Appel à communication : Oslo International Graduate Students Conference : “Space, Culture, and Religion: Considering Implications of The ‘Spatial Turn’”, Université d’Oslo (Norvège), 19-21/05/2014 — LIMITE : 20/12/2014

In recent years, the humanities and social sciences have seen a renewed interest in spatiality. Scholars have increasingly considered ways in which texts, history and cultural practices are physically embodied – and, hence, spatially embedded. Notions of ‘space’, ‘place’ and ‘landscape’ are no longer the exclusive domain of geographers, but have been appropriated by social anthropologists, scholars of religion, historians and literary scholars. Following a number of other ‘turns’ in the humanities, this development has been called ‘the spatial turn’ (e.g., Warf & Arias 2009). Scholars are studying aspects of space from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, drawing on theories not only from geography but also from philosophy and sociology. Thinkers whose work has been rediscovered, or reinterpreted from a spatial perspective, include Mikhail Bakhtin (‘chronotope’), Pierre Bourdieu (‘social space’), Michel de Certeau (‘spatial stories’), Michel Foucault (‘heterotopia’) and Henri Lefebvre (‘the production of space’).

In this conference, we would like to examine implications of the ‘spatial turn’ for the humanities. In particular, we look at the possible impact of new considerations of space on the disciplines represented at our institute: Asian studies, Middle Eastern studies, cultural studies, and the study of religion(s). We welcome papers on a variety of topics, as long as they relate to our central topic. We particularly would like to invite (post)graduate students and young (postdoc) researchers to present papers on the spatial aspects of their own research.

The conference will be divided into the following four subtopics. Participants are requested to relate their presentation to one of these four topics.

  1. Politics of space

How is power embedded in space? How do urban planning, architecture, landscape (re)construction and other spatial practices reflect power configurations? How, on the other hand, are spatial practices employed to challenge and subvert existing power structures? According to Henri Lefebvre, modern space is a product, constructed by powerful (state) actors to serve their interests. Yet, as Michel de Certeau has argued, there is always space for negotiation and appropriation, however limited. To what extent are their ideas applicable to contemporary spatial practices and landscape construction, not only in ‘the West’, but also in rapidly changing regions such as China, India and Southeast Asia? And how are power structures played out in such physical demarcations as borders, as well as in monuments and modern cityscapes?

  1. Imaginations of space

According to Bourdieu and Lefebvre, space is not only a physical, but also a social and mental category. What are the consequences of a spatial approach to our understanding of  texts, historical narratives, and cultural artefacts? How are spaces imagined, and how are they classified? What, for instance, is the contemporary theoretical significance of spatial concepts such as ‘local’, ‘(trans)national’, ‘global’ and ‘glocal’? How should we conceive of cyberspace, as it challenges traditional notions of space, and of utopian imaginations of space? And what is today’s relevance of that classical category in the study of religion, ‘sacred space’ – can we maintain the analytical validity of this category, while abandoning the phenomenological axiom that sacredness is an intrinsic, transhistorical quality of certain places?

  1. History of space

A renewed interest in space does not mean we should prioritise synchronic analyses to diachronic ones. Rather, the question is how spatial and temporal approaches can be integrated. How is history embedded in space? For instance, how are traces of the past engraved into landscapes, and how can we study them? How and why are ‘tradition’ and ‘heritage’ projected onto certain places, for instance in the allocation of ‘world heritage’ status, but not to others? As several scholars have pointed out, memory and collective (e.g., national) identities are often dependent upon, and shape the perception of, particular physical places and landscapes. To what extent, then, is memory dependent upon (the conservation of) particular places? And what is the relevance of space, and of spatially embedded cultural practices, for identity construction and differentiation (i.e., Othering)?

  1. Writing space, crafting space

in texts and material objects, spaces are conceived, constructed, and represented in various ways. How does literature create its spaces? How, in turn, does the physical place in which a text is produced influence its shape and contents? Likewise, how is space conceived, both materially and conceptually, in the visual arts? What is the relationship between social and physical space in artistic representation? Furthermore, it may be argued that ‘literature’ and ‘art’ are themselves also constructed as particular mental and social spaces, with a centre, periphery and boundaries. How are these spaces constructed? Finally, we would like to ask how space may be represented in academic writing. How do we portray spatial practices? How can we map historical change? And in what ways are our own projects conditioned and restricted by the spaces in which we operate – the ‘fieldwork location’, say, or ‘academia’?

Those who wish to participate in the conference and present a paper are requested to submit an abstract (max. 500 words) before December 20, 2013. Please indicate which of the four subthemes your paper relates to. Abstracts can be sent to Aike Rots:’

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