
Recent Publications: Jenseits der Konsensgemeinschaft – Kulturwissenschaften im “socio-political turn?”, in: Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften 2, 105-111, 2017. / Cultural Turns: New Orientations in the Study of Culture. Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter, 2016. / The Trans/National Study of Culture: A Translational Perspective. Berlin, Boston: de Gruyter, 2014. / more

Website

Regarding the topic of the Summer School 2019, her areas of expertise include translation studies, cultural theory, interdisciplinary and transcultural developments in the study of culture, cross-cultural knowledge, travelling concepts, cultural turns.

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Salzbrunn_FotoMonika Salzbrunn, Full Professor of Religions, Migration, Diasporas at University of Lausanne, invited research professor at Università degli Studi di Genova and associated researcher at CéSOR/EHESS Paris, is principal investigator of the European Research Council (ERC) project on ARTIVISM –Art and Activism. Creativity and performance as subversive means of political expression in super-diverse cities. She was leading the projects “(In)visible islam in the city. material and immaterial expressions of muslim practices within urban spaces in Switzerland” and “Undocumented Mobility and Digital-Cultural Resources after the ‘Arab Spring”, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation. Monika Salzbrunn has published numerous articles and books in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Japanese about political and religious performances in a context of migration and written several documentary films. She was visiting professor at the Japan Women’s University Tokyo and at Kwansei Gakuin University in Japan and is currently member of the research group POPADIVCIT, Popular Arts, Diversity and Cultural Policies in Post-Migration Urban Settings of the European Excellence Network IMISCOE, and associated researcher at CéSOR/EHESS Paris.
Recent publications: Civilisations, vol. 67, A l’écoute des transnationalisations religieuses/Sounding religious transnationalism, (in print). / Revue européenne des migrations internationales, vol. 35, 3-4, 2019: Musiques, danses et (trans)nationalismes, (in print) / L’événement (im)prévisible. Mobilisations politiques et dynamiques religieuses. Beauchesne, 2019. /L’islam (in)visible en ville. Appartenances et engagements dans l’espace urbain. Labor et Fides, 2019. / Migrations, circulations, mobilités. Nouveaux enjeux épistémologiques et conceptuels à l’épreuve du terrain. Sociétés Contemporaines, 2018.

Website

Regarding the topic of the Summer School 2019, her areas of expertise include transnational social spaces, urban spaces, migration, political and religious practices, festive events/carnival/art/music/ theatre, visual anthropology, multisensory ethnography.

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Schroeter_FotoJens Schröter, Prof. Dr., is chair for media studies at the University of Bonn since 2015. He was Professor for Multimedial Systems at the University of Siegen 2008-2015. He was director of the graduate school “Locating Media” at the University of Siegen from 2008-2012. He is member of the DFG-graduate research center “Locating Media” at the University of Siegen since 2012. He was (together with Prof. Dr. Lorenz Engell, Weimar) director of the DFG-research project “TV Series as Reflection and Projection of Change” from 2010-2014. He was speaker of the research project (VW foundation; together with Dr. Stefan Meretz; Dr. Hanno Pahl and Dr. Manuel Scholz-Wäckerle) “Society after Money – A Dialogue”, 2016-2018. Since 4/2018 director (together with Anja Stöffler, Mainz) of the DFG-research project “Van Gogh TV. Critical Edition, Multimedia-documentation and analysis of their Estate” (3 years). Since 10/2018 speaker of the research project (VW foundation; together with Prof. Dr. Gabriele Gramelsberger; Dr. Stefan Meretz; Dr. Hanno Pahl and Dr. Manuel Scholz-Wäckerle) “Society after Money – A Simulation” (4 years). April/May 2014: „John von Neumann“-fellowship at the University of Szeged, Hungary. September 2014: Guest Professor, Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, Guangzhou, People’s Republic of China. Winter 2014/15: Senior-fellowship at the research group „Media Cultures of Computer Simulation“, Summer 2017: Senior-fellowship IFK Vienna, Austria. Winter 2018: Senior-fellowship IKKM Weimar.
Recent publications: Postmonetär denken, Wiesbaden: Springer 2018. (together with „Project Society after Money“) / Society after Money. A Dialogue, London/New York: Bloomsbury 2019. (together with „Project Society after Money“) /Markets, Minneapolis/London: University of Minnesota Press and Lüneburg: Meson (Series: In Search of Media). (together with Armin Beverungen, Philip Mirowski, Edward Nik-Khah).

Website

Regarding the topic of the Summer School 2019, his areas of expertise include theory and history of digital media/digital culture, intermediality, virtual reality, multimedia, auditoryculture, visuality, media and capital.

 



Trading Zone or Translation? Knowledge Formation through Displacement

Doris Bachmann-Medick

How do “sites of knowledge“ emerge in a globalized world? This talk focuses on knowledge as a compo-site rather than a mere “site“ – as a complex dynamic that unfolds especially through processes of displacement: emerging from shifts and transversal relations between different systems or genres of knowledge such as research, art, common knowledge, social media, etc. Such intersections reach beyond hybridized or mixed constellations. They are challenges for intervening or mediating practices. In this respect, my talk discusses the concept and practice of the “trading zone“ trying to transfer it from science studies to the study of culture. Could the elaboration of this concept provide new insights into processes of social and cultural knowledge formation, too? Could it also be a useful practice for managing communication between different registers of knowledge in cultural and medial encounters – between artistic articulations, political conversations, social actions, museum displays, lay knowledge, and scholarly expertise? At issue here is the attempt to find a common “exchange language“. But, don’t we need more than just a shared language? Perhaps also an activation of senses, emotions, and practical skills, of common concerns and reference points – stimulated through displacements? For exploring this complex field my talk suggests to elaborate a specific mode of a social and cultural practice that is embedded in “translational epistemologies“. At issue is in any case a practical turn of knowledge – to be reached by 1) a different scaling (from global thinking towards local acting), 2) by scrutinizing and activating travelling concepts (that transform ideas into practices, actions, collaborations, and participations), and 3) by looking for new and other forms of generating knowledge (through linking different fields, be they those of social action or symbolic representation).

 

Mandatory reading (available here):

  • Bachmann-Medick, Doris 2014:  From Hybridity to Translation: Reflections on Travelling Concepts. In: The Trans/National Study of Culture: A Translational Perspective, Doris Bachmann-Medick (ed.),  De Gruyter, pp. 119–136.
  • Galison, Peter 1999: Trading Zone: Coordinating Action and Belief (1998 abridgment).” In: The Science Studies Reader, Mario Biagioli (ed.), Routledge, pp. 137-160.


ARTIVISM in post-migration settings
(Co-)production of representations through audio-visual counter-narratives

Monika Salzbrunn

Action research, participatory research methods and interactive filmmaking share the common approach of taking the researched subject as an expert who co-constructs knowledge with the researcher. The circulation of images via social networks has contributed a great deal to rendering individuals and collectives conscious about their power in co-constructing or counter-performing knowledge and representations of self and others. The division of the sensitive (Rancière, 2000) implies the creation of new semantics of political inclusion and of legitimacy, putting into question formalised power relations.
In our ERC ARTIVISM project (Salzbrunn, 2015) which focuses on “Art and activism. Creativity and performance as subversive forms of political expression in super-diverse cities”, we research the use of art in activism and activism in the arts. Applying multi-sensory ethnography (Pink, 2011) and audio-visual methods, we conduct empirical research in cities of the French and Italian Mediterranean coast, in California and in the francophone part of Cameroon. I will first give an introduction to the epistemological and methodological background of the project, drawing on performance, urban and migration studies. This will be followed by examples that reveal the co-construction and staging of diversity through alternative fashion shows. Following Rancière’s (1994) idea that politics have always been aesthetic and Butler’s (1993) concept of performance as the staging of a desired situation, we focus on the performativity of artivist actions. Our approach implies a consideration of the filmed persons as co-producers of knowledge, representations and (counter-)narratives. Each actor gives a particular meaning (Deleuze, 1969) to her/his performance (Butler, 1993) in a certain context (Rogers and Vertovec, 1995) and in a given social situation (Clarke, 2005). Finally, considering the researched subjects as experts with whom researchers co-construct knowledge in a globalised battle of images and meaning implies their participation in the (film-)writing and their feedback in restitution processes.


Mandatory reading (available here):

  • Salzbrunn, Monika, Barbara Dellwo and Sylvain Besençon 2018: Analyzing participatory cultural practices in a medium-scale Swiss town: How multiple belongings are constructed and consolidated through an interactive film-making process, Conjunctions, Vol. 5, No. 1, pp. 3-18.
  • Souiah, Farida, Monika Salzbrunn and Simon Mastrangelo 2018: Hope and Disillusion. The Representations of Europe in Algerian and Tunisian Cultural Production about Undocumented Migration. In: North Africa and the Making of Europe. Governance, Institutions and Culture, Muriam Haleh Davis et Thomas Serres (eds.), Bloomsbury, pp. 155-177 (chap. 7).

Recommended reading (available here):

  • Salzbrunn, Monika 2016: When the mosque goes Beethoven: Expressing religious belongings through music. COMPASO – Journal of Comparative Research in Anthropology and Sociology, Vol. 7, No. 1, pp. 59-74.

Recommended website:



Official and Popular Media Analysis

Jens Schröter

In the recent years there has been a nervous and controversial discussion on fake news and conspiracy theories circulating in the web (‘Social Media’). The web, due to its mostly unregulated character and its network structure (‘everything is connected with everything’) is an optimal medial site for such counter-knowledge that tends to question ‚official‘ forms of knowledge (often meaning scientific knowledge and/or knowledge circulating through traditional mass media). Building on John Fiske’s conception of the difference between forms of ‚popular‘ and ‚official‘ knowledge (which itself derives partly from the work of Michel Foucault), the talk wants to sketch the conflicts of different types of knowledge in the plurimedial realm of the web. The plurimediality is especially interesting: Nowadays the web can contain several forms of audiovisual information – and the access to image and audio processing software is as widespread as never before. Transformed and reworked audiovisual materials, constructing other forms of ‘truth’, can counter ‘official’ audiovisual documents that represent ‘official knowledge’. This will be illustrated using the most exemplary case: The so-called Zapruder film showing the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963. This short piece of film is the most analyzed piece of film in history – and nowadays there are several ‘counteranalyses’ on the web, trying – e.g. with image processing software – to construct different readings of the material, for example to lend credibility to conspiracy narratives. In a way the monopoly of interpretation of audiovisual material (and its correlated techniques of audio-visual analysis), which officially was the task of (military or police) forensic analysis and later also of media studies is countered by ‘bottom-up media analysis’. Does this mean that we have to accept these multiplications of truths? Surely we should not. But how can we differentiate? This will be – amongst other things – an important task for the humanities in the future: A meta-reflection on the plurimedial struggles between official and popular knowledge.

 

Mandatory reading (available here):

  • Schröter, Jens 2005: Von Wissen/Unterhaltung zu offiziellem/populärem Wissen. Zeitschrift für Germanistik, Vol. XV, No. 1, pp. 96-108. [mandatory for German speakers]
  • Foucault, Michel 2003: Society Must Be Defended. In: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1975-76, Bertani et al. (eds.), Picador, pp. 1-19.

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