ESSCS 2016 on Legibility – Program now online

ESSCS 2016
European Summer School for Cultural Studies (ESSCS) on Legibility

Dates: 20-24 June 2016
Location: Leiden (Mon-Wed) / Amsterdam (Thurs-Fri)

In Margins of Philosophy, Jacques Derrida notes that “it is a mistake to believe in the immediate and ahistorical legibility of a philosophical argument.” The 2016 European Summer School for Cultural Studies departs from the idea that this warning pertains not just to philosophical inquiry, but across academic disciplines, from literary and media studies to law, architecture and the social sciences. It is of particular urgency in a rapidly globalizing world in which the legibility of flows of capital, goods (including cultural products) and people is seen as key to prosperity and security, and in a machine-­‐ centric universe (Lazzarato) in which an ever-­‐larger part of the texts and images that surround us are based on binary code and algorithms.

Given that legibility and traditional reading methods can no longer be taken for granted, we want to ask what it means for something to be (considered) legible and what the stakes and limits of such legibility are. What are the new conditions, forms and technologies of legibility and what is its temporality and spatiality in a globalizing world? How does cultural and historical difference impact legibility, traditionally considered as accessibility and assimilability? What new ways of reading (and kinds of readers) are emerging in relation to old and new media – from distant, surface and descriptive reading to automated perception and data mining, from the Thumbelina (Serres) to the vision machine (Virilio) – and what do they imply about the modes and aims of (il)legibility? What kinds of agency and subjectivations do they afford or presuppose? What values are attached to (il)legibility in discussions about privacy and security, in the ubiquitous imagery of the black box or in museum and archiving practices? And how does the legible relate to the law (to which it has been etymologically linked) and to the sensible or affective?

Panel Sessions

In a number of panel sessions, PhD students will address these questions, in relation to their own research, from cultural, literary, cinematic, material, affective, technological, machinic, linguistic and other perspectives, including the meta-perspective reflecting on the (il)legibility of our own academic writing, especially in interdisciplinary contexts. Papers will be circulated before the start of the summer school, and all PhD participants are requested to read the papers and prepare comments and questions before coming to the panel sessions.

Keynotes and Masterclasses

In addition to the panel sessions, the Summer School will feature keynote lectures and masterclasses by senior scholars.

Keynote speakers:


Provisional Program

For the latest version of the program, please click here.

RME students

The Summer School is open to RMA students. There is a possibility to earn 5 ECTS if the following requirements are met:

  • attendance of full program (Mon-Fri)
  • preparatory readings for roundtable and 2 masterclasses (selected out of 4 masterclasses offered)
  • before Sunday 19 June, 15:00: submit 1 question for roundtable + 2 questions for one of the selected masterclasses + 500-word comparison between readings for the other selected masterclass

For more information or to submit a formal application (including your affiliation, a brief motivation and whether you want to earn ECTS), please contact the organizers at by 1 June 2016.


The ESSCS is an annual network-­‐based event offering interdisciplinary research training in the fields of art and culture. The network comprises the University of Amsterdam, Leiden University, the University of Copenhagen, the University of Giessen, Goldsmiths (University of London), the Université de Paris VIII, the Lisbon Consortium and the University of Trondheim. For more information, see the ESSCS website.

The Organizers

In Leiden: Pepita Hesselberth and Janna Houwen

In Amsterdam: Marie Beauchamps and Esther Peeren

This Summer School is made possible by: 


Location partners: