The theoretical side of academia

At Arch Centre, we’re always looking out for ways to making you think about Architecture. Some people practice architecture, others build architecture, while most people just get on with living in it. A select few go about photographing architecture, while another select crowd attempt to teach architecture. Everyone wants a slice of this very delectable pie. Some people do a bit of all of that, having a nibble of every slice, while others restrict themselves to just the one thin slice and stick to just one flavour.

But there is another group. Those very select few who just think about architecture. They sit, they think, they certainly write, and just every now and again, they talk about what they have been sitting and thinking about. We thought that we might share some of those with you today.

A round up of recent international conferences may surprise you.

The Real Story: Telling the Historical “Truth”
44th Annual Convention, Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA) March 21-24, 2013
Boston, Massachusetts, Host Institution: Tufts University
This panel will examine non-primary-source representations of real historical events. How do such accounts of actual events interact with the notion of “truth,” and how to do they construct and/or challenge dominant narratives about the past? How do these secondary plots invoke the notion of the “original” event that they describe? How do point of view, audience, narrativity, genre, and other formal elements characterize the text as “historical”? What are the political, economic, and cultural stakes involved in the representation of history? Especially welcome are papers which examine historical fiction, historical reenactments, living history tourist sites, and other representations which highlight both their distance from original events and their desire to collapse that distance. Papers might explore the following themes: theoretical approaches to the representation of history (drawing on work by historians such as Hayden White, social critics such as Michel Foucault, or museum studies scholars such as Barabara Kirschenblatt-Gimblett); how national shame functions in historical narratives (for example, the representation of slavery in Colonial Williamsburg or the erasure of bodily functions in Plimoth Plantation); how real historical figures appear in fiction or performance; how revisionist and subaltern projects alter notions of linear history, power, and truth (such as in Condé’s I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem); etc. This panel offers those of us in languages and literature who teach about historical events a chance to bring our disciplinary methods to bear on the topics that we cover, and it also opens an interdisciplinary space where theories and ideas from literary criticism, cultural studies, museum studies, film studies, performance theory, and history can interact and develop.

Strengthening Intangible Infrastructures
The conference is held by the Centre of Ethics and Poverty Research/University of Salzburg ( and the international research centre for social and ethical questions (ifz in cooperation with Bildungszentrum St. Virgil Salzburg ( and Austria’s first social festival Tu was, dann tut sich was. ( The conference will be held interdisciplinarily. The format will include lectures and discussion as well rooms provided for open discussions.
Abstracts of approx. 300 words should be submitted to Andreas Koch and Elisabeth Kapferer (akoch [at] & elisabeth.kapferer [at] Deadline for submission is June 15, 2012. Notification of acceptance will be given by June 30, 2012. Invited colleagues are asked to prepare a paper for the conference proceedings (approx. 6.000 words) which will be published in 2013. Deadline for submitting manuscripts is October 31, 2012.

2012 SAMLA Session: The Fragmented Form(s) and Context(s) of Modernist Poetics – Georgia, United States
This session will explore poetic Modernism in terms of form and context, examining its simultaneous subversion and incorporation of what came before. Papers are invited to deal with the evolution of the craft demonstrated by major poets like Eliot, Pound, and Yeats or later poets such as Auden, MacNeice, and David Jones. Alternatively, we invite papers on poetic forms as a reflection of or reaction to the destabilized rhetoric used in the liberal and conservative political maneuvers leading up to WWI.

Within the reactionary context of the conservative reaction to progressivism, Modernists attempted to make new what came before. Papers might consider the appropriation of nationalist identity made popular by W.B. Yeats, the scathing cries for social justice penned by Pound in his Cantos, or, on a personal level, the destabilization of identity found in Eliot’s Prufrock. In terms of identity, scholars might explore David Jones’s prose poem In Parenthesis as an application of Modernist poetics to the unification of wartime identity with what comes after (nationally or locally). Overarching themes to consider could include anxiety, tradition and nostalgia, the shortcomings of rationalist thought, war, beauty, fragmentation, nationalism, or subtleties of the genre not mentioned in this call for papers.

The Society of Architectural Historians 66th Annual Meeting
Buffalo, NY, USA, April 10–14, 2013
Diasporic Architecture and the Politics of National Identity
Taking James Clifford’s seminal pairing of “roots and routes” as point of departure, this panel invites papers that examine diasporic architecture as a site where various visionaries of identity, nation, and history come together and interact in complex ways. In much of earlier literature on diasporic settlements, diaspora and the nation state were often treated as self-evident categories. Only in recent years have scholars started to examine the development of diasporic identity and nationalism as a co-evolving process of hardening the boundaries of fluid identities. This panel seeks to explore the spatialized inscription of the diasporic understandings of homeland, self, loyalty and modernity in the context of the nation state’s emergence as the primary marker of political and cul­tural recognition. Papers may consider questions such as: How was a nation symbolized outside the actual nation? In what ways did architecture help define a coherent disaporic collective memory for an internally fractured community? How did the significations of a particular design enable the intersection of national identities and class/race/gender hierarchies? And how did the built environment inscribe diasporic subjects through its unique reconciliation of space of crossings with historical time?

The panel encourages papers to adopt innovative analytical frameworks which view connection, dispersion, and mobility as essential dimensions of architectural history. Despite a flourishing vocabulary of mobility and hybridity in recent decades, global links, flows, entanglements, and networks are still treated as marginalized categories filling in the interstices between bounded territorial units. This has presented difficulties for the study of diasporic architecture, whose production often involve geographically dispersed realities. This panel seeks to investigate diasporic architecture as a result of the transnational flows of capital, knowledge, and artifacts by establishing new connections between previously disjunctive historical narratives and sociopolitical units. Session chair: Duanfang Lu, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning, University of Sydney, Australia;

Entangled Legacies: Enlightenment, Colonialism and the Holocaust – International Workshop
Frankfurt Research Center for Postcolonial Studies
Cluster of Excellence “The Formation of Normative Orders”
Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany
organized by Nikita Dhawan (Goethe University Frankfurt) and María do Mar Castro Varela (Alice Salomon University Berlin)

What are the links between the gruesome atrocities committed during colonialism and the Third Reich? Do colonialism and the Holocaust signal a failure of European Enlightenment or are they both outcome of the “Project of Modernity”? Or was it the Enlightenment that provided the tools to contest Empire and Fascism? How would memory politics and geopolitics be transformed through a simultaneous analysis of the legacies of colonialism and the Holocaust?

Instead of rendering colonialism marginal to Holocaust studies and the Holocaust to Postcolonial Studies, new scholarship exploring important links between imperialism and European Fascism is emerging. Issues ranging from “concentration camps” in the German colonies to racial ideologies and fantasies of supremacy are being extensively investigated. Some commentators, however, remain sceptical about these comparisons and challenge the continuity thesis by emphasising Holocaust uniqueness. These positions raise questions whether the Holocaust can be juxtaposed to other experiences of extreme historical violence. Other scholars emphasize connections between colonial rule and the Nazi regime by examining how colonialism was fuelled by and in turn reinforced perceptions of European racial superiority. Furthermore the link between the loss of German overseas colonies and Nazi expansionism in Eastern Europe as a form of “internal colonization” is highlighted. Seminal work by critics like Hannah Arendt and Aimé Césaire unfold the links between the events of the First and Second World Wars and imperialism, thereby opening up possibilities for a broader understanding of genocide, which encompasses both colonialism as well as the Holocaust.

Cognizant of the specificity of the German context and history, the aim of this workshop is to contribute to the emerging critical field that seeks to think together the legacies of colonialism and the Holocaust. Confronting shared issues like “Paradox of Modernity“, “Biopolitics”, “Decolonization” and “Anti-Fascism”, “Gender and Sexual Politics”, the workshop explores how Postcolonial Studies and Holocaust Studies can productively work together to unfold the violence exercised in the name of racial ideologies and imperial political projects. The discussions will revolve around exploring both the differences and similarities between various genocidal instances of world history and the consequences for remembrance politics in a postcolonial world.

and last, but not least – in fact, it is my favourite:

Gothic Antipodes: An Interdisciplinary Conference

The Gothic Association of New Zealand and Australia (GANZA) welcomes papers for its inaugural conference, to be held at Stamford Plaza Hotel, Auckland, on 22-23 January 2013.

The conference will be organised in the spirit of the Association. GANZA is interdisciplinary in nature, bringing together scholars, students, teachers and professionals from a number of Gothic disciplines, including literature, film, music, fashion, architecture and popular culture. It is the aim of the Association to not only place a focus on Australasian Gothic scholarship, but also to build international links with the wider Gothic community as a whole. The conference invites abstracts for 20-minute presentations and welcomes proposals on all aspects of Gothic Studies. The intent is to give fresh perspectives on Gothic scholarship, building interdisciplinary and transnational links. Topics can include, but are not limited to:

• Gothic fiction and poetry
• Gothic cinematography
• Gothic genres and sub-genres
• Gothic food/domesticity
• Gothic television/ Gothic shows
• Gothic creatures
• Anime and manga
• Comics and graphic novels
• Gothic histories
• Gothic music
• Gothic fashion
• Gothic spirituality
• Gothic sub-cultures
• Gothic and gender
• Postcolonial Gothic
• Gothic geographies
• Videogames
• Steampunk
• Gothic technologies
• Gothic narratives


One response to “The theoretical side of academia”

  1. But how could we have missed this one out:
    Politeness and Prurience: Situating Transgressive Sexualities in the Long Eighteenth Century

    A major international and multidisciplinary conference hosted by the History of Art Department at the University of Edinburgh

    September 2-3 2013

    Embedded within the narrative of John Cleland’s infamous novel Fanny Hill, or Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (1748), is a vignette which affronts the moral compass of even the tale’s sexually promiscuous protagonist. Having attended a ‘drag masquerade’, Fanny bears witness, through a convenient crack in a wall, to a sodomitical act, which she finds ‘not only universally odious but absurd’. Despite her apparent condemnation, Fanny pruriently watches on. In its dichotomous nature, Fanny’s reaction – suggestive of both outrage and intrigue – mirrors reactions to homosexuality in the eighteenth-century and in its subsequent historiography, wherein it is treated at once as a site of fascination, but considered separately from the history of normative sexualities. Yet, situated as it is, within this literary feast of heterosexual eroticism, Fanny Hill’s same-sex love scene may seem incongruous. Cleland’s text however, proffers a way to approach homosexuality as both explicitly aberrant and problematic, but still located within the general lexicon of eighteenth-century sexual congress. By the same token, Cleland offers a model for resituating the homosexual narrative within a wider historiography of sexuality, where its relationality to dominant modes, not its difference from them, might fruitfully be used as a way to re-evaluate transgressive sexualities during the period.

    In his 2006 article ‘Queering Horace Walpole’ George Haggerty advocates an approach to the history of sexuality wherein the search for a ‘concrete account of same-sex sexual behaviour’ is rejected, forcing the historian ‘to look elsewhere in almost every case’. Accordingly, this conference will privilege the assessment of cultural evocations of the ‘other eighteenth century’; the transgressive will be firmly identified as, and sought within dominant modes of eighteenth-century culture and its discourses. In the realm of visual culture, transgressive and deviant sexualities have previously been interpreted as autonomous and distinct from these prevailing modes. Hogarth’s famous print-series A Harlot’s Progress (1732) and A Rake’s Progress (1735) have been interpreted simplistically – in accordance with their appellation – as ‘modern moral histories’. As such they have routinely been presented as providing antitheses to a broadly defined moral exemplar of ideal polite culture.

    Such a prima facie interpretation however, boldly precludes the rich scopophilic potential provided by scenes of prostitution and illicit sexuality, locating it instead within the polite framework of moralising art. Like Fanny, the viewer of such images is at once repulsed and titillated. Yet Hogarth’s satirical oeuvre is not merely a visualisation of moral imperatives central to polite culture, but a vivid visualisation of a real section of contemporary society. In reintegrating these apparently oppositional forms of behaviour a clearer picture of eighteenth-century society and culture emerges. Hogarth’s images may therefore be viewed not as simply the commentary on the mores of an apparently ‘polite’ society via the representation of its very opposite, but, analogous to David Halperin’s definition of ‘queer’ in Saint Foucault: Towards a Gay Hagiography (1997), as ‘a positionality vis à vis the normative’.

    In an attempt to highlight underwritten facets of contemporary sexuality, texts such as G. S. Rousseau and Roy Porter’s Sexual Underworlds of the Enlightenment (1987) which have labelled themselves as examining the ‘other’ or ‘underworld’ have instead further problematised the role and import of such histories to wider eighteenth-century culture. The aim of this conference is therefore not to present illicit sexuality as an underbelly to a dominant polite culture, but to reconcile the ‘two eighteenth centuries’ that have for too long been presented as the subject of two discrete discourses – politeness and prurience. As well as dealing with the interface between politeness and prurience as it appears throughout eighteenth-century visual, material and literary culture more generally, specific topics for papers could include:

    Bodies – the venereal body, castrati, physicalities, sadomasochism
    Settings – home and abroad, urban centres, rural backwaters
    Spaces – the architectural exterior and the private interior, the bagnio, the brothel, the masquerade
    Gaze/Experience – viewing sexualities, the keyhole testimony, description and biography
    Material Evidence – the objects of sexuality, dress, sex aids, collections, erotica
    Masculinities and Femininities – gender roles, reversals and subversions
    Modes of the illicit – sodomitical, Sapphic, pathological, pederastic, extra-marital, rape
    Public & Private – reception/reaction, fear/celebration, homophobia, display, expression
    Language – parlance, designation, rumour, slander, code

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