Keynote Lecture by Caroline Levine

29 January 2020

The conference Stranger Things: Rethinking Defamiliarization in Literature and Visual Culture took place in Amsterdam on 12-13 December 2019. It was sponsored by NIAS and OSL, and organized by Nilgun Bayraktar (California College of the Arts) and Alberto Godioli (University of Groningen).

Our first keynote speaker was Caroline Levine (Cornell University), with a lecture titled ‘Defamiliarization for a Sustainable Planet’. You can now (re)watch the lecture here!

Looking Back to Ravenstein 2020


29 January 2020

This year’s Ravenstein on War, Literature and Law took place in Leiden from 22 to 24 January. We would like to thank the organizing team (Frans-Willem Korsten, Ted Laros, Mariëlle Matthee and Yasco Horsman) for the amazing work, the keynote speakers (Richard Weisberg, Carrol Clarkson and Gisèle Sapiro) for their exciting lectures, and all participants for their great input throughout the three days of the winter school!

More soon,

The OSL Team

Ravenstein Seminar (Winter School 2020): War, Literature and Law

Ravenstein Seminar

Dates: 22-24 January 2020
Venue: Leiden University | 22 January: Lipsius, room 147, Cleveringaplaats 1, Leiden | 23 & 24 January: PJ Vethgebouw room 1.01 Nonnensteeg 3, Leiden
Open to: PhD Candidates and RMa Students, OSL members will have first access
Credits: 5 EC
Organizers: Prof. Dr. Frans Willem Korsten (Leiden University), Dr Ted Laros (Open University), Mariëlle Matthee (Leiden University)

Registration will open November 6, 2019

Wars come in many forms: in the archaic form of the battlefield confrontation between opposing armies, in civil wars, in wars between the state and revolutionary factions, but also, more recently, in the metaphorically indicated but still very real forms of the ‘war on drugs’ and the ‘war on terror’. We are surrounded daily by newsreports on cyberwarfare and ecological warfare. War may be one of the worst horrors human beings can go through, yet they also keep on faring it, which must imply that they somehow, perversely, also desire it.

In this OSL winter school we aim to focus on current and historical instances of warfare, from the contemporary to the distant past, and on a wide range of violent conflicts such as the ones named above. All of them has been thematised in literature – and ‘literature’ is also a synecdoche here for all forms of art, like cinema, comics, paintings, songs, plays, and so forth. This holds, then, from Tolstoj’s epic War and Peace to Keiji Nakazawa’s manga Barefoot Gen, from Isabel Allende’s historical novel Portrait in Sepia to Tupac’s song Changes, or from Chibundu Onuzo’s novel Welcome to Lagos to Matthew Heineman’s documentary City of Ghosts. As most works of art testify, wars are always fought in close proximity to law, as all acts of war form a provocation to the operation of law, either because ‘normal life’ and the rule of law have been disrupted or because martial law only covers certain forms of warfare. Or because the laws on war crimes are considered, ironically, as ‘soft law’. At the same time it needs to be acknowledged that many forms of war have been legally underpinned, or made possible by law.

Literature has been the instrument that helped people sustain war (as Primo Levi testified) or that was a major vehicle for the call for justice (as in the work of Antjie Krog). At the same time there is much art that promotes war (Marinetti’s horrifying manifest), or motivates it (Kipling’s “White man’s burden”). Law may be the last stronghold people hold on to in times of violence (as happens wherever people keep on registering what happened with an eye to future justice), or may instead itself be the instrument of violence (as perhaps too many examples illustrate). Our aim in this winter school is to investigate the forcefields and dynamics that exist between the two fields, literature and law, as they intersect in making sense of, or in their trying to govern the phenomenon of war.

We invite ResMa students and PhD students to participate in this winter school by means of a focused paper and active participation during the three day gatherings. We invite historical studies as well as conceptual reflections, we invite scholars coming from the legal side and those coming from the humanities. Our aim is to make the different disciplines talk to one another and to have a broad scope of reflections on the dynamics described above.

The first day of our meeting will consist in theoretical explorations of the concepts at stake and in focusing on the papers produced by the participants. The full programme can be found here (updated January 2020).


Our confirmed keynote speakers are:


Prof. dr. Richard H. Weisberg
Richard H. Weisberg is the Walter Floersheimer Professor of Constitutional Law.
He was an Obama appointee to the Commission on the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad. Professor Weisberg has helped litigate successfully in American federal courts on behalf of Holocaust survivors and their heirs, providing a measure of justice for World War II victims of anti-Semitism. President Nicholas Sarkozy of France awarded him the Legion of Honor in 2008. The founding director at Cardozo of the Holocaust, Genocide and Human Rights Program and the Floersheimer Center for Constitutional Democracy, he writes widely in those areas, including his book Vichy Law and the Holocaust in France and essays on First Amendment developments in the U.S. Supreme Court. He is a pioneer in the growing law and literature movement worldwide, and his books The Failure of the Word and Poethics have been widely translated. In 2014, he published In Praise of Intransigence: The Perils of Flexibility (Oxford University Press).


Prof. dr. Gisèle Sapiro

Gisèle Sapiro is Professor of Sociology at the Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales and research director at the Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS) in Paris, from which she received a médaille de bronze in 2000. She specialises in the sociology of translation as well as of literature and intellectuals. Her first book The French Writers′ War, 1940-1953 (Duke University Press, 2014; original edition 1999) adopts Bourdieu’s field theory to analyse French writers’ political choices during the German occupation. Her publications also include La Responsabilité de l’Ecrivain. Littérature, Droit et Morale en France, XIXe–XXe siècles (Seuil, 2011), focusing on writers’ and intellectuals’ struggles for freedom of speech and the autonomy of the arts in France, as well as Les Ecrivains et la politique en France: De l’Affaire Dreyfus à la guerre d’Algérie (Seuil, 2018).


Prof. dr. Carrol Clarkson

Carrol Clarkson is Professor and Chair of Modern English Literature at the University of Amsterdam. She has published widely on aesthetics, legal theory, and South African literature and art. Her books include J.M. Coetzee: Countervoices (2009; second edition 2013) and Drawing the Line: Toward an Aesthetics of Transitional Justice (Fordham University Press, 2014). Before coming to Amsterdam she was Professor and Head of the English Department at the University of Cape Town, South Africa.

Conference: Stranger Things: Rethinking Defamiliarization in Literature and Visual Culture

Conference Stranger Things

Dates: 12-13 December 2019
Venue: Amsterdam, Roeterseiland REC A 1.02 (12 December); Amsterdam, NIAS Seminar Room, Korte Spinhuissteeg 3 (13 December)
Open to: PhD Candidates and RMa Students, OSL members will have first access
Credits: 1-2 EC (depending on attending 1 or 2 days)
Organizers: Dr Nilgun Bayraktar (California College of the Arts; NIAS) and Dr Alberto Godioli (University of Groningen)
Please specify which day(s) you want to attend when you register (see below).

NOTE: The conference is fully booked, however we still have places available on the first day (12 December). Please send an e-mail to if you want to attend the first day. Don’t forget to mention your name, university and national research school.

If you want to be on the waiting list for both days, please send an e-mail to Don’t forget to mention your name, university and national research school.

The notion of defamiliarization is strikingly undertheorized; when it comes to systematic definitions of this concept, not much progress has been made since Russian Formalist Viktor Shklovsky’s work on ostranenie in literature in the early 20th century, or German playwright Bertolt Brecht’s theorization of Verfremdungseffekt in the 1930s to describe theatrical devices that break audiences’ passive absorption in theatrical illusion.

Defamiliarizing practices today play a key role in contemporary artworks engaging with highly topical issues, such as migration, climate change or the rise of right-wing populist discourses. Whether we are dealing with retro-futuristic dystopias, films breaking the fourth wall, or darkly humorous cartoons, defamiliarization can be an effective tool for political activation – one based on formal innovation, rather than on content or on superficial emotional engagement.

But how exactly can we distinguish between different forms of defamiliarization? How can we investigate its effects on the reader/viewer? How does defamiliarization relate to neighboring notions such as the weird, the eerie, or the uncanny? During this two-day conference, a team of scholars working on defamiliarization across media will tackle these questions. The conference will also feature a panel with artists whose work addresses these issues.

Confirmed keynote speakers: Prof. Caroline Levine (Cornell University; Skype lecture and discussion) and Prof. Dr. Sandra Ponzanesi (Utrecht University).

Confirmed speakers: Dr Nilgun Bayraktar (California College of the Arts / NIAS); Prof. Dr. Maria Boletsi (UvA / Leiden); Prof. Dr. Esther Pereen, Lora Sariaslan (UvA); Dr Alberto Godioli, Dr Christian Kirchmeier, Dr Florian Lippert, Prof. Dr. Annie van den Oever, Prof. Dr. Pablo Valdivia, Ruby de Vos (RUG); alaa minawi, Jo-Lene Ong.





  • 1 EC can be obtained by attending 1 day of the conference and writing a critical review of one chosen session (750 words, +/- 10%, not counting bibliography). 2 EC can be obtained by attending both days, and writing a critical review about two sessions (one per day; 750 words per session, +/- 10%).
  • Critical reviews should directly engage with the talks given in the selected session(s), and include references to at least two relevant academic sources. They should be submitted via email to by Monday 13 January 2020, 23:59.
  • If you wish to find out more about the concept of defamiliarization before the conference, you can start with Viktor Shklovsky’s ‘Art as Technique‘ (1917) and with the volume Ostrannenie. On “Strangeness” and the Moving Image, ed. by Annie van den Oever (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2010). More reading suggestions for your critical reviews will come from the speakers’ presentations.


OSL joins the Institute for World Literature (IWL)

We are happy to announce that OSL has just become a member of the Institute for World Literature (IWL). IWL is directed by David Damrosch (Harvard), and has several affiliated institutions all over the world; OSL is the only member institution for the Netherlands.
Every summer, IWL organizes a four-week programme at one of its associated venues, featuring an outstanding line-up of leading scholars in comparative literature. In 2020, the IWL programme will take place in Belgrade, from 6 to 30 July. Affiliated institutions have guaranteed places for two participants every year, who will also benefit from a 50% discount on tuition fees (please find more details here).
OSL PhD candidates can submit their application via this online form by 1 February 2020. However, in order to facilitate the procedure, OSL will have a round of internal selection before that. To this end, if you are interested in applying please send us a cv + short letter of motivation (maximum 750 words) by Monday 13 January 2020. All applications should be sent to; please feel free to contact us for more information regarding the procedure.

Hermes Summer School ‘Space, Affect, Memory: Performances and Representations’

Centre for Advanced Studies (CIEDUS), Universidade de Santiago de Compostela | 22-26 June 2020


Research Group – Theory of Literature and Comparative Literature, PhD Programme in Literary and Cultural Studies. University of Santiago de Compostela (Spain)

Call for Papers

Bringing together the notions of space, affect, and memory results in an appealing intersection in the field of literary and cultural studies, as each one of them can act as an axis for setting in motion a reorientation of cultural studies, and even of social sciences (because of their strong impact on what have been called the spatial turn, the memory turn, and the affect turn). These things, we are aware, are not new. However, we believe that the interaction between these three notions opens a path for new, complex analyses of the events taking place in the context of the contemporary revival of humanities.

What’s more, this brings about new, exciting research prospects for literary studies, as well as for cinematic, artistic or visual studies. The connections between memory and space (or place) are rooted in a well-known theoretical and methodological tradition that includes classical authors as Halbwachs, Benjamin, Poulet, Nora, Assmann, and Shama. Many of them, indeed, gave an important role to the category of affect in their theories, as is the case with Poulet, who reinforced it with the notion of affective memory that he developed in his work L’espace proustien. Still, it was not until recently that affect gained a more firm, established position in cultural and literary studies, especially in spatial studies. The influence of psychogeography and, at a different level, of nonrepresentational geography has been a determining factor in this respect.

We want Hermes Summer School 2020 to set up a framework for exploring these interconnections. That is why we will certainly welcome proposals offering original theoretical analyses on the matter, but we also encourage applicants to submit case studies on artistic, visual and literary works that approach these relations aesthetically, not only in theory but also in practice. We consider the tension between practices relying on representation and those based on performativity to be especially relevant, since it constitutes one of main the turning points that currently affect the ongoing debates on gender studies, ecocriticism, memory studies, and poetry and drama studies. Applicants are free to focus on any of the suggested notions –affect, space, or memory– but we strongly encourage participants to explore the intersections between them, knowing that the spatial dimension can be used as a rallying point for structuring proposals.

Each paper will be allotted 20 minutes. In addition to presenting their own research, speakers are strongly encouraged to reflect on the concepts they employ in their analyses. Please send your proposals including an abstract (200 words) and a short bio note (150 words, with your name, email address, institutional affiliation, dissertation topic, and disciplinary anchoring) to by January 31, 2020. We welcome abstracts related but not limited to the topics listed below:

  • Theories of affect, memory and place
  • Affect and memory as space connectors in fiction
  • Affective performances of local and global spaces
  • Ecocriticism and affect theory
  • Haunted spaces in literary, cinematic, artistic or visual representations.
  • Emotional and/or mnemonic communities and the sense of place
  • Gendered and/or queer places of affect and memory
  • Affect and memory: the predicament of representation
  • Historical perspectives on affect, space and memory in literature and visual arts.
  • Walking as performance

Keynote Speakers

  • Ben Anderson, Department of Geography, Durham University.
  • Germán Labrador, Department of Spanish and Portuguese, Princeton University.
  • Helena Miguélez-Carballeira, School of Languages, Literatures and Linguistics,
  • Bangor University.

Doctoral Workshop

Iván Villarmea Álvarez, Department of Art History (Film Studies), University of Santiago de Compostela.

General Information

The University of Santiago de Compostela is a member of the Hermes Consortium for Literary and Cultural Studies, a long-standing collaboration of eleven doctoral schools in Belgium, The Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and the USA. The Consortium’s annual summer school, hosted in turn by each partner institution, brings together specialists, delegates from the partner universities and a selected number of PhD students. An intensive training workshop and work-in-progress presentations focus on shared methodologies and interdisciplinary themes and lead to the publication of an annual edited volume, published by UCL Press in the Comparative Literature and Culture series.


Practical Information

Participants in the conference (delegates and PhD students) will be provided accommodation by the organization at hotels and university housing facilities in the area of the conference’s venue, the Centro de Estudios Avanzados (CEA) of the University of Santiago de Compostela. The CEA building and the accommodation facilities are a 10-minute walk from the city’s historic centre. Santiago de Compostela’s airport is at a 15-minute ride from the city (transport from the airport includes bus or taxi). The railway station is located at the city centre, a 30-minute walk from the conference’s venue (the CEA building). Transportation to and from Santiago will be covered by the participants.

The conference fee (EUR 270.00 per participant) covers the applicant’s participation in the conference, accommodation, lunch on four days, and the conference dinner. The payment method will be indicated once attendance is confirmed.

Some Bibliographic References

Ben Anderson, Encountering Affect. Capacities, Apparatuses, Conditions, Ashgate, Farnham, 2014.

Aleida Assmann, Cultural memory and Western Civilization: Functions, Media, Archives, New York, Cambridge University Press, 2011.

Christine Berberich, Neil Campbell, and Roberts Hudson (eds.), Affective Landscapes in Literature, Art and Everyday Life: Memory, Place and the Senses, Ashgate Publishing, Farnham, 2015.

Kyle Bladow and Jennifer Ladino (eds.), Affective Ecocriticism: Emotion, Embodiment, Environment, U of Nebraska P., Lincoln, 2018.

Tonya K. Davidson, Ondine Park, and Rob Shields (eds.), Ecologies of Affect. Placing Nostalgia, Desire, and Hope, Wilfrid Laurier University Press, Waterloo (Ontario), 2011.

Stef Craps and others, “Memory Studies and the Anthropocene: A Roundtable”. Memory Studies, 11 (2018), 498-515.

Astrid Erll and Ansgar Nunning (eds.), A Companion to Cultural Memory Studies, De Gruyter, Berlin, 2010.

Melissa Gregg and Gregory J. Seigworth (eds.), The Affect Theory Reader, Durham, Duke University Press, 2010.

Ursula K. Heise, Jon Cristensen, and Michelle Niemann (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Environmental Humanities, New York, Routledge, 2017.

Bruno Latour, “Agency at the Time of the Anthropocene”, New Literary History, 45 (2014), 1-18.

Doreen Massey, For Space, SAGE, London, 2005.

Helena Miguélez-Carballeira, Galicia, A Sentimental Nation: Gender, Culture and Politics, Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 2013.

Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity, Durham, Duke University Press, 2003.

Organizing Committee

Fernando Cabo Aseguinolaza, César Domínguez Prieto, Büke Saglam, Cristina Tamames Gala, Belén Tortosa Pujante

OSL Research Day 2019: Keynote Lecture by David Alworth

Groningen | 11 October 2019

Thanks again to everyone who attended this year’s Research Day! It was indeed a memorable event, packed with thought-provoking presentations, lively debates, and ideas for future collaboration.

We are particularly grateful to our keynote speaker David Alworth for his inspiring lecture on Paratextual Art (chaired by Marguérite Corporaal). For those who couldn’t make it, you can now watch our keynote lecture here.

David Alworth is John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Humanities at Harvard, where he teaches in the Department of English and in the Program of History & Literature. His book Site Reading: Fiction, Art, Social Form (Princeton University Press, 2015) received the Erving Goffman Award for Outstanding Scholarship in the Ecology of Social Interaction from the Media Ecology Association. Together with designer Peter Mendelsund, he has just completed The Look of the Book: Jackets, Covers, and Art at the Edges of Literature (Ten Speed Press/Crown Press/Penguin Random House, 2020). A collaborative project that synthesizes literary analysis and design, The Look of the Book draws on in-depth interviews, archival research, and recent scholarship in media studies to provide a comprehensive exploration of the meaning, history, value, mechanics, and future of the book cover.


NB: The presentation on research funding by Geert Jan Arends is now also available here

2019 OSL Awards: The Winners

Groningen | 11 October 2019

The winners of the 2019 OSL Awards are Marieke Winkler and Tom Idema. They received their prize during the annual OSL Research Day in Groningen on October 11, 2019.

Each year, OSL rewards two of its members with an OSL Award for the publication of an excellent scholarly book and article. The Awards are intended to acknowledge original and innovative contributions to the field of literary studies and to highlight the work of talented scholars at the beginning of their careers. The OSL Awards come with prize money of € 500,- for each award.

Marieke Winkler is assistant professor in Literary Studies at the Open University in Utrecht. Her research mostly focuses on the interaction and mutual exchanges between literature, literary criticism and literary studies. For the OSL Awards, she submitted an article titled ‘Criticism in the History of the Modern Humanities. The Case of Literary Studies in the late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth-Century Netherlands’, published in the 2018 Fall Issue of the journal History of Humanities (University of Chicago Press).

In the words of the Jury, her article provides a ‘clear and well documented exposition of a neglected historical critical debate situated in the Netherlands,’ but also a ‘well-reflected approach to a highly relevant topic in both past and contemporary humanities, convincingly illustrated through two illuminating case studies.’

Tom Idema is a lecturer in comparative literature at the University of Utrecht. In his book Stages of Transmutation: Science Fiction, Biology, and Environmental Posthumanism, published by Routledge in 2019, he analyzes contemporary works of American science fiction, reading these novels together with biological and philosophical theories of human-environment interaction. By so doing, the book show how the novels offer biocultural stories in which bodies are socially and culturally constructed, while social and cultural systems are ecologically constructed.

Quoting from the Jury’s motivation: ‘Published by a very renowned international publisher (Routledge), this book comprises a cutting-edge study of contemporary science fiction literature in view of the concept of the posthuman and ecocriticism. The close readings of these understudied works of fiction are very solid and provide reflections on our current times and environmental change. The works are placed in the longstanding tradition of the genre in fiction and sometimes even cinema. This is a well written and compelling study, addressing a timely topic from a fresh perspective.’


The jury consisted of Dr Marguérite Corporaal (RU), Dr Monica Jansen (UU) and Dr Florian Lippert (RUG).

Congratulations to Marieke and Tom, on behalf of the jury and the OSL Board!

OSL Workshop: Cultural Branding

Cultural Branding

Date: Friday 25 October
Time: 13.30-16.30
Venue: Utrecht University, Drift 21 0.03
Instructors: Dr Helleke van den Braber and Prof. Dr Jos Joosten (Radboud University)
Organizer: Dr Jeroen Dera (Radboud University)
Credits: 1 EC
Open to: PhD Candidates and RMa Students, OSL members will have first access
Registration will open on September 2

‘Brands prefigure our experience of products’, notes Michael Bhaskar in his study The Content Machine. Towards a Theory of Publishing from the Printing Press to the Digital Network (2013). Bhaskar’s words are in line with one of the central premises of marketing theory, which conceptualizes ‘brands’ as trademarks that identify a product and differentiate it from its competitors. In the field of literary studies, however, the process of branding has hitherto gained little academic discussion. Yet literary authors and the texts they produce are constantly ‘branded’: from the early modern period onwards, they have been both the object and the initiator of a complex marketing process.

This workshop, then, will provide analytical tools to study the branding of literature. Drawing on the work of – amongst others – Clayton Childress, Philippe Mihailovich and Karl Moore, literary branding is defined as an interactive process in which producers (e.g. authors, publishers, literary agents), distributors (e.g. book traders, librarians) and consumers (e.g. critics, teachers, readers) construe a set of regimented associations with an author, oeuvre or literary text. This set of associations can be analyzed as a dynamic and constantly metamorphosing narrative about the branded author or text. In the workshop, we will discuss and analyse aspects of the ‘sets of associatons’ construed around national and international literary brands, with special emphasis on
1. the processes of inclusion and exclusion central to the branding process
2. the way these processes shape narratives about national literatures.

OSL Workshop Cultural Branding – Full description

Deadline assignment: Friday 15 November, 23:59

(‪Un)timely Crises in Europe and Beyond: Chronotopes and Critique‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

(‪Un)timely Crises

Dates: 17-18 October 2019 | Time: Oct 17 9.00 – 18.00 – Oct 18 10.00 – 17.00 | Venue: University of Amsterdam, exact location see below | Open to: PhD Candidates and RMa Students, OSL members will have first access | ECTS: 1, more details, see below | Registration 

Please note that you can only register for the first day of the workshop via OSL (see below, Registration and Credits).


Maria Boletsi (Leiden University and 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)

Theme description

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 sponsored by OSL and ASCA. It 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. Research Ma students and Phd candidates who wish to earn 1 EC by participating in this workshop should register through OSL. Those who wish to attend the lectures without earning EC credits are welcome to do so and do not have to register through OSL. OSL members will have first access. NB: It is not possible to register for the second day of the workshop, which will only involve a smaller group of invited scholars. OSL RMA and PhD students can acquire 1 EC by:

a) Attending the first day of the workshop and participating actively in discussions;
b) reading the assigned texts for one of the thematic streams (Crisis Rhetoric and Alternative Grammars; Crisis and Memory; Critique Under Duress; Chronic Crisis)
c) writing a response of 600-800 words to one or more of the questions or topics of the thematic stream of their choice by engaging with (some of) the assigned texts.

This will be a pass / fail assignment (not graded). The deadline for submitting the assignment is October 22, 2019.

Programme: (Un)Timely Crises – workshop description and full program

Day 1: October 17

Venues: Oudemanhuispoort 4-6, Amsterdam
9:30 – 12:00: D0.08 (Oudemanhuispoort)
12:00 – 17:10: D1.08 (Oudemanhuispoort)

9:30 – 10:00: Registration  and Coffee

10:00 – 10:20: Welcome by OSL director and introduction by organizers

10:20 – 11:30: Lecture by Rebecca Bryant & discussion (location: D0.08) | Chair: Natashe Lemos Dekker

11:30 – 12:00: Coffee break

12:00 – 13:10: Dimitris Papanikolaou, “Past Continuous, Archival Present, Queer Future: Rethinking Our Critical Grammars” (location: D1.08) | Chair: Maria Boletsi

13:10 – 14:10: Lunch (at the hall of Oudemanhuispoort)

14:10 – 15:20: Nick Nesbitt, “Crisis and Critique” (location: D1.08) | Chair: Kasia Mika

15:20 – 15: 40: Coffee break

15: 40 – 16:50: Oxana Timofeeva, “The Time of Catastrophe” (location: D1.08) | Chair: Ksenia Robbe

16: 50 – 17:10: Closing remarks


Day 2: October 18

(NB: Day 2 is only open for a small number of invited participants; it is not open to the public or to those registered through OSL)

The parallel group meetings will take place in the University Library, in the following rooms:

  • Belle van Zuylenzaal
  • Vondelzaal
  • Potgieterzaal

Theme groups

10:00 – 12:00: Theme group meetings I: Discussion of readings

12:00 – 13:30: Lunch break (at Belle van Zuylenzaal)

13:30 -15:30: Theme group meetings II: Collaborative writing

16:00-17:00: Final discussion & next steps

Additional Information

Google Directions

Day 1:-from Amsterdam Centraal Station to Oudemanhuispoort (15min walk):

Day 2:-from Amsterdam Centraal Station to the University Library (20 min walk):

Download a poster of the event here.