Soapbox Call for Papers: Impasse

Call for Papers: 3.0 ‘Impasse’Contribute to the third volume of our research journal

Photo Credit: Jordi de Vetten

For the next volume of Soapbox, a graduate peer-reviewed journal for cultural analysis, we invite young researchers and established scholars alike to submit work that critically engages with the theme of impasse.


In its first instance, and most literal meaning, an impasse indicates a border that arises in our way. In everyday life, it is what prevents one from moving forward, for instance from entering onto a property one is not allowed to be in or arriving at a dead end. Supposedly, the only possible counter-action, the exit from an impasse, is either the risk of trespassing, of having to turn around, or ending one’s journey. Trespassing borders presents a risk if not an impossibility. It is important not to understate the factuality of the latter. The finiteness inherent to all forms of life constitutes an impasse, and is experienced and managed as such on all manners of scale. Dwelling on the term impasse provides space for speaking of the unresolvable, of the disorienting (what is outside of time and space, alter/outer), of the failure of connection, and finally, of loss, of the unretrievable and the necrotic. The notion of impasse comes to mind all the more in the context of the ongoing pandemic and of transmission through physical contact or proximity.


For Derrida, the impasse is synonymous with the notion of aporia; describing a state of unknowing or a contradiction that is seemingly impossible to solve. As Derrida states, “the nonpassage, the impasse or aporia, stems from the fact that there is no limit. There is not yet or there is no longer a border to cross, no opposition between two sides: the limit is too porous, permeable, and indeterminate” (20). By destroying the possibility of passage altogether, an absolute impasse dissolves the antagonism that allowed it to be in the first place. This is how the impasse shifts from the finite to something more “permeable”, which can be trespassed, implying some malleability and flux.

[Liminal space]

An impasse also denotes a specific kind of liminal spatiality. It is a space of the in-between; where one gets stuck or does not know how to proceed. As a state of unknowing, the impasse is constantly being re-configured. How can we orientate ourselves in a space that is always becoming?

Impasses force us to attune to what the Situationists called the ‘psychogeographical’. The city is a space full of impasses and rife with calculation (de Certeau). To be in situ–to drift in one’s movement through space–implies a kind of liquidity that looks to resist: finding fissures and exits, rerouting continuously. Being at an impasse can  allow for stillness, like sitting in a waiting room, allowing for a moment of contemplation, rest or regeneration. Yet in other ways, it is a source of  uncertainty, insecurity, and doubt, as well as a questioning of the relation between the active and the passive–of choices we make or of choices that are made for us. Impasses, as sites of defeat or potentiality, can wield immense affective force.


At the present time, we find ourselves shifting our sights from impasse to future–the figuration of an after. What does it mean to overcome an impasse? Does it necessarily imply a radical change? Is it a rupture of the status quo in order to move towards a total reconfiguration? The current situation presses these questions onto us.


In Cruel Optimism, Lauren Berlant describes “the historical present- as an impasse, a thick moment of ongoingness, a situation that can absorb many genres without having one itself- is a middle without boundaries, edges, a shape” (200). If we would try to give the ‘historical present’ a genre, it might be that of crisis. We have been held in a perpetual state of alertness, which at the same time pledges us to inaction. As Agamben describes in State of Exception, the mode of inaction is the condition for a politics of emergency. The inherent finiteness of crisis is prolonged into a permanent temporariness. We seem to be stuck in a crisis that has no shape and thus no limit. In this limbo we come to expect the unusual, the surprising, maybe even the unthinkable. This passivity and uncertainty can also give way to moments of resilience when we begin to understand an impasse as a disruption that holds a potential for change.


The author Milan Kundera states that “an impasse is the place of […] most beautiful inspirations” (“une impasse est le lieu de mes plus belles inspirations” 23). The impasse, then, is perhaps not always a negative dead-end or stalemate, but can also provide a space for  hope and new possibilities. A standstill may allow for a moment of rest and recovery, which is needed for overcoming obstacles, bridging gaps or tending to open wounds. The impasse also holds the potential for care, emphasising a relationality between bodies, the human and the non-human, and attempts to reach some kind of agreement or compromise. When the way we care shifts, and how we relate to our distant and intimate surroundings changes (as the coronavirus pandemic has shown), the impasse forces a reevaluation of interconnectedness and relationality.

We encourage submissions in the direction of, but not limited to, the following topics:

  • States of the in-between, the liminal, the uncertain
  • The concept of care (also in relation to a shared experience of the impasse)
  • Caring over distance and how it alters perception of space
  • Practices of mourning, healing, renewal
  • The impasse as crisis (climate crisis, health crisis)
  • Representation of the impasse in literature, film, visual art, etc.
  • Politics of power in the impasse, and the active and the passive
  • Border studies (limits, figurative borders)
  • (Post)colonial studies
  • Futurity
  • Trespassing, exceptions
  • Hope, possibility
  • Periods and states of contemplation and (mis)understanding
  • (The pausing of) conflict
  • Reaching compromise/agreement
  • Stretching out of time (the immediate and the gradual)

Please submit your proposal (800-1000 words) or already written paper following the MLA formatting and referencing style (maximum 5000 words) to by January 10th 2021. If you hand in a proposal or outline, please consider that the first draft of the full papers (3000-5000 words) are due February 17th. If you have any questions regarding your submission, do not hesitate to contact us.

We also accept submissions for our website all year round. We encourage a variety of styles and formats, including short-form essays (around 2000 words), reviews, experimental writing and multimedia. Please get in touch to pitch new ideas or existing projects that you would like to have published on our website. Contact us on for any web related questions and submissions.

Photo Credit: Jordi de Vetten


Works Cited

Berlant, Lauren. Cruel Optimism. Duke University Press, 2011.

Derrida, Jacques. Aporias. Translated by Thomas Dutoit, Stanford University Press, 1993.

Kundera, Milan. Risibles Amours. Translated by Francois Kérel, Gallimard, 1986.

Film in Context Series

Film in Context Series

Organized by Karen Sztajnberg (ASCA)

January 18, February 15,March 15, April 12, May 1, 2021

This is a guest speaker series about film and television as dynamically evolving media. We will attempt to offer researchers an in-depth look at different facets of the creative craft, the distribution and exhibition aspects always establishing connections between the guest and topic to our emphasis on cultural analysis.

As the ways in which we consume and think of audio-visual media evolves, we will bring our critical lens towards a vaster debate on the transformations under way.


  1. To give ASCA and NICA researchers deeper insight into the makers/artist perspective and to provide an opportunity for dialog outside of theoretical thinking.
  2. To form a sense of community during this challenging COVID19 year. It will take creative solutions to help the new cohort coalesce into a peer group. This is just one palpable attempt to foster a small sense of belonging to a group, where we can grow from hearing each other’s contribution in the form of questions and comments on the guest’s work.


This is a monthly series happening on zoom, where a guest is paired with a topic that gives them a starting point from which we can launch our own meditations on the subject at hand. Such sessions will be filmed and made available for other UvA participants.

ASCA researchers get to actively interact with guests. Less of a lecture, more of a conversation.

Attendants will be expected to watch a film or two, or do some moderate reading ahead of time and to prepare questions. This way we can make these conversations beneficial to our research and promote an expansion of our understanding of the medium as it transforms.

Topics and Guests

  • The Future of Curating and Programming ( Jan 18th, 5pm AMS time)

Richard Peña (Rome Film Festival, New York Film Festival, Film Society of Lincoln Center). In a context where algorithms are increasingly in charge of tipping what we watch, and where hyper access to information is carried in every pocket, how will the role of the film curator evolve and what demands will arise? The question of whether auteur film should be seen as part of a continuum or on its own terms will also be explored in this session, broaching filmmaker curator loyalties, forming and unsettling audiences.


  1. Decolonizing Screens (Feb 15th, 5pm AMS time)

Carlos Gutierrez (Cinema Tropical), runs the biggest organization responsible for distributing, publicizing and measuring the impact of Latin American films in the USA. This conversation will breach the challenges and unique offerings of transnational circuits, the future of foreign film distribution and what gets lost and gained in translation.


  • Cultivating a Cinematographer’s Signature or Making Visuals Subaltern to Storytelling? (March 15th, 5pm AMS time)

Andrij Parekh (Succession, Brave New World, Blue Valentine) will discuss the value of attending to the director’s vision versus creating a personal style that will carry out throughout their oeuvre. With the “vulgarization” of the photographic image via phone-cameras, and IG filters, what does a visual style even mean?


  1. Editing for Binge Watching (April 12th, 5pm AMS time)

How does the awareness that previously interspersed episodes are now being watched in a feeding frenzy? Beyond the cliffhanger ending, how have editorial strategies changed to appeal to a new form of viewership?

  1. False Dichotomies (May 1th, 5pm AMS time)

Must there necessarily be a hierarchy between the filmmaker and the subject they are filming? Have we completely blurred the lines between fiction and non-fiction with designations such as auto-fiction, hybrid and documentaries where subject and filmmaker collaborate? This session will focus on rising genres that meet in the middle of these heretofore distinct genres.

 Guest Speaker Bios

 Richard Peña

Richard Peña is a Professor of Film Studies at Columbia University, where he specializes in film theory and international cinema. From 1988 to 2012, he was the Program Director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Director of the New York Film Festival. At the Film Society, Richard Peña organized retrospectives of many film artists, including Michelangelo Antonioni, Sacha Guitry, Abbas Kiarostami,  King Hu, Robert Aldrich, Roberto Gavaldon, Ritwik Ghatak, Kira Muratova, Fei Mu, Jean Eustache, Youssef Chahine, Yasujiro Ozu, Carlos Saura, Nagisa Oshima and Amitabh Bachchan, as well as major film series devoted to African, Israeli, Cuban, Polish, Hungarian, Chinese, Arab, Korean, Swedish, Turkish, German, Taiwanese and Argentine cinema. Together with Unifrance, he created in 1995 “Rendez-Vous with French Cinema,” the leading American showcase for new French cinema. A frequent lecturer on film internationally, in 2014-2015, he was a Visiting Professor in Brazilian Studies at Princeton, and in 2015-2016 a Visiting Professor in Film Studies at Harvard. In May, 2016, he was the recipient of the “Cathedra Bergman” at the UNAM in Mexico City, where he offered a three-part lecture series “On the Margins of American Cinema,” and December, 2017, gave a course in “International Cinema After 1990” at Beijing University. He also currently hosts WNET/Channel 13’s weekly Reel 13.

Carlos Gutierrez

Carlos A. Gutiérrez is co-founder and executive director of Cinema Tropical, the New York-based media arts non-profit organization that has become the leading presenter of Latin American cinema in the U.S. As a guest curator, he has presented several film/video series at different cultural institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art, Film at Lincoln Center, the Guggenheim Museum, BAMcinématek, and Anthology Film Archives. In 2007, he co-curated the 53rd edition of the Robert Flaherty Film Seminar and serves as co-director of the Tucson Cine Mexico film festival. He is a contributing editor to BOMB Magazine, a member of Film Forum’s Board of Directors, and has served as a member of the jury for various film festivals including Morelia, SANFIC, Seattle, Margaret Mead, DocsMX, and Austin’s Cine Las Americas. He has served as both expert nominator and panelist for the Rockefeller Fellowship Program for Mexican Film & Media Arts, the Sundance Documentary Fund, the Tribeca Film Institute’s Latin America Media Arts Fund, and the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative.

Andrij Parekh

Emmy-nominated Andrij Parekh is of Ukrainian and Indian descent, and was born in Boston, MA in 1971. He studied Media Studies and Sociology at Carleton College (BA 1995- Northfield MN), and cinematography at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts (MFA in 2001), and at FAMU (Prague, 1998).  His interest in filmmaking was launched by his travels around the world with a Nikon 35mm and a Super-8mm camera during a hiatus from college in 1992. Over his twenty-year career as a cinematographer, He has shot over twenty features, including Half Nelson‚ (Director Ryan Fleck), Cold Souls‚ (Sophie Barthes), Blue Valentine‚ (Derek Cianfrance), Madame Bovary‚ (Sophie Barthes), and the HBO miniseries Show Me A Hero. Recent work includes, The Zookeeper’s Wife‚ (Niki Caro), the television pilots‚ Thirteen Reasons Why (Netflix) & Succession‚ (Adam McKay for HBO) and the Watchmen‚ pilot for HBO. As he has transitioned into directing, Andrij has directed three episodes of HBO’s Succession (S1 Ep6, S2 Ep2&3), HBO’s Watchmen (S1 Ep4) and two episodes of NBC Peacock’s Brave New World, based on the Aldous Huxley novel.  He is nominated for his directorial work on Succession for the 2020 Emmy Awards.



NICA is Moving! 

NICA is Moving! 

As of January 1st 2021, the managerial seat of the Netherlands Institute for Cultural Analysis, presently based at the University of Amsterdam, will move to Leiden University. The new email address is:

Let us briefly introduce the new executive team:

Director: Pepita Hesselberth is DFF Laureate and assistant professor Film and Digital Media at the Centre for the Arts in Society at Leiden University. She is the author of Cinematic Chonotopes (Bloomsbury 2014), and co-editor of, amongst others, Compact Cinematics (Bloomsbury 2016), Legibility in the Age of Signs and Machines (Brill 2018), and Politics of Withdrawal (Rowman and Littlefield 2020). She is currently finalizing her project on Disconnectivity in the Digital Age, for which she received a fellowship from the Danish Council for Independent Research, and was appointed as a research fellow at the Department of Arts and Cultural Studies at the University of Copenhagen (2016-2018).

Manager: Tessa de Zeeuw is assistant professor Film and Literary Studies at the Centre for the Arts in Society at Leiden University. She just finalized her PhD on the the law’s fundamental theatricality, the idea that justice must be seen to be done. Tessa is looking forward to start her position after her maternity leave ends in April 2021.

Office Manager: Kim Sommer is finalizing her studies Film and Literary Studies at Leiden University and will start her Research Master in September. She has been active as a board member at a local association of the intercultural European Student’s Forum AEGEE, which has prepared her for the administrative and managerial tasks within organizations on a bigger scale.

We would like to take this opportunity, also, to thank our wonderfull colleagues in Amsterdam for their initiative, ambition and hard work over the last ten years. We look forward to continuing their efforts. During our term, NICA will of course continue to organize and facilitate graduate courses, seminars, lectures, masterclasses and conferences, and, above all, to serve as a community and network for its affiliated scholars. Moreover, we will also gladly work on extending the PhD-Council, which is one of our aims for the years to come.

See you soon and do not hesitate to reach out!

Pepita, Tessa & Kim

Politics and Performance Speakers Series

Politics and Performance Speakers Series

Organized by Sruti Bala (Theatre Studies) and Elize Mazadiego (Art History)


Drawing on our MA module Art and Activism, we are organizing a 4-part speaker series on
the intersection of politics and performance. We invite several international scholars to
present their recent work on histories and contemporary modes of artistic activism. Each
month, starting in February, a webinar will allow for critical reflection and conversation on
social movements, political activism, performance philosophy and embodied practices.

This 5-part online speaker series runs complementary to our jointly taught MA module Art and Activism. The series visits the intersections of politics and performance and hopes for in-depth critical reflection and conversation on social movements, political activism, performance philosophy and embodied practices. We invite several international scholars to present their recent work on histories and contemporary modes of artistic activism.


Thursday 25 February 2021, 16:00-18:00 CET    

Mara Polgovsky Ezcurra (Birkbeck University of London, UK)

Touched Bodies: The Performative Turn in Latin American art

What is the role of pleasure and pain in the politics of art? In her lecture, Mara Polgovsky Ezcurra approaches this question as she examines the flourishing of live and intermedial performance in Latin America during times of authoritarianism and its significance during transitions to democracy.

Mara Polgovsky Ezcurra is a Lecturer in Contemporary Art at Birkbeck, University of London. Her research focuses on contemporary Latin American Art and Intellectual History, looking at the politics of aesthetics and changing ideas of “life”, “agency” and “the body” in artistic practice. Her books include Touched Bodies: The Performative Turn in Latin American Art (Rutgers University Press, 2019), the forthcoming essay collection Marcos Kurtycz: Corporeality Unbound (Fauna-Jumex, 2019), and the edited volume Sabotage Art: Politics and Iconoclasm in Contemporary Latin America.

Thursday 25 March 2021, 16:00-18:00 CET

Mark Fleishman (University of Cape Town, South Africa)

Theatre amongst the ruins: The poetics and politics of South African adaptations

Through the conceptual metaphor of the ruin, the lecture explores the ways in which the classical archive has been mobilized and reinvented by two white theatre-makers in South Africa: Athol Fugard’s production of Orestes in 1971 and my own adaptation of Antigone (not quite/quiet) in 2019.

Mark Fleishman is Professor of Theatre in the Centre for Theatre, Dance and Performance Studies at the University of Cape Town. He is also a co-artistic director of Magnet Theatre, an independent theatre company established in 1987. Recent publications: Performing Migrancy and Mobility in Africa: Cape of Flows in the Studies in International Performance series at Palgrave (2015) and two special issues of the South African Theatre Journal on Translation & Performance (2019 & 2020). He is currently principal investigator on the project Re-imagining Tragedy from Africa and the Global South, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.


Thursday 22 April 2021, 16:00-18:00 CET

Jennifer S. Ponce de León (University of Pennsylvania, US)

Another Aesthetics is Possible: Arts of Rebellion in the Fourth World War

The lecture will examine the roles that art can play in the collective labor of creating and defending another social reality. Focusing on artists and art collectives in Argentina, Mexico, and the United States, Ponce de León will address how experimental practices in the visual, literary, and performing arts have been influenced by and articulated with leftist movements and popular uprisings that have repudiated neoliberal capitalism and its violence.

Jennifer S. Ponce de León is an interdisciplinary scholar whose research focuses on cultural production and antisystemic movements in the Americas since the 1960s. She is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania where she is also faculty in Latin American and Latinx Studies. She is also Associate Director of the Critical Theory Workshop and an independent curator. Her book Another Aesthetics is Possible: Arts of Rebellion in the Fourth World War (Duke University Press, 2020) theorizes aesthetics as an integral component of contemporary social struggles. Her writing has also appeared in American Quarterly, Philosophy Today, ASAP/Journal, Social Text, e-misférica, GLQ, and in multiple edited collections.


Thursday 27 May 2021, 16:00-18:00 CET

Laura Cull Ó Maoilearca (Amsterdam University of the Arts, NL)

Performance Philosophy and Animals: Towards a Radical Equality

Can art allow humans to occupy the worlds of non-human animals? How can performance contribute to addressing anthropocentrism, speciesism and the violence toward animal bodies such perspectives enable? Laura Cull Ó Maoilearca will address the importance and challenges of including animals in how we think about the relation between politics and performance according to an intersectional approach that considers how animal oppression connects with other forms of structural violence and inequality.

Laura Cull Ó Maoilearca is Lector, Head of DAS Graduate School and Head of Research at the Academy of Theatre and Dance, Amsterdam University of the Arts in the Netherlands. Her current research project is the AHRC-funded Leadership Fellowship, Performance Philosophy & Animals: Towards a Radical Equality (2019-2022). Her recent books include: The Routledge Companion to Performance Philosophy (Routledge, 2020) and Encounters in Performance Philosophy (Palgrave, 2014), both co-edited with Alice Lagaay. She is a founding core convener of the international research network, Performance Philosophy, joint series editor of the Performance Philosophy book series with Rowman & Littlefield, and an editor of the open access Performance Philosophy journal. Laura originally trained as an artist at the Slade School of Art in London and presented performances internationally including Tanzquartier Wien (2015); ICA London (2008); Serpentine Gallery, London (2008, with the artists’ collective, SpRoUt); and TATE Britain (2003).


Thursday 24 June 2021, 16:00-18:00 CET

Ana Vujanović (Independent scholar and cultural worker, Berlin/Belgrade)

The politics of production in the performing arts

The lecture argues that performance today is a model of production, rather than a model of politics, as it has been assumed in democratic society. This, however, does not mean that the performance is apolitical or politically irrelevant, but that its politicality is now usually indirect and tacit, predominantly operating in the register of the ‘political unconscious’. Reasons for that indirect and dubious politicality of the performing arts should be found in a wider socio-economic process of today’s neoliberal society. The point is that therein, politics has already been immersed in capitalist production, which is post-Fordist and post-industrial. That phenomenon has multifold causes and consequences. In order to disentangle it, I unfold the twin processes of the economisation of politics and the politicisation of production, as a backdrop against which one should approach the issue of the political dimension of art today.

Ana Vujanović holds a Ph.D. in Humanities (Theatre Studies). She has lectured at various universities and was a professor in the Performance Studies Department at the University Hamburg. Since 2016 she is a team member and mentor at SNDO – School for New Dance Development, AHK Amsterdam. She was a founding member of the TkH [Walking Theory], a Belgrade-based collective, and editor-in-chief of the TkH Journal for Performing Arts Theory (2001-17). She has published a number of articles and several books, such as Public Sphere by Performance, with B. Cvejic (2012), A Live Gathering: Performance and Politics in Contemporary Europe, edited with L. Piazza (2019) and Toward a Transindividual Self, with B. Cvejic (2021). She also works as a dramaturg in contemporary theatre, dance, performance and film. With filmmaker Marta Popivoda she is engaged in long-term artistic-theoretical research, which most recently resulted in a documentary Landscapes of Resistance (2021).

New PhD Candidate: Shekoufeh Behbehani,(Un)screened Narratives: Non-Normative Gender and Sexuality in Contemporary Iran

Shekoufeh Behbehani | University of Amsterdam | (Un)screened Narratives: Non-Normative Gender and Sexuality in Contemporary Iran.

The legalization of sex reassignment surgery (SRS) in the 1980s in Iran has created an ambivalent space within Iranian gender politics. Although politico-religious discourses on SRS recognize transsexuality without necessitating medical transitioning, they have created a system that perpetuates heteronormativity and gender binarism. Since the early 2000s, an increasing number of Iranian films and theatrical performances have engaged issues of gender and sexuality, highlighting the broader deployment of violence that organizes Iranian gender politics. In doing so, they have joined activists in Iran in producing a counter-discourse to the reigning politico-religious paradigm. Through an interdisciplinary lens, my project studies a recent corpus of films and performances that reveal the ambivalences within Iranian gender politics in relation to the regime of violence in the country. In light of these representations, I explore the extent to which Iran’s particular mapping of gender and sexuality both facilitates and constrains non-normativity and queerness.