Soapbox Call for Papers: 3.0 ‘Impasse’


Deadline extended to January 15th


For the next volume of Soapbox, a graduate peer-reviewed journal for cultural analysis, we invite young researchers and established scholars alike to submit work that critically engages with the theme of impasse.


In its first instance, and most literal meaning, an impasse indicates a border that arises in our way. In everyday life, it is what prevents one from moving forward, for instance from entering onto a property one is not allowed to be in or arriving at a dead end. Supposedly, the only possible counter-action, the exit from an impasse, is either the risk of trespassing, of having to turn around, or ending one’s journey. Trespassing borders presents a risk if not an impossibility. It is important not to understate the factuality of the latter. The finiteness inherent to all forms of life constitutes an impasse, and is experienced and managed as such on all manners of scale. Dwelling on the term impasse provides space for speaking of the unresolvable, of the disorienting (what is outside of time and space, alter/outer), of the failure of connection, and finally, of loss, of the unretrievable and the necrotic. The notion of impasse comes to mind all the more in the context of the ongoing pandemic and of transmission through physical contact or proximity.


For Derrida, the impasse is synonymous with the notion of aporia; describing a state of unknowing or a contradiction that is seemingly impossible to solve. As Derrida states, “the nonpassage, the impasse or aporia, stems from the fact that there is no limit. There is not yet or there is no longer a border to cross, no opposition between two sides: the limit is too porous, permeable, and indeterminate” (20). By destroying the possibility of passage altogether, an absolute impasse dissolves the antagonism that allowed it to be in the first place. This is how the impasse shifts from the finite to something more “permeable”, which can be trespassed, implying some malleability and flux.

[Liminal space]

An impasse also denotes a specific kind of liminal spatiality. It is a space of the in-between; where one gets stuck or does not know how to proceed. As a state of unknowing, the impasse is constantly being re-configured. How can we orientate ourselves in a space that is always becoming?

Impasses force us to attune to what the Situationists called the ‘psychogeographical’. The city is a space full of impasses and rife with calculation (de Certeau). To be in situ–to drift in one’s movement through space–implies a kind of liquidity that looks to resist: finding fissures and exits, rerouting continuously. Being at an impasse can  allow for stillness, like sitting in a waiting room, allowing for a moment of contemplation, rest or regeneration. Yet in other ways, it is a source of  uncertainty, insecurity, and doubt, as well as a questioning of the relation between the active and the passive–of choices we make or of choices that are made for us. Impasses, as sites of defeat or potentiality, can wield immense affective force.


At the present time, we find ourselves shifting our sights from impasse to future–the figuration of an after. What does it mean to overcome an impasse? Does it necessarily imply a radical change? Is it a rupture of the status quo in order to move towards a total reconfiguration? The current situation presses these questions onto us.


In Cruel Optimism, Lauren Berlant describes “the historical present- as an impasse, a thick moment of ongoingness, a situation that can absorb many genres without having one itself- is a middle without boundaries, edges, a shape” (200). If we would try to give the ‘historical present’ a genre, it might be that of crisis. We have been held in a perpetual state of alertness, which at the same time pledges us to inaction. As Agamben describes in State of Exception, the mode of inaction is the condition for a politics of emergency. The inherent finiteness of crisis is prolonged into a permanent temporariness. We seem to be stuck in a crisis that has no shape and thus no limit. In this limbo we come to expect the unusual, the surprising, maybe even the unthinkable. This passivity and uncertainty can also give way to moments of resilience when we begin to understand an impasse as a disruption that holds a potential for change.


The author Milan Kundera states that “an impasse is the place of […] most beautiful inspirations” (“une impasse est le lieu de mes plus belles inspirations” 23). The impasse, then, is perhaps not always a negative dead-end or stalemate, but can also provide a space for  hope and new possibilities. A standstill may allow for a moment of rest and recovery, which is needed for overcoming obstacles, bridging gaps or tending to open wounds. The impasse also holds the potential for care, emphasising a relationality between bodies, the human and the non-human, and attempts to reach some kind of agreement or compromise. When the way we care shifts, and how we relate to our distant and intimate surroundings changes (as the coronavirus pandemic has shown), the impasse forces a reevaluation of interconnectedness and relationality.

We encourage submissions in the direction of, but not limited to, the following topics:

  • States of the in-between, the liminal, the uncertain
  • The concept of care (also in relation to a shared experience of the impasse)
  • Caring over distance and how it alters perception of space
  • Practices of mourning, healing, renewal
  • The impasse as crisis (climate crisis, health crisis)
  • Representation of the impasse in literature, film, visual art, etc.
  • Politics of power in the impasse, and the active and the passive
  • Border studies (limits, figurative borders)
  • (Post)colonial studies
  • Futurity
  • Trespassing, exceptions
  • Hope, possibility
  • Periods and states of contemplation and (mis)understanding
  • (The pausing of) conflict
  • Reaching compromise/agreement
  • Stretching out of time (the immediate and the gradual)

Please submit your proposal (800-1000 words) or already written paper following the MLA formatting and referencing style (maximum 5000 words) to by January 15th 2021. If you hand in a proposal or outline, please consider that the first draft of the full papers (3000-5000 words) are due February 17th. If you have any questions regarding your submission, do not hesitate to contact us.

We also accept submissions for our website all year round. We encourage a variety of styles and formats, including short-form essays (around 2000 words), reviews, experimental writing and multimedia. Please get in touch to pitch new ideas or existing projects that you would like to have published on our website. Contact us on for any web related questions and submissions.


Works Cited

Berlant, Lauren. Cruel Optimism. Duke University Press, 2011.

Derrida, Jacques. Aporias. Translated by Thomas Dutoit, Stanford University Press, 1993.

Kundera, Milan. Risibles Amours. Translated by Francois Kérel, Gallimard, 1986.


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MasterLanguage Course: Escribir violencia en Latinoamérica: humor, afecto y cuerpo

Leiden | February – April 2021 | Instructors: Nanne Timmer (LU) ism Brigitte Adriaenssen, Reindert Dhondt en Gabriel Inzaurralde


Este curso ofrece una serie de reflexiones sobre repertorios culturales en torno a la violencia y sobre su circulación y recepción. Después de una introducción teórica que problematice la noción de violencia desde un enfoque poscolonial, el curso explorará estudios específicos sobre el tema. Estudiaremos, por ejemplo, textos literarios de autores latinoamericanos contemporáneos que van desde el realismo al delirio absurdo. Exploraremos, por ejemplo, la lectura y recepción de las imágenes de violencia en las cárceles en Chile y veremos cómo Martin Kohan construye una de sus novelas sobre la imposibilidad de narrar la crueldad de la dictadura argentina. Estudiaremos el papel central del humor ―conociendo incluso las dificultades del tema―, y afrontaremos la poesía activista en México; poesía que gira en torno al creciente número de feminicidios y el rol-mujer en este contexto tan difícil.

Abriremos la discusión a las relaciones que se establecen entre literatura y afecto en las narradoras caribeñas y pensaremos sobre cómo opera a nivel cotidiano la violencia, cómo los micromachismos se comportan en este “afecto” y esta literatura. Otra de las cosas que nos interesarán en este curso, serán las subjetividades que se construyen o destruyen en estos espacios textuales, además de la manera en que otros escritores ―Horacio Castellanos Moya o Carlos A. Aguilera, por ejemplo― proponen una estilística donde la violencia y el lenguaje resultan personajes recíprocos.

¿Es posible ficcionalizar ―nos preguntamos― esos escenarios de crueldad tan intrínsecos a la realidad latinoamericana? Y si fuera así, ¿existe una manera ética de hacerlo? En estos textos estudiaremos además la función del estilo para la reflexión sobre las dinámicas políticas y sociales de la actualidad. Los aportes, basados todos en investigaciones recientes de los profesores ofrecerán a los estudiantes un abanico de prácticas y pistas nuevas de investigación.


En el año académico 2020-2021 el curso se compone de las siguientes partes:

-Introducción general: teoría sobre la violencia (Agamben, Galtung, Žižek, Franco, Esposito, Segato)
– Violencia y el lector encarcelado, perspectivas empíricas.
– Violencia y afecto
– Violencia y cuerpo
– Violencia y humor
– Mini simposio con algunos ponentes internacionales y presentaciones de los estudiantes, en colaboración con Marloes Mekenkamp.


Please click here for more information

Conference: Cultural perceptions of Safety

Registration life stream conference ‘Cultural perceptions of Safety’ open

21 & 22 January 2021
Open University

On Thursday 21st and Friday 22nd of January 2021, the Humanities Faculty of the Open University of the Netherlands in collaboration with the Huizinga Institute, the Netherlands Research School for Cultural History, organizes the international conference ‘Cultural perceptions of safety. Reflecting on modern and pre-modern feelings of safety in literature, philosophy, art and history’.

This two-day conference will bring together scholars from eight different countries and various humanities disciplines to pursue fluctuations in conceptualizations, expressions and feelings of safety over time as well as in cultures of surveillance and safety practices. Speakers will address a variety of topics, ranging from narratives and visual discourses of (un)safety, to representations and imaginations of places and spaces of safety and regulations to ensure safety.

You can now register for the online conference. The conference is open to scholars, PhD’s and research master students from all humanities disciplines and those from other disciplines that are interested in the study of cultural perceptions of safety. You can register for the complete conference program or certain timeslots via the website. For registration and the full conference program go to the

Confirmed keynote speakers

Prof. dr. Nils Büttner
Nils Büttner is a professor ordinarius of Art History at the State Academy of Arts Stuttgart and member of the Centrum Rubenianum vzw. He specialises in the visual culture of Germany and the Netherlands from the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries. He has published monographs on Hieronymus Bosch, Pieter Bruegel, Rubens, Rembrandt and Vermeer, as well as a History of landscape painting and books on the history of drawings and prints. He has also written numerous catalogue essays and has served as a curator for several museum exhibitions.

Prof. dr. Eddo Evink
Eddo Evink is Professor in Philosophy at the Open University in the Netherlands and Assistant Professor in History of Modern Philosophy at the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Groningen, the Netherlands. His main areas of research contain phenomenology, hermeneutics, metaphysics, philosophy of the humanities and philosophy of art. He recently published Transcendence and Inscription. Jacques Derrida on Metaphysics, Ethics and Religion, Nordhausen: Traugott Bautz, 2019.

Prof. dr. Beatrice de Graaf
Beatrice de Graaf is professor of History of International Relations and Global Governance at the University of Utrecht. Her research focuses on how states and societies try to maintain high levels of security and how these attempts relate to core values and institutions (democracy, freedom, rule of law, constitutional and responsible government). She studies the emergence of and threats to such security arrangements from the 19th century until the present, including in times where both the effectiveness and the legitimacy of these arrangements were at risk. She currently leads the “Securing Europe” (SECURE) project, funded by an ERC Consolidator Grant. Beatrice is a member of The Netherlands Academy of Sciences (KNAW) and is a fellow in the ISIS Files project/Program on Extremism at the George Washington University.

Dr. Debra Benita Shaw

Debra Benita Shaw is a Reader in Cultural Theory at the University of East London where she teaches Architecture and Photography. She is a critical posthumanist concerned with issues of gender, social structures and the politics of space and has published widely in the fields of cultural and urban theory, science and technology studies and science fiction criticism. She is the author of Women, Science and Fiction (2000), Technoculture: The Key Concepts (2008), Posthuman Urbanism: Mapping Bodies in Contemporary City Space (2018) and is the co-editor of Radical Space: Exploring Politics and Practice (2016). She is a founding member of the Centre for Cultural Studies Research at UEL and principal editor of the Radical Cultural Studies book series for Rowman & Littlefield International.

Vacancy: OU Promising Scholar Fellowship (Humanities)

Deadline: 18 december 2020
Locatie: Heerlen


Overweeg jij een onderzoeksvoorstel in te dienen in het kader van het NWO-programma PhDs in the Humanities? Dan ben je op zoek naar een faculteit die jouw voorstel selecteert voor indiening bij NWO. Had je daarbij al aan de Open Universiteit gedacht? De Open Universiteit biedt een relatief korte route naar indiening van jouw voorstel bij NWO. Geïnteresseerd? Meld je dan aan voor dit fellowship. 

Wat we bieden:

  • een prestigieus en betaald fellowship
  • een aanstelling van 2 maanden (januari-maart 2021), 0,5 fte
  • intensieve begeleiding bij het uitwerken van een PhD-voorstel
  • gegarandeerde indiening vanuit de Faculteit Cultuurwetenschappen (CW) van de OU voor het programma PhDs in the Humanities

Wat we vragen:

  • een afgeronde Research Master op het gebied van de geesteswetenschappen
  • minimaal een 8 voor de eindscriptie
  • een concept onderzoeksplan dat in twee maanden gereed (en kansrijk) gemaakt kan worden voor indiening bij NWO
  • overtuigende blijken van excellentie (bv. Cum laude, publicaties, awards…)
  • aansluiting bij het onderzoeksprofiel van de faculteit CW

Dienstverband voor bepaalde tijd: tijdelijk voor de periode van 2 maanden (januari – maart 2021.

Het salaris wordt afhankelijk van opleiding en ervaring vastgesteld overeenkomstig .schaal 10 van Bijlage A van de CAO Nederlandse Universiteiten.

De Open Universiteit biedt goede secundaire en flexibele arbeidsvoorwaarden op het gebied van onder meer opleiding en mobiliteit, werken in deeltijd en betaaldouderschapsverlof.

Meer informatie:

Call for papers: Themanummer De Moderne Tijd

Grond van Verbeelding. Bodem en streek in de Lage Landen

In de negentiende eeuw was er een toenemende belangstelling voor regionale cultuur en, zowel in
literatuur als beeldende kunst, voor het verbeelden van couleur locale. Het platteland vormde een
belangrijke voedingsbodem voor verschillende kunstvormen, van schilderkunst tot literatuur en
architectuur. Regionale kunstvormen, met name de regionale literatuur, werden in latere jaren echter
geassocieerd met de nazistische ‘Blut und Boden’-ideologie, waarin een relatie wordt gelegd tussen
ras en geboortegrond. De zogenaamde Heimatkunst, waarin de verhoudingen tussen mens en
omgeving vaak centraal staan, heeft hier vanzelfsprekend een slechte reputatie aan overgehouden.
Er is echter ook ruimte van een positieve interpretatie van deze relatie, waarin de nadruk wordt
gelegd op de verbintenis met de bodem als ervaring in plaats van als ideologie. Ook vandaag de dag
is er nog aandacht voor (gebrek aan) verbintenis met de grond en wordt er gepleit voor groene steden
en kringlooplandbouw: bodem blijft van politiek, cultureel en economisch belang. Wat maakte de
relatie met de (eigen) bodem voor mensen en gemeenschappen van ca. 1780-1940 betekenisvol?

De verwantschap tussen mens en grond fungeerde in de regionale kunst lang niet altijd als ideologie,
maar vormde wel regelmatig onderdeel van de beleving en verbeelding van de streek. Dit
themanummer onderzoekt de interesse in couleur locale vanuit een materieel perspectief en legt de
nadruk hierbij letterlijk op de representatie van ‘bodems’ in de Lage Landen, eventueel in comparatief
perspectief. Welke rol speelt (het idee van) de bodem in de culturele verbeelding van ca. 1780-1940?
Wat bepaalt de verhouding tussen mensen of gemeenschappen en de (lokale) grond? (Hoe) verschilt
deze verhouding tussen stad en platteland? Wordt regionale grond gezien als maakbaar,
bijvoorbeeld door droogleggen? Wat is de relatie tussen regionaal en nationaal belang bij bodem,
bijvoorbeeld wanneer regionale grond wordt ingezet als nationaal product voor het bouwen van
huizen, het bedekken van daken en de aanleg van wegen? En in hoeverre bepalen bodems en
grondsoorten, van moeras tot veenlandschappen en van zand en duingebieden tot rietvelden en
rivierklei, de verbeelding en beleving van stad en streek?

Voor dit themanummer van De Moderne Tijd zijn we op zoek naar artikelen vanuit verschillende
disciplines waarin de beleving van bodem en de relatie tussen grondsoorten en lokale en regionale
identiteit centraal staan.

Enkele voorbeelden van mogelijke onderwerpen zijn:

  • Verbeeldingen van bodem in beeldende kunst en illustratie
  • Perspectieven op bodem in wetenschap en politiek
  • Geluid van eigen bodem in (streek)muziek
  • Belevingen van (vreemde) grond in reisverhalen
  • Perspectieven op bodembescherming
  • Maakbaarheid van bodem
  • Verbanden tussen grondsoorten en regionale identiteit
  • Bodem en folklore
  • Regionale grond en nationaal belang
  • Literaire verbeeldingen van lokale grond
  • Grondsoorten en regionale architectuur
  • Verbanden tussen grond en klederdracht
  • Bodemsoorten en economische ontwikkeling
  • Grondsoorten over nationale grenzen heen
  • Bodemsoorten en cartografie

Abstracts van max. 300 woorden kunnen tot 15 januari 2021 worden ingestuurd naar Anneloek Scholten ( Indieners krijgen hierna zo snel mogelijk bericht over de selectie. Van de
geselecteerde voorstellen worden de volledige artikelen van 4000 woorden verwacht tegen
1 mei 2021. De artikelen worden aan redactionele en externe peer review onderworpen.

Survey: Literary Reading and Attention

Befrijing yn ’e Fryske literatuer

Who likes to read and wants to help me out?

This is a survey with questions about your reading habits, attention, and perseverance that I designed in cooperation with Frank Hakemulder (Utrecht University) & Anne Mangen (Norwegian Reading Center, Stavanger).

The questions are aimed at people who read at least one book a year (so if you never read for pleasure, this is not for you). Avid readers and lovers of literature are especially encouraged to participate!

Your information will be used for a study of literary reading and concentration, and the results will be shared on my website. Your data will of course be anonymized.

Click on the title to get started:

Literary reading & attention


Of als je vooral Nederlandse boeken leest:

Literatuur lezen & aandacht 


The deadline for filling out the survey is 15 January 2021.

Many thanks,


Inge van de Ven (Tilburg University)

World Literature in Unexpected Places: Displacement and the Minor in Global Urban Contexts

Panel proposal | Deadline: 1 December 2020


World Literature and the Minor: Figuration, Circulation, Translation
KU Leuven, 6-7 May 2021 (online conference)


Panel proposal: World Literature in Unexpected Places: Displacement and the Minor in Global Urban Contexts

In the last few decades, metropolises have become the focus of many research fields that analysed them from several angles. However, the complexities of our societies and their expressions in urban contexts have not only provided fertile ground for research but also served as the basis for a number of literary works, which voice issues of marginality.

This panel, by looking at various urban contexts in countries other than European or North American, such as India and Japan, will highlight the literary representations of displacement, of people living at the margins, and struggling in the urban environment. These texts bear witness to what it means to be a “minor” in contemporary metropolises, emphasizing the intersectional nature of the identities considered as minor and bringing out the instances of marginalized individuals and communities. We will look at how the relations between displacement and the minor are articulated in the literary works under scrutiny and how the works are included, or resist inclusion in, the field of World Literature.

In doing so, the panel tries to answer the following questions:
– How is the relationship between displacement and minor articulated?
– How do these texts challenge or follow the canons of world literature?
– What is the role of translation for the inclusion of these texts in World Literature?
– How do translations affect the reception and the content itself of these works describing the struggles of the minor?

This panel invites papers that examine instances of displacement and the ‘minor’ in literature. Suggested perspectives include but are not limited to:
– Gender and the minor
– Environmental degradation and the minor
– Minority and/ or endangered languages

Abstract addressing the topic from the perspectives of minor literatures, outside Europe and North America are particularly welcome. Please submit your paper abstracts (max. 300 words) and a short bio (max. 100 words) to the panel organizers (please send to both of us) and by December 1st, 2020.

Call for Benelux students interested in the Environmental Humanities

Deadline: 4 December 2020

BASCE, the Benelux Association for the Study of Culture and the Environment (, is back! We are looking for Phd, RMA and MA students interested in joining a new BASCE events committee. The goal is of the events committee is to bring together people interested in the Environmental Humanities -including fields like ecocriticism, environmental history, and environmental philosophy- as well as those working outside of academia on topics relevant to the Environmental Humanities.

We aim to create a team of students who will work together to organize an event in the Spring of 2021, and preferably stay on the committee to design a program with two or more events in the academic year 2021-2021. Candidates should ideally live in the Benelux or have a close link to the Benelux, and should have relevant experience in the Environmental Humanities. There will be a high degree of freedom to pursue formats and topics of your own interest.

If you’re interested in joining the BASCE events committee, please send a concise (informal) email outlining your relevant experience and motivating your interest to Tom Idema at no later than 4 December. Please note that the committee members work on a voluntary basis.

Call for Papers: 2021 International Conference on Narrative

2021 International Conference on Narrative

2021 International Conference on Narrative
May 19-23, 2021

**EXTENDED DEADLINE: Nov. 25, 2020**

Sponsored by the International Society for the Study of Narrative, the International Conference on Narrative is an interdisciplinary forum addressing all dimensions of narrative theory and practice. We welcome proposals for papers and panels on all aspects of narrative in any genre, period, discipline, language, and medium. Papers, however, should be in English.

Proposals for Individual Papers: Please provide the title and a 300-word abstract of the paper you are proposing; your name, institutional affiliation, and email address; and a brief statement (no more than 100 words) about your work as well as any relevant publications, presentations, or projects-in-progress.

Proposals for Panels: Please provide a 700-word (maximum) description of the topic of the panel and of each panelist’s contribution; the title of the panel and the titles of the individual papers; and for each participant the name, email address, institutional affiliation/status as an independent scholar, and a brief statement (no more than 100 words) about the person’s work as well as any relevant publications, presentations, or projects-in-progress. Panels of 3-4 papers are invited.

Additional guidelines for the virtual conference in 2021:
● Given the limitations of the virtual environment, all individual panel presentations will be limited to a maximum of 10-12 minutes. Panels with 4 presenters will be limited to 10 minutes per paper; panels with 3 presenters will be limited to 12 minutes per paper.
○ These shorter presentation times are meant to maximize participation while
minimizing video fatigue. We encourage you to think about your presentations as
seeds for deeper conversations.

● All presentations will be recorded in advance and uploaded to a password-protected site; the anticipated due date for these presentations will be May 1, 2021.
○ Detailed instructions on recording and uploading your presentation will be sent out well in advance of the due date.

● Access to 2021 Narrative Conference materials will be limited to conference registrants, who must also be ISSN members. No membership, no materials. Subscribing to Narrative includes membership in the ISSN:

● Participants are encouraged to use the Narrative listserv to propose topics for panelists and identify co-presenters. For more information about the Narrative listserv, please visit

● We encourage proposals of panels that have representation from various ranks (graduate students to senior scholars), and/or have presenters from more than one institution (and preferably more than 2).

● We are aware of the accessibility limitations of Zoom, and we are making a concerted effort to make the ISSN conference as accessible as possible. As you are aware, virtual conferences with asynchronous and synchronous elements work differently than traditional conferences. Please note that responsibilities of virtual conference participants will include:

● Providing a prerecorded presentation video by the due date
● Viewing prerecorded presentations prior to May 19
● Participating in the synchronous discussions during May 19-23

Please send proposals by email as a PDF, Word or RTF document to

EXTENDED! Deadline for receipt of proposals: November 25, 2020

All participants must join the International Society for the Study of Narrative. To join see the link above. For more information on ISSN, visit:

Please address any inquiries to

Symposium: Unhinging the National Framework

Symposium; Unhinging the National Framework

Unhinging the National Framework: Platform for the Study of Transnational Life Writing

Fifth Annual Symposium | Friday 4 December 2020 9.00 – 17.00

Location: Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam Main Building 5A00 + online via Zoom Webinar
Free of charge, but please register before 1 December.

How to register


Keynote speakers:

Prof. dr. Halleh Ghorashi, Professor of Diversity and Integration, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Dr. Anna Poletti, Associate Professor Comparative Literature, Utrecht University
Prof. dr. Gloria Wekker, Professor Emerita, Gender and Ethnicity, Utrecht University


Dr. Vera Alexander, Senior Lecturer in European Cultures and Literatures, Groningen University
Prof. dr. Susan Legêne, Professor of Political History, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Dr. Vilan van de Loo, independent writer and researcher.
Prof. dr. Giles Scott-Smith, Professor of Diplomatic History, Leiden University

Speakers and abstracts (in order of appearance)

Anna Poletti, Associate Professor Comparative Literature, Utrecht University

Autobiography, mediation and transnationalism: Behrouz Boochani’s No Friend But the Mountains

Behrouz Boochani’s award-winning No Friend But the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison is a hybrid work of life writing, composed on illicit mobile phones and secretly transmitted to a team of translators and supporters via WhatsApp. Documenting and theorizing the violence of Australia’s indefinite mandatory detention in camps on remote Pacific nations of people seeking asylum, No Friend But the Mountains is a uniquely transnational intellectual and aesthetic project. Its composition was enabled by digitally networked technologies that were able to evade the blanket of censorship imposed on Australia’s offshore detention centres by Government policies that limited access to the prisons by journalists, human rights organizations, and international monitors. The book’s title—a Kurdish saying that refers to the powerful connection between the Kurdish people and the mountains of their
homelands—signals that the writing and thinking of the book is imbedded in and enabled by Boochani’s identity as a Kurdish journalist forced to flee Iran. At the same time, No Friend But the Mountains is a work of theory and life writing that is profoundly transnational; it responds to and seeks to understand the logics of the nation state, citizenship and border policing as techniques of power that produce new forms of violence which transcend national boundaries and jurisdictions, creating complex networks of implication, responsibility, and hierarchies.

Drawing on my arguments about autobiography and mediation in my recent book (Stories of the Self (NYU Press, 2020)), a forthcoming collection of essays I commissioned on No Friend But the Mountains for Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly, and my experience teaching the book in an international classroom in the Netherlands, I will examine No Friend But the Mountains as a work that exemplifies the role of media technologies in the act of living—and the emergence of—transnational life.

Vera Alexander, Senior Lecturer in European Cultures and Literatures, Groningen University

Figures of Mobility and the Crisis of Connection

In this presentation I locate life stories of mobility in an ongoing crisis of connection and connectivity. I read figures of mobility such as the visitor, the tourist and the refugee as ambivalent signifiers of place and belonging that problematise any simple dichotomy of Self versus Other and Here versus There. Making reference to contemporary poetic travel writings by Warsan Shire and Kapka Kassabova as well as photography and other media, I argue that the relational nature of life narratives needs to be considered not only in binary terms of social connections between human beings, but as a triad that embraces the precarious relationship that connects human beings to place as well as notions of time and duration. Place relations are subject to utopian idealisation and polarised affective projections as they are constitutive of identity construction. Since these are subject to constant change and reconfiguration, the notion of mobility and its obverse, stagnation, need to be reconceptualised as fundamental dynamic aspects of belonging.

Giles Scott-Smith, Professor of Diplomatic History, Leiden University

Between Colonial and Post-Colonial? Ivan Kats and the Perils of Cultural Diplomacy in Cold War Indonesia

Is it possible to overcome colonial legacies if you promote post-independence cultural autonomy? Ivan Kats was a Flemish/American cultural entrepreneur who developed a profound interest in Indonesia and the development of its national cultural identity. From the 1960s to the 1990s he pursued a book publishing project through his Obor Foundation, that looked to bridge the ethical gap between the resources of Western cultural imperialism and the poverty of the post-colonial culture industry. This presentation places Kats as a ‘double personage’ (Bourdieu) between different worlds, to explore both his projects and motivations.

Gloria Wekker, Professor Emerita, Gender and Ethnicity, Utrecht University

Families navigating Empire

In my presentation I will present excerpts from recent, autobiographical work, which emphatically is work – in – progress. These excerpts will eventually become part of a mixed genre work, based on historical and anthropological knowledge, on non- fiction and fiction. This type of work is currently understood under several different headings, among which “critical fabulation” is prominent. It is a term used by Saidiya Hartman, signifying a writing methodology that combines historical and archival research with critical theory and fictional narrative. Central in my presentation will be different migrations within my multi-ethnic Surinamese family, which encompasses enslaved people, Jewish plantation owners, Native Surinamese. I will talk about transnational, geographical migrations but also about migrations of the heart, where individuals overstepped ethnic boundaries which had long been understood as foundational to empire, to plural societies, which needed to be governed as if the boundaries around different ethnic groups were “natural”. Concretely I will read prose and poetry and reflect on the nature of “critical fabulation”.

Dr. Vilan van de Loo, independent writer and researcher

Exploring the New Political Correct: Colonial Violence in Aceh

Central in my presentation is the possibility of creating a transnational understanding of heroism. To answer this question I will focus on the military Aceh expedition of 1904. Nowadays the Dutch East Indies seems to be reduced to a narrative of military violence during the process of decolonisation, although there is an awareness of the tradition of colonial violence as well, especially in Aceh. The framing of both histories of violence is the same: the officers of the KNIL were more or less war criminals, and the Acehnese were helpless victims. This leads to a postcolonial selfimage of superiority among the Dutch: ‘look how good we are to be able to see how bad we have been’. With the exploration of contemporary sources and with the use of a specific military view, the original framing is now fading. My presentation will focus on a new way of looking at the history of the military Aceh expedition of 1904, commanded by Frits van Daalen (1863-1930). I will place this new approach in the context of the early twentieth century’s national need for colonial heroes—from which the Acehnese were excluded. I will also discuss how this related to the making of a civil servant (Van Daalen became governor of Aceh) and take a look at the vulnerable position of Van Daalen. As the highestranking Indo-European officer he stood out. What do we see, if we look at the expedition through his eyes, and what does that mean in the way the colonial past is judged? Would it be possible to create a transnational understanding of heroism during this expedition?

Halleh Ghorashi, Professor of Diversity and Integration, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

BLM: A transnational movement that changed the Dutch landscape

In this lecture I will discuss how Black Lives Matter, as a transnational movement, has changed the Dutch landscape regarding the existence of institutional racism and cross-racial solidarities. In the last 25 years, I have been engaging with the life experiences of refugee and migrant women (through various forms of narratives methodology). In these studies these women narrate a strong presence of exclusionary mechanisms (both blatant and subtle) within the Dutch context. Yet, until recently, the existing implicit and growing explicit forms of racism in the Dutch public space had not led to a public recognition of the existence of structural forms of racism in the Netherlands. In an earlier work, I showed the historical and societal reasons behind the denial of racism in the Dutch context despite the fact that racist acts and statements in the public space had gained a strong presence. I argued that this was partly based on the historically rooted idea of the superiority of Dutch culture in the Dutch migration discourse (which Wekker conceptualized as cultural archive) and its link to the categorical framing of migrants as ‘a problem’ in Dutch society. This history together with a positive self-image of the Dutch as progressive had made it almost impossible for people to accept the notion that racism was part of the Dutch self-image. But something shifted with the arrival of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement in the Netherlands. I argue that Dutch society can take advantage of this momentum to transform its non-reflective progressive image into critical self-reflection and actions aimed at the inclusion of diverse groups by addressing institutional racism beyond “good intentions”.