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Summer School Lodz

Identity Constructions in Contact and Conflict Regions in Eastern Europe
11 - 24 July 2014
University of Lodz, Poland

Regions of cultural and conflict are understood here as imperial and linguistic peripheral zones, transitional zones and contact zones, as well as urban spaces characterized by linguistic, ethnic, confessional or other contact and conflict scenarios which can be defined as cultural. Also taken into consideration will be such zones of conflict and contact which are no longer characterized by their former cultural pluralism, but in which this nevertheless continues to play a major role in memory politics and identity politics or in the historical-literary reflection. The range of zones of contact and conflict runs from low-conflicts co-existence, through confrontational rivalries over historical and political identity to violent escalations of cultural conflict patterns. The focus here is on a broad geographic definition of Eastern Europe, which included not only Central Eastern, South Eastern and Eastern Europe but also zones of interactions with Turkic-speaking nations and communities in the successor states of the Soviet Union. In such regions, identities have been repeatedly and continuously re-negotiates and constructed around varying linguistic, national, ethnic, political or religious factors.



ESSCS Summer School Lisbon

30 June - 05 July 2014

Over the past century, Europe has been a site of contradiction. Marked, on the one hand, by the utmost explosions of violence, it has also given rise to the most peaceful post-national political project in modern times. It has been a haven of peace and a locus of disorder and violence, giving vent to experimentation, transgression and creation, while preserving tradition and enforcing normativity.

Developed within the larger context of the European Project Culture@Work, the 2014 Lisbon Summer School for the Study of Culture addresses artistic latency in Europe. Latency periods are defined as states of transition pre-dating structured change and characterized by indefinition as well as what Freud considered a repression of desire and a return to normativity. These periods of cultural and artistic latency are often accompanied by social and political crisis or violence (Spanish Civil War, WWI and II, Cold War, Yugoslav Wars, austerity crisis, etc.) and despite the limitations of the context, they harbour the seeds of cultural change and revolution. In the contradictory relation of repression and creativity, it is particularly relevant to ask how does latency affect the partition of the sensible? How does a repressive context impact on artistic agency? How does art created as a reaction to the disruption of war and the destruction of life affect communal life?

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Hermes Summer School Helsinki

Reading Reconsidered: History, Practices, Materialities, Affects
08 - 13 June 2014

It is a truism that literature does not exist unless there is someone who reads it. We are used to think of reading as a meeting of text and reader. We are familiar with debates about which of the two dominate this encounter: do the embedded reception structures, conceptualized as, for example, the distinction between authorial and narrative audiences guide the reader’s response? Or is reading primarily steered by our reading strategies that are institutionally formed? New dimensions were added to this debate when we realized that reading is not simply a matter of relating content to form, but that it responds to a text’s materiality. Further, reading has a physical side, too; this dimension was better known in earlier times when reading aloud was a common practice. In Karin Littau’s words, reading brings together two bodies, “one made of paper and ink, the other of flesh and blood.” The growing awareness of the physicality of reading involves a heightened perception of the effects of reading. Besides whetting our imaginations and challenging our intellect, reading affects our emotions. While familiar questions are still being examined, a host of new issues has emerged, thanks to changing reading habits and environments. New technologies have created new platforms on which to read: we have desktops, laptops, e-readers, tablets, and handheld devices. These devices raise questions about their effects. Reading becomes a new kind of activity when it is combined with intermediality – with viewing and listening. The Hermes 2014 seminar at the University of Helsinki invites participants to reflect on the various facets and strategies of reading in the context of the cultural and technological transformations of our time.




States of Exceptionalism – Globalization, Difference, Power

8–9 May 2014
Giessen, International Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture (GCSC)

While the contemporary world is increasingly charcterized by conflict and crisis, challenging imagined geographies and geopolitical patterns formerly regarded as stable, exceptional identity positions seem to gain ground. As the world globalizes, a growing need to construct the self as special, superior, unique and exceptional seems to emerge. Nations, countries, regions and cities as well as social groups claiming to be exceptional obviously follow a mission. They use their alleged superiority, be it of an economic, a power-related or an imagined ethical and moral kind, to supply the other parts of the world with strategies of good governance and exemplary models.

With this conference we take a closer look at the emerging term in order to compare and discuss how it is conceptualized and utilized in different places and contexts. The conference is dedicated to an exploration of the notion of exceptionalism as a discursive tool and a narrative structure to to distinguish the self from not only an inferior but also from a coequal other. Exceptionalism seems to gesture toward a peer relation within an imaginary on serial places, regions and nation-states, not one of domination between colonial center and colonized periphery.

Although the concept of exceptionalism has become more popular, it still remains vague, blurred and lacks definition. We will discuss papers from broad interdisciplinary perspectives within the social sciences and humanities. Papers adressing particular cases or making broader analytical and theoretical contributions to nations of exceptionalism will examine, what discursive self-conceptions of being special in a globalized world are about

Organizer: David Scheller, Ebbe Volquardsen


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Emergent Forms of Life in Contemporary English and American Fiction: Conceptual Frameworks, Cultural Contexts, and Aesthetic Explorations

23-24 April 2014
Giessen, International Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture (GCSC)

Taking its key concept and cue from Ludwig Wittgenstein's suggestive observation that the speaking of a language is an integral part of a form of life, the conference attempts to move beyond the traditions of analytic philosophy and philosophy of language. Its main purpose is to gauge the theoretical and heuristic potential of the philosophical, anthropological and sociological notions of forms of life in literary and cultural studies. Exemplary discussions of a wide range of contemporary English and American novels and short stories will strive for critical analysis of the interlinkage between stylistic devices, formal procedures and narrative techniques, on the one hand, and changing forms of life on the other. By reframing, developing, and theorizing the concept of 'forms of life', the conference thus aims to enlarge the conceptual and interpretative repertoire of literary and cultural studies and to furnish the study of narrative fiction as well as of other genres with new descriptive and analytical resources.

Organizer: Michael Basseler & Ansgar Nünning

For further information please visit the kult-online website:


Conference: Mediated Objects – Potentiality of the Mediation Fractures

27 - 29 November
Giessen, International Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture (GCSC)

Objects that we encounter either in our daily life or in research often are not dealt with in their three-dimensional materiality, but appear in pictures, photos, films, literary texts, databanks, or as holograms. As such, those means of photography, literary texts or scientific papers do not only attempt to define and interpret objects, but also lead to a different presence dimension, often acting as reference objects that are worth of separate examination. Such medial transmission that becomes apparent through those means highlights the limits of the communicability of the original artefacts. On one hand, through such mediation the original object loses its physicality and its factual materiality, on the other - it is being preserved in its transformational detour, visualized, symbolically charged, and sustained in a non-material reality space, extending the possibilities of presence of the objects in their different facets.

The focus of this interdisciplinary workshop is to explore possibilities and limitations of these various medial fractures of the object. We are aiming at discovering and comparing different transformation modes of materially and mediality of things, be it artistic or literary, scientific or technological, historical or museum-based. However, while engaging in that comparative research on mediated objects we are condemned to face limitations of specific disciplinary approaches. Hence, we will be aiming to depart from the discipline-rooted analysis and try to focus on specific conditions and individual expressive possibilities of the different mediums. Moreover, we would question in which way those medial fractures enter our cognitive processes, and whether the issue of medialiy is already sufficiently put into perspective given our roles as researchers. These tensions call for an interdisciplinary investigation of reproduction and difference, simulation and dissimulation, imitation and appropriation in the material culture analysis of object mediations.

Organizer: Annette C. Cremer, Veronika Zink, Jens Kugele, Alesya Krit

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Conference: Material Matters in Times of Crisis Capitalism: Transnational Feminist and Decolonial Approaches

13 - 15 November 2014
Giessen, Institute of Sociology, JLU

Crisis is not exceptional in capitalism but its constant companion. It represents the founda­tion from which the modern/colonial world sys­tem has evolved. This conference draws on criti­cal feminist economics and decolonial feminist thought and practice on material matters. The question of materiality has emerged as a central topic in recent years. Under the umbrella term “new materialism”, this interdisciplinary and multifaceted academic debate seems to have re­vived a Marxist vocabulary. Yet, the question of why “materiality” matters in times of crisis ca­pitalism is rather absent in this debate. We are considering this question by three inter-related aims: first, to examine from transnational femi­nist perspectives the impact of the global crisis on people’s livelihoods; second, to explore the theoretical contributions of the triad of femi­nism, coloniality and political economy; and, third, to consider critical feminist economics and decolonial approaches to thinking alternative economies and convivial futures.

Organizer: Prof Dr. Brigitte Aulenbacher, Prof Dr. Brigitte Liebig, Prof Dr. Encarnación Gutiérrez Rodríguez

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V Lisbon Summer School for the Study of Culture

22 - 27 June 2015

The theme of the V Lisbon Summer School for the Study of Culture focuses on the capabilities of the concept of cultural citizenship as a roadmap for the future, couched in the claim of a new civil contract, sponsored by the arts. It aims to bring together doctoral students, scholars, artists and professionals from the cultural sector to discuss the manifold ways in which cultures work.


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7 ‐ 13 September 2015

Western philosophy, being faithful to language, traditionally conceives of “taste” as the intertwining between the (dis)pleasure of the senses as it is experienced individually by each body and the supposed harmony between the sensitivities of everyone. Taste thus has different components: the singularity of everyone’s pleasure (sensation), the discernment that permits the communication of this pleasure to someone else (perception) and the aesthetic criteria accepted by many (norms). All these components allow taste to be considered as a fact of communication: it is one of the most concrete forms of mediation between my self and the other.

In spite the fact that the notion of taste seems obsolete, it is possible to say that taste has never been as decisive as in contemporary societies. It is both fuelling consumerism and producing identities through social networks – identities that organize new forms of human association, independently of the distinction between public and private.

More than ever, taste is at the core of economical, media and, more widely, social warfare. Manifestations of this can be observed in the development of technologies of sensation‐control, the experience economy and the management or empowerment of subjectivities. Sensitivity becomes a target of power as it appears in the anaesthesia produced through these devices, as well as, inversely, in the hyperaesthesia of consciousnesses deprived of all judgement. In this context, knowing what I sense and perceive, as well as what we sense and perceive, is an essential resort for critical reflection.

Today, the question of taste belongs not only to aesthetics but also to anthropology and politics. In order to open up and to specify the issue of taste today, the ESSCS Summer School seeks to address different issues.

Ecole Doctorale Esthétique et Théorie des Arts
Université Paris VIII
2 rue de la Liberté
93 526 SAINT DENIS cedex




Conference: Law's Pluralities - Cultures, Narratives, Genders

8 - 9 September 2015
Giessen, International Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture (GCSC)

In May 2015 the conference “Law’s Pluralities” will take place at Justus Liebig University Giessen/Germany. In a series of keynote presentations by experts and in panel sessions and discussions, as well as in an exhibition it will explore cultural constructions of law. We invite academic contributions in the conference languages English and German. Please find the preliminary conference schedule here.

The conference and exhibition is organized at Justus Liebig University Giessen by the International Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture (GCSC) in cooperation with the Department of English, the Rudolf-von-Jhering Institute, and in cooperation with the Neue Giessener Kunstverein. Contact:

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Konferenz: Amok-Kulturen der Gegenwart. Zur Präsenz spektakulärer Gewalt in Praktiken medialer Repräsentation und umgekehrt

25 - 26 June 2015
Giessen, International Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture (GCSC)

Wenn es heute Ereignisse gibt, die sich tief in das kollektive Gedächtnis eingraben und eine kollektiv geteilte kulturelle Erfahrung des Spektakulären anzeigen, dann sind es die sogenannten Amokläufe und School Shootings. Neben der spektakulär inszenierten Tatausgestaltung und der willkürlich erscheinenden Grausamkeit der Taten ist an diesen Gewaltphänomenen so frappierend, dass sich reales und mediales Geschehen hier in einer Weise überblenden, die sie nahezu ununterscheidbar werden lässt. Welche Taten als Amoklauf oder als School Shooting klassifiziert werden, ist zudem Aufgabe einer a posteriori erfolgenden medialen Betrachtung und Kategorisierung. Die Realität des Gewalteinbruchs als Amoklauf stellt sich somit erst im Nachgang zur Tat her; der Täter selbst muss nicht zwingend auf sie zurückgreifen. So gesehen ist Amok ein rein epistemologisches, diskursgeneriertes (und zugleich diskursgenierendes) Problem, welches aus einer medial operierenden Koalition aus Kriminologen, Psychologen, weiteren Experten und Journalisten generiert wird. Wenn hier daher die mediale Aufbereitung, Distribution und Repräsentation von Amok gewissermaßen eine Produktion (weniger eine Konstruktion) von Wirklichkeit generiert, bei der am Ende nicht mehr erkennbar ist, ob soziale Wirklichkeit medial induziert ist oder ob Medienrepräsentationen Wirklichkeit im doppelten Sinne vertreten – nämlich sowohl als symbolische Form als auch als soziale Praxis – dann wirft dies diverse Probleme auf. Das Phänomen des Amoklaufs ist zweifellos nicht das einzige Phänomen der Gegenwart, das derartige Fragen zu generieren vermag. Aber in ihm wird die paradoxe Gemengelage einer die soziale Realität kommentierenden Medialität, die umgekehrt soziale Realität im Kommentar überhaupt erst wahr macht (wahr spricht), in der konsequentesten Form pointiert.

Organizer: Jörn Ahrens, Silke Braselmann

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Conference: Literature & Cultural Change

20 – 23 May2015
Giessen, International Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture

“What are the connections between literature and culture, and between literature and cultural change?” The conference organisers delimited the scope of this fascinating but formidable question by inviting “systematic and historical perspectives in English and American literary studies from the early modern period to the present”. Participants were asked to consider literature’s “particular role in motivating, instigating or hindering cultural change, and the influence of cultural change on the evolution of literature”.

Organizer: Ingo Berensmeyer, Herbert Grabes, Ansgar Nünning

For further information please visit the kult-online website: