Crisis and Critique: Rethinking Europe and the Global South

From Crisis to Critique

Crisis-talk dominates contemporary public debates, from the global financial crisis to the ongoing migration crisis, and from the environmental crisis to the global covid-19 health crisis. The term crisis today is often ‘hijacked’ by populist, xenophobic, and anti-democratic agendas in Europe that limit the space of political choice and the imagination of alternatives.

This network sets out to approach the transversal crises in our globalized present as framings through which specific narratives of the present gain valence while others are excluded. Making crisis an object of interrogation, our network brings together scholars whose work explores how different crisis-scapes produce experiences of the present, rest on or disrupt established narratives of the past, and broker specific outlooks on the future.

The populist, (crypto-)colonial, racialized or gendered discourses through which many declared European crises are inflected, often reinforce long-standing hierarchical understandings of Europe as isolated and disconnected from its peripheries, or, more generally, as disjunct from the Global South. They also exacerbate polarizations within Europe, i.e., between the European North and South. However, frameworks of crisis can also occasion radical shifts in the perspectives, grammars, and narratives through which we understand relations between the Global South and Europe. Our group is attentive to such shifts and the ways they can be reflected, imagined, and performed through fictional modes: literature, cinema, comics/graphic novels, and other artistic modes of expression that thwart (crypto-)colonial mobilizations of crisis.

By comparing and contrasting contemporary crisis-scapes in Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Global South, we explore local and global positionalities and entanglements in the globalized present. We are particularly interested in alternative framings of this present, as well as in spaces of futurity that emerge from contemporary crisis-frameworks. Our research engages new trends in literature but also in cinema, art(ivism), and protest cultures in Europe and the Global South that move beyond crisis rhetoric to envision critical transformations of the present and paths to possible futures.


In this context, we are concerned with how the field of ‘crisis studies’ today could evade academic opportunism and develop innovative approaches that involve a rethinking of critique. By thinking together crisis and critique, we ask:

  • Under which conditions could crisis-scapes foster new cultures of critique, decolonization, and resistance to post-truth populism and the neoliberal governmentality of crisis, or alternative narrativizations of the past, present, and future?
  • How can we generate critical vocabularies – informed by theoretical paradigms from Europe and from the Global South – that are better equipped to address new challenges in our globalized present than previous paradigms?
  • How can the experiences of subjects-in-crisis be voiced without producing a spectacle of misery or resorting to the trope of victimhood?
  • How can hegemonic grammars or conceptual metaphors involved in contemporary crisis rhetoric be transformed towards alternative social imaginaries?

This research group builds on, and aims to expand existing, long-standing collaborations between its members, which have already generated various forms of output, including joined publications, international conferences and workshops (some of which were part of the OSL programme), conference panels (including panels during the annual OSL-research day), research-based teaching, and impact activities. Some collaborative activities took place or are taking shape through existing research groups and partnerships on related topics, such as the “Crisis and Critique” network at LUCAS/Leiden University, the “Crisis, Critique, and Futurity” research group at ASCA/University of Amsterdam, the Oxford-Amsterdam TORCH partnership “Rethinking Modern Greek Studies in the 21st Century: A Cultural Analysis Network”, and the “’European way of Life’: Construction and Critique” research network (Leiden University, University of Groningen, Jagiellonian University, Helsinki University and University of Jyväskylä).


Team members (in alphabetical order)

Members of the above-mentioned groups, as well as other scholars whose work engages the theme and objectives of the proposed group, will join forces by forming this larger research group under the aegis of OSL. This group, which we intend to expand with more members, will boost existing collaborations and spark new ones with colleagues in the Netherlands and international partners.

The actual list of scholars that will be involved in this group’s activities is in practice longer than the names mentioned below. The following list is therefore only indicative, and will be constantly updated.


Maria Boletsi (Leiden University / University of Amsterdam,

Eva Fotiadi (St. Joost School of Fine Art & Design, Den Bosch)

Kristina Gedgaudaite (Princeton University)

Janna Houwen (Leiden University)

Florian Lippert (University of Groningen)

Liesbeth Minnaard (Leiden University)

Dimitris Papanikolaou (Oxford University)

Danelle du Plessis (University of Groningen)

Ksenia Robbe (University of Groningen)

Margriet van der Waal (University of Groningen/Amsterdam University)

Astrid Van Weyenberg (Leiden University)


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