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ASCA/OSL International workshop | Amsterdam, October 17 & 18, 2019 | Organizers: Maria Boletsi (Leiden University and University of Amsterdam), Jeff Diamanti (University of Amsterdam), Natashe Lemos-Dekker (University of Amsterdam), Kasia Mika (University of Amsterdam), Ksenia Robbe (currently: Leiden University; from August 2019: University of Groningen)

Detail Summary
Start date 17 October 2019
End date 18 October 2019
Time 00:00
Untimely Crises

Venues: Day 1: Doelenzaal / Belle van Zuylenzaal (University Library); Day 2: Belle van Zuylenzaal & Potgieterzaal (University Library), University of Amsterdam

This 2-day workshop will probe contemporary crisis-scapes in order to explore the ways ‘crisis narratives’ structure experiences and representations of time and space, i.e., the ways ‘crisis’ as a framework, concept, rhetoric, affective or discursive structure forms or taps into specific chronotopes.

Historically, the term ‘crisis’ has denoted choice, decision, judgment or critique; it can signal a turning point but also a perpetual state without prospect of resolution. Discursive uses and experiences of ‘crisis’ may involve a sense of disconnection and disorientation, collapsing linear temporality. Crisis can also function as an immobilizing framework for regions deemed to be in chronic crisis. ‘Crisis’ in Europe and elsewhere today often becomes an instrument of rule in neoliberal governmentality, legitimizing ‘states of emergency’ that limit people’s rights and access to public space. Crisis-scapes, however, can also trigger a heightened awareness of the present and foster critical or creative practices that question received notions of the past, initiate different conceptions of history and futurity or form alternative communities and infrastructures.

By approaching crises as chronotopes—what Mikhail Bakhtin termed the enmeshing of temporal and spatial experience into a common condition of a given era—we seek to explore questions of crisis, time and space, as experienced, imagined and represented across a range of contexts, and particularly in Europe and its margins. Chronotopes of crisis partake in complex constellations of meanings, discourses, and affective structures that call for interdisciplinary engagement. The workshop will thus combine perspectives from literary and cultural studies with sociology, cultural anthropology, memory studies, migration studies, post- and decolonial studies, and the energy and environmental humanities, to consider how recent and contemporary crises—economic, environmental, social, political, humanitarian—trigger memories of earlier historical narratives, traumas or practices of resistance, and how they foster or foreclose specific visions of the future.

We are also interested in the ways alternative narratives—what Janet Roitman has called “noncrisis” narratives (2013)—that sidestep ‘crisis rhetoric’ may form alternative chronotopes in the present. Through exploring crises as chronotopes, the workshop also aims to revisit the relation of “crisis” with its cognate, critique, in order to ask which narratives or practices could effectively address problematic mobilizations of ‘crisis’ today and shape other, more inclusive, chronotopic structures. To that end, emphasis will be laid on literary narrativizations of ‘crisis’ as a means of disrupting or reconfiguring the chronotopic structures involved in contemporary crisis-scapes.

The workshop will thus ‘think through’ how the study of crises as chronotopes can take shape across diverse disciplinary contexts and critical debates (e.g., in the context of debt and economic crises; in rethinking infrastructures and repair; in (re)tracing and conceptualizing memory-scapes emerging in crisis-situations); and how crisis figures or disfigures the ongoing question mark about the fate of critique in a postcritical world.

The talks, discussion, and writing that will take place during the workshop will be organized around the following thematic streams:

  • Crisis Rhetoric and Alternative Grammars: Dominant representations of subjects of/in crisis (e.g. the tropes of the “victim” or “threatening agent” in the ‘migrant crisis’) often fall short of accounting for dispossessed individuals and their experiences. Which ‘grammars’ can help articulate alternative subjectivities and accounts of agency? Which expressive forms, narrative structures, and reading practices can articulate alternatives to the “slow cancellation of the future” (Berardi, Fisher) and disrupt restrictive or violent chronotopes of crisis?
  • Crisis and Memory: How are the periods of revolution and eventful socio-political transformation remembered in current times? This stream will address the ways in which 20th-century global historical junctures are recollected in political rhetoric, projects of memorialization, critical discourses, and artistic productions. It will explore the temporalities and cultural sensibilities shaped through these interpretations of turning points. How can past crises be imagined beyond narratives of traumatization which have spread globally, producing subject positions of victimhood and moral superiority? Which critical approaches to remembering crises could foster ‘redistribution of the sensible’?        
  • Critique Under Duress: What is the role of critique and radical critical theory in times of crisis? Rather than decrying an ‘’end of theory’’, the theme aims to rigorously engage with the Frankfurt School, opening it up to the concerns of postcolonial, decolonial (Allen 2016), and environmental theory and its theorizations of the present in crisis. If critique aims to historicize the present, which periodizing schemes have helped bring the contemporary into relief, such as Ernst Mandel’s “late capitalism,” Elizabeth Povinelli’s “late liberalism,” or Eugene Stoermer and Paul Crutzen’s “the Anthropocene”? And which no longer bring descriptive or diagnostic weight to the structures of feeling folding in on the changing climate of crises (and crisis of climate) today? In this context, we will take up the task of trying to ‘think otherwise’ and challenge, in Ann Stoler’s gloss, some of the “ready-made concepts on which we rely and [the] work we call on them to do.”  As such, the theme, among others, aims to work across meanings of duress (Stoler 2016)—as “a relation to a condition, a pressure exerted, a troubled condition borne in the body, a force exercised on muscles and mind”—and conceptualize what can critique be and do across shared, yet asynchronous, crises.
  • Chronic Crisis: This theme addresses instances where crisis becomes chronic. It asks how the duration and integration of the disruptive and the normal reorient our engagement with past, present, and future as it affects modes of anticipation, waiting, and endurance. Crisis and uncertainty can produce what Rebecca Bryant (2016) has termed the ‘uncanny present’, disrupting the possibility of imagining and acting upon the future. When and how do crises, including illness and economic and environmental crises, fade into chronicity and normality, and what futures does this enable or foreclose? How do we continue living in the face of chronic disruption and finitude?

Workshop format

The format for this event aims to facilitate collaboratively generated output. Instead of sharing finalized research in a traditional conference format, our primary aim is to establish key concepts, questions, and frames for interdisciplinary research on crisis across the humanities and social sciences. This will unfold across the following structures during the 2 days of the workshop:

Day One (October 17)

Plenary Talks and discussion

The program of Day 1 is open to a wide academic public.

Confirmed Plenary Speakers

  • Rebecca Bryant (Utrecht University)
  • Nick Nesbitt (Princeton University)
  • Dimitris Papanikolaou (University of Oxford)
  • Oxana Timofeeva (European University in St. Petersburg)

Day Two (October 18)

This part of the workshop will involve the plenary speakers as well as a group of invited scholars that will form reading and writing groups. The main objective will be to start co-writing a prospectus on the present and future of crisis research, to be submitted to an open access journal.

Format:

1. Parallel reading & discussion groups on the 4 thematic streams

2. Collaborative writing in break-off groups on the 4 thematic streams

3. Reconvening: Conclusions and Next Steps 

The reading groups on Day 2 will discuss selected pre-circulated articles and set the ground for moving to the writing groups with a shared sense of the major positions, debates, and findings brought together under each thematic heading.

In the second part of the day, the groups will engage in collaborative writing: each group will be asked to compose a document on each thematic stream. Each group will receive a set of common questions in advance to facilitate the writing and ensure the coherent structure of the final output (prospectus).

This workshop is organized by members of the following networks: the ASCA Cities project and its “Repairing Infrastructures” seminar, the ASCA research group “Crisis, Critique and Futurity,” the “Memory and Identity” reading group at the Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society (LUCAS), and the “Anthropology of Health, Care and the Body” program group of the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences at the UvA.

Registration and credits

The lectures on the first day of the workshop are open to anyone who wishes to attend. ResMa students and Phd candidates who wish to earn 1 EC by participating in this workshop should register with the OSL. Those who want to attend the lectures without earning EC credits are also welcome to do so and do not have to register.

Members of the Netherlands Research School for Literary Studies (OSL) can register to participate in the first day of the workshop. OSL RMA and Ph.D. students can acquire 2 EC credits by:

  • Attending the first day of the workshop and participating actively in discussions
  • Reading a set of theoretical texts related to the workshop theme that will be circulated in advance
  • Writing a 600- to 800-word response to one of the discussion questions or topics that will be circulated in advance

Please register by September 20, 2019, by sending your name and affiliation to osl@rug.nl  with the subject “Workshop (Un)Timely Crises”

Conference Program