Building Bridges: Activists and Cultural Researchers in Conversation

Building Bridges: Activists and Cultural Researchers in Conversation

May 28.-29., 2020

A workshop at the International Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture (GCSC) at Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen
Call for Participation

“Nothing in science has any value to society if it is not communicated.”
Anne Roe, 1952

As posited by psychologist Anne Roe, the academic community needs to be conscious of their “social obligations.” From the outset and especially since Stuart Hall, critical cultural studies
have aspired to expose power structures and to disclose the constructedness of cultural and social phenomena. Moreover, they strive to share the findings obtained with society with the
aim to foster emancipatory endeavors. But how does this aspiration translate into today’s German discourse and the situation of the study of culture in Germany? We are living in times of an increasing awareness of the diversification of society and a growing reflection on structural relations of power. We are witnessing huge social and environmental challenges with a progressing sense of urgency, often accompanied by a heavily polarized audience – migration and climate change being only two examples. Within academia, the study of culture analyzes these dynamics in its manifold research fields. It offers concepts and tools for critical investigations, produces studies and engages in scholarly debates, thereby discussing, for instance, de- and post-coloniality, gender
issues, epistemic violence, migration and the Anthropocene. But how does theoretical research relate to our social and political reality? What can the study of culture in action look like?
For more than a decade the International Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture (GCSC) at the Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen has been at the heart of the study of culture in Germany.
That is why it is the right place to take the leap and address these pressing questions in the form of a transdisciplinary workshop. We would like to investigate which models and concepts from
the study of culture can be applied beyond the realms of academia and how the results of social and political involvement feed back into scholarly research. In doing so, we aim to rethink the (inter-)dependencies of academic discourse and society, and to find ways how to better bridge the two in an attempted “two-way”-conversation. More specifically, we would like to address
the following questions:
• How can we foster a dialogue between academia and society?
• How can critical thinking and critical humanities have a meaningful and sustainable impact on society and politics?
• How to design, shape and communicate research to make a meaningful contribution to society?
• How to open up research and instigate a continuous dialogue with social and political actors?
• How to engage with public discourse in a fruitful way, to maintain academic independence while not being absorbed in one’s efficacy by the status quo?
• How can the experience of practical engagement feed back into and reshape the academic study of culture?
• As scholars of the study of culture, what kind of responsibilities do we bear, inside and outside of academia?
Looking beyond scholarship and academia, the workshop aims to foster a dialogue between scholars and organizations working on the interface of the study of culture and social practice,
academic discourse and political action. The invited speakers are from three fields of civil activism:
Urban Activism: Jan Buck, “raumstation3539“ eG, Gießen, and Oliver Hasemann, “ZwischenZeitZentrale (ZZZ)“, Bremen Consulting: Iris Rajanayagam, “xart splitta” e.V., Berlin Policy Making: Natascha Nassir-Shahnian (tbc.), Diversitätsentwicklung at the “Projektfonds Kulturelle Bildung” (“Stiftung für Kulturelle Weiterbildung und Kulturberatung”, Berlin)
The GCSC invites the opening up of new perspectives for the study of culture and inspires new opportunities for how our field of research as well as our individual projects can reach a broader
public audience. Finally, we want to provoke a change in society, outside the university and beyond doing a PhD.
The workshop addresses early career researchers who situate their research in the wider field of the study of culture, and who are interested in engaging in a discussion with activists, consultants and policy makers.
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Please send your application until 31 March 2020 to building.bridges.GCSC@gmail.com. The applications have to include an expression of motivation/interest, based on the following
questions: How can academic institutions inform the work of activists? And vice versa: How can social activism interact with cultural researchers other than being their object of study?
[200-300 words] The application also has to state the applicant’s own research, connected to the workshop [200 words]. Please add information on extra academic work and activities, if associated to the topic of the workshop.

Contact

Ruben.pfizenmaier@gcsc.uni-giessen.de and laura.borchert@gcsc.ubi-giessen.de (speakers of Reasearch Area 8: Cultures of Knowledges, Research and Education)