Multilingual Locals and Significant Geographies – New Approaches to World Literature

Multilingual Locals and Significant Geographies

New Approaches to World Literature

21st Meeting of the
Platform for Postcolonial Readings

27 June 2019, 10.30-17.00h

E0.09, Roeterseilandcampus UvA, Roetersstraat 11, Amsterdam

The interest scholars such as Pascale Casanova and David Damrosch took in world literature fifteen to twenty years ago has recently been criticized by, for instance, Michael Allan and Aamir Mufti as (too) generalizing and universalizing. These and other critics have started to think about location and multilingualism in order to bypass the globalizing tendencies of earlier scholarship. Already as a field world literature tends to exclude non-Western traditions, canons and languages. Francesca Orsini proposes to speak of “multilingual locals” and “significant geographies” with the aim of pluralising our understanding of world literature and foregrounding the subjectivity and positionality of its actors. After all, many of the literary works that travel beyond their original contexts of production never become visible in a truly global way, but circulate in particular geographies and across specific languages.

In this meeting of the Platform for Postcolonial Readings, we take a cue from Orsini to consider the production of world literature from the perspective of multilingual locals and significant geographies. We interrogate how these new approaches problematize and reinvigorate the concept of world literature, and examine its applicability to postcolonial studies, globalisation studies, migration and minority studies, and other fields.

Our meeting starts with a keynote lecture by Prof. Francesca Orsini, whose expertise spans the literary history of South Asia, world literature and multilingualism with a focus on the Global South. Her lecture is followed by a discussion of her ideas and by a joint close reading of essays by Orsini and other scholars. In the afternoon, we continue our exploration of world literature, multilingualism and spatiality by means of contributions on the meeting’s topic by (junior) researchers working in this field. We conclude our meeting with a joint on-the-spot analysis of a striking case-study.

The meeting is open to all researchers – junior and senior – working in the fields of postcolonial and globalization studies. Participation is free of charge, but please register with NICA ( For more information, contact Liesbeth Minnaard ( or Jesse van Amelsvoort ( A reader will be distributed in preparation of the seminar and on the day itself foods and drinks will be provided.


10.15  Walk-in and registration with coffee

10.30 Welcome & introduction of participants

by Platform co-ordinator Liesbeth Minnaard (Leiden University)

10.45 Introduction

by guest-organiser Jesse van Amelsvoort (University of Groningen/Campus Fryslân)

11.00 Keynote lecture “Located, Multilingual: New Keywords for World Literature”

by Francesca Orsini (SOAS, University of London)

12.00  Discussion of readings

Readings in preparation of discussion (a reader will be sent to all registered participants):

Text 1: Orsini, Francesca. “The Multilingual Local in World Literature.” Comparative Literature 67.4 (2015): 345-74.

Text 2: Laachir, Karima, Sara Marzagora and Francesca Orsini. “Significant Geographies: In lieu of World Literature.”  Journal of World Literature 3.3 (2018): 290-310.

Text 3: Mufti, Aamir. “Prologue: The Universal Library of World Literature.” In Forget English!: Orientalisms and World Literatures. Harvard University Press, 2018. 1-13.

13.00 Lunch

14.15 Further Food for Thought and Discussion: Paper Presentations

moderated by Platform co-ordinator Elisabeth Bekers (Vrije Universiteit Brussel)

14.15 “Postcolonialism, Postcritique, and the Politics of Untranslatability” by Marc Farrant (Amsterdam University College) followed by discussion

14.45 “Writing (Beyond) the Oral Tongue: Gender and Multilingualism in the Works of Najat El Hachmi and Chika Unigwe” by Núria Codina Solà (KU Leuven) followed by discussion

15.15 “Defending Chandrakanta: Analysing the Rise of Hindi and Devakinandan Khatri’s Defense of Hindustani in Chandrakanta” by Abiral Kumar (University of Delhi) followed by discussion

15.45 Coffee break

16.00 Joint on-the-spot-analysis of three poems by Tsjêbbe Hettinga

moderated by guest organiser Jesse van Amelsvoort

16.45 Concluding remarks

17.00 Drinks


Sites of Memory – Performance Research seminar on the colonial and slavery history of Amsterdam 

Sites of Memory – Performance Research seminar on the colonial and slavery history of Amsterdam


Sites of Memory – Emerging Memory is a theatrical boat trip about the colonial and slavery history of Amsterdam. Spoken word artists, dancers and visual artists work together with UvA students, bringing history to live with narratives and performances on board of the boat and on shore. The performance is a mix of past and presence, of what we know and would rather forget. The performance will take place between the 20th of June and 7th of July and will be part of Amsterdam Roots Festival.

The theme of this years performance is Emerging Memory; about how we remember, what histories or narratives are part of our collective memory, what we archive and by who? It’s also the title of Paul Bijl’s book of which he says: “between memory and forgetting there is a haunted zone from which pasts that do not fit the stories nations live by keep on emerging and submerging while retaining their disturbing presence”

Sites of memory started in 2016 by Jennifer Tosch and Katy Streek, bringing their skills together and translating historical research into a performance narrative. Jennifer Tosch is sociologists and graduated of the University of California at Berkeley, and is pursuing the dual Master in Heritage and Memory at UvA. Tosch is the founder of the Black Heritage Tours in Amsterdam and co-author of the Amsterdam Slavery Heritage Guide (2014, 2017), which includes research on the sites used in the performance tour. Katy Streek is theatre maker and programmer with a Master in Applied Theatre from the University of Amsterdam and currently programmer at Afrovibes Festival in Amsterdam. This is the 4th year that this performance tour is organised, each year has a different theme, different route, and involving different makers and performers. Sites of Memory – Emerging Memory is in collaboration with partner organisations Amsterdam Roots Festival, Afrovibes Festival, Black Heritage Tours, Nowhere and Mapping Slavery. This year, it will include a new collaboration with UvA, connecting academic research and performance.

Sites: The performance tour will take the audience through the historical centre of Amsterdam and will have performances and interventions at sites that are connected to the history of slavery and / or the black community in Amsterdam. The tour includes a number of UvA sites, such as Bushuis, which used to be the East India Company (VOC) headquarter, it will also include Oude Turfmarkt 145-147, which once was the home to Wilhelmina Balk, the daughter of ‘the free negress’ Kaatje, housekeeper to Loerd Johan Andreas Balk on the plantation ‘De Vriendschap’ in the Berbice (now Guyana). Wilhelmina’s white father Balk recognised her as his sole heir, provided her with a good education and made her a wealthy woman. Another UvA location is Oudezijds Heerenlogement, Binnengasthuistraat 9, which in the 18th Century was commonly used as an auction house for art and real estate. West Indian plantations, including enslaved people were frequently offered for sale here. The tour will end at Athenaeum Illustre, the old Agnieten chapel on the Oudezijds Voorburgwal 231. Famous scientists such as Caspar Barlaeus, Gerardus Vossius, and Petrus Camper taught here. Petrus Camper plays aan inmportant role within this narrative. Much of his work, like this book on physiognomy and the ‘facial angle’ was used as the basis for later scientific racism of which he is (justly or unjustly) regarded as one of the spiritual fathers. 


NICA Research Master Students are invited to contribute to this seminar and they can earn 3 EC doing an assignment. The assignment will have the aim to deepen the research and conduct new research about the history of the sites that are part of the performance tour. These are buildings from the 17th and 18th century in relation to the history of colonialism and slavery in Amsterdam. There is much known about these sites, but there are hidden stories. You will research the history and stories of these sites in relation to the performance theme: Emerging Memory. You will present your findings to the performance team for Sites of Memory in the beginning of May.


  • The research process will commence end of April (week of 29th April). This will start with an introduction tour past the performance sites and briefing of the assignment.
  • In the week of 15 May you will share your first findings and ideas to the artistic team.
  • The last week of May (week of 27 May) you will present your findings to the artistic team and performers of Sites of Memory, which will form the foundation of the creation process. This includes:
  1. An oral presentation of your research (max 15 min) to the team AND
  2. A document of max 2500 words that includes stories or anecdotes in connection to the colonial history of the site, historical facts, images and any thing else that might feed into a performance.

Throughout the research process, students and artists will stay in close collaboration during the rehearsal process, in which the students share their views, reflections and jointly interpret the findings into theatrical production.

RMA students can receive 3 EC for full participation in all the sessions and completion of assignments.

Assignment should be submitted by 31 May via email to

To register: send an email to before 23 April 2019.

Aurality: Musical Modes of Knowledge Inscription

Seminar Series of the Research Group Music and Culture

Organizer: Barbara Titus (

In recent years, acquisitions and formations of knowledge and the dynamics of power that govern these formations are increasingly theorized through a renewed interest for the ear with physical, mechanical, organic, physiological, psychological and cognitive subject potential.

This seminar/workshop intends to engage with a wide range of modes of knowledge inscription and transmission through the employment of a variety of musicking acts (Small 1998, 9): we aim to voice a song or a praise or a judgement, we perform an argument or debate or encounter, we conceptualize a discourse, a movement, a process or gesture, we constitute synchronizations, disjunctions or confrontations, etc.. In doing so, the workshop intends to raise questions about technologies of transmission, dissemination and inscription of knowledge (sounds, imagery, speech, writing, performance, etc.) and the material on which they inscribe: memories, (human) bodies, paper, hard drives, or songs.

Thursday 14 March 2019

16:00-18:00 hours
Venue: Vondelzaal – Universiteitsbibliotheek Singel 425

Emily Hansell Clark (Columbia University), “Wiet Wiet, Kiaauw”: Birds and Men in Suriname and the Netherlands

On Sunday mornings in Paramaribo, Suriname, dozens of men gather in the central Independence Square to “race” twatwas, small songbirds native to the region. The birds are caged and trained to sing competitively in elaborate months-long tournaments that are considered a Surinamese national sport. The same birdsong competitions can also be witnessed in cities in the Netherlands, Suriname’s former colonizer, where the birds are both smuggled and bred.

My paper dialogues with ethnomusicology/sound studies/anthropology scholarship (Mundy 2018, Kohn 2013, Seeger 1987, Feld 1982) that considers birds and birdsong not as an aural realm of nature separate from the human, but rather as the grounds for taxonomies and discourses that organize human concerns and experiences of self in a world where nature and culture cannot be fully disentangled, whether in the densely green tropical climate of the Caribbean coast of South America or the cosmopolitan urban environment of the Dutch metropolis. I situate this examination in the context of historical representations of culture and nature, the civilized and the wild, as well as present-day concerns including freedom, migration, masculinity, and ecotourism.

Emily Hansell Clark is a PhD student in Ethnomusicology. She holds a BA in Ethnomusicology and Composition from Oberlin College and an MSIS (Information Studies) from the University of Texas at Austin with a focus in sound archives. Emily has long been interested in the archive as an area of phenomenological investigation, as well as in conceptualizations of preservation, tradition, and memory that lie outside of the modern Western archival institution. She is currently involved in a number of community-based repatriation projects with Columbia’s ethnomusicology archive. Drawing from over a decade of experience studying Javanese music and culture, Emily’s currently-developing dissertation project concerns ethnicity, migration, memory, governance, difference, and selfhood explored through fieldwork with ethnically Javanese musicians in Suriname and the Netherlands.

Thursday 4 April 2019

16:00-18:00 hours
Venue: Belle van Zuylenzaal – Universiteitsbibliotheek Singel 425

Attila Faravelli – Sound artist, The Aural Tools Project

Aural Tools uses editions of simple objects to document the material and conceptual processes of specific musicians’ sound production practice. It is a series of acoustic devices for relating sound to space, the listener, and the body in ways unavailable through traditional recorded media such as CDs or LPs.

Attila Faravelli lives and works in Milano (Italy). In his practice he explores the relationship between sound, space and body. His solo music is released by Die Schachtel and Senufo Editions. Together with Enrico Malatesta and Nicola Ratti he is founder of the sound performance trio ~Tilde. He presented his work in Europe, USA, China and South Korea. In 2010 he participated in the 12th International Biennial of Architecture in Venice. Since 2011 he curates The Lift, a series of experimental music concerts. He is founder and curator for the Aural Tools project.

Thursday 2 May 2019

16:00-18:00 hours
Venue: Belle van Zuylenzaal – Universiteitsbibliotheek Singel 425

Luc Rombouts (University Carillonneur, Leuven), Carillons: Musical Heritage of the Low Countries

For many centuries, tower bells served as voices of local authorities and structured the daily life of citizens in Europe. Some 500 years ago, people in the Low Countries transformed functional tower bells into musical instruments. This innovation was the first ‘music in the cloud’ – one may call it an alpha version of Spotify. Surprisingly, carillon music didn’t die out after the radio, CD’s and the internet arrived in order to offer a cheaper technology of bringing music to large audiences.

Today, the carillon is still a genuine part of the soundscape of the cities in Belgium and the Netherlands, and the carillon culture is gaining importance, as is demonstrated by the recognition by UNESCO of the carillon culture in Belgium. However, keeping this sonic heritage alive remains a challenge. How do carillonneurs manage in keeping their messages relevant? How can the old social medium of the carillon connect with the social media of today? How can the carillon contribute to the experience of time and space in the city? And is this geographically embedded musical culture transferable to other regions in Europe and beyond?

Luc Rombouts is city carillonneur of Tienen (Belgium) and university carillonneur of Leuven (Belgium), where he plays the carillons of the University Library and the Great Beguinage. He has given recitals in Europe and in the USA and has performed during festivals and congresses.

He wrote an award-winning book on carillon history, entitled Zingend brons. 500 jaar beiaardmuziek in de Oude en de Nieuwe Wereld (Davidsfonds, 2010). This book was published in English in 2014 under the title Singing Bronze. A History of Carillon Music (Leuven University Press / Cornell University Press). In 2016 he obtained a PhD degree cum laude from the University of Utrecht on a thesis about the origin of the carillon. Luc coordinated the project that led in 2014 to the recognition of the Belgian carillon culture as a best safeguarding practice in intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO.

Thursday 27 June 2019

16:00-18:00 hours
Venue: University Theatre (Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16) – Theaterzaal

Juan Diego Díaz (University of California, Davis), Embodied Listening Capoeira Workshop

Capoeira is a Brazilian art combining, among others, instrumental music, song, dance, martial arts, ritual, and theatre, developed by enslaved Africans in the sixteenth century.

The workshop is accessible to all – no prior experience with music, dance or martial arts is required.  The workshop will include physical movement (learning ginga, the basic step of capoeira, plus one attack and one defense), rhythm (clapping the basic pattern and singing some of the berimbau variations), and song (learning the refrain of a couple of songs). Participants will learn how to correlate these three aspects of capoeira through exercises as a group and by couples. These moves and movements will be emphatically connected with “intellectual” exchanges with the participants, raising questions about the aural knowing, learning and experiencing of this practice.

Juan Diego Díaz is an ethnomusicologist with a geographic research interest in Africa and its diaspora, particularly Brazil and West Africa. He is interested in how African diasporic musics circulate and transform across the Atlantic and how they serve individuals and communities in identity formation. This research has produced a book called Tabom Voices: A History of the Ghanaian Afro-Brazilian Community in Their Own Words (2016) and the documentary film Tabom in Bahia (2017), documenting the visit of a Ghanaian master drummer to Bahia, Brazil.He uses a variety of approaches including close musical analysis, timeline theory, groove analysis, phenomenology of the body, and discourse analysis. He is also a long-term Capoeira Angola practitioner and has led capoeira and samba ensembles.


Artistic Research: Sharing Methods and Practices

After a very successful first edition in 2017-2018, this academic year the ASCA Research Group on Artistic Research (ARRG), coordinated by Paula Albuquerque, is organizing a new series of five seminars on 16 October, 11 December, 5 February, 9 April, 4 June, from 15:00-17:30.

The Artistic Research Research Group focuses on Artistic Research as a new approach to tackling research questions and it aims at promoting the exchange of ideas between artists and scholars from a wide range of fields and disciplines. As a discipline itself, Artistic Research develops a discursive form of communicating research results in parallel with a non-discursive, artistic practice. This enables researchers/makers coming from fine arts, design, dance, film, performance art, theatre and music to share and compare processes of production, methodologies and results with the scientific community, while working as practicing autonomous artists. It allows autonomous artists to delve deeper into scientific disciplines their work is already concerned with. Furthermore, Artistic Research contributes to existing scientific disciplines by its double character of discursive/non-discursive processes and outputs, while at the same time presenting work within the context of existing art institutions. The outcomes of artistic research actively contribute to bridging the gap between science and art, and strive to make its body of knowledge visible in a societal context. By bringing academia and the art world together, artistic forms of research change the social status of both and introduce a potential array of practice-oriented methodologies that challenge institutionalized forms of knowledge production.

A series of five seminars will be organized between October 2018 and June 2019 to promote the exchange of ideas and experiences among artistic researchers and others interested in the field, and during which members of the group will present their research and receive feedback from their peers. One or two artistic researchers who have recently completed their PhD’s will be invited to share their process with the participants of the seminars. The participants include PhD Candidates but also those who have already completed their PhD’s but would like to keep discussing their artistic research within a community of like-minded artists/scholars. Those interested in maybe pursuing such an academic study are also welcome to join as well as Research Master students who wish to attain first-hand knowledge about the discipline.

ARRG works in collaboration with ARIAS (Amsterdam Research Institute for Arts and Sciences in order to bring together all education institutes involved in further developing and supporting artistic researchers projects and degrees.

The meetings will take place on Tuesday afternoons from 15:00 to 17:30 at VOX-POP Creative Space of the Humanities in the city centre of Amsterdam.  The presentations can take the form the researchers find most suitable and productive: a film screening, a performance or a standard keynote or any other.

The preliminary program of artistic research presentations is as follows:

  • October 16th 15:00-17:30 – Tânia Cardoso + Mariana Lanari
  • December 11th 15:00-17:30 – Gijsje Heemskerk + Ilse van Rijn
  • February 5th  15:00-17:30 – Rosanne Jonkhout + Clare Butcher
  • April 9th 15:00-17:30 – Isabel Cordeiro + Ruchama Noorda
  • June 4th 15:00-17:30 – Brenda Tempelaar + one researcher to be confirmed

Complete information will be timely sent to those interested in participating in the seminars (presenting is not mandatory). If you would like to attend our sessions, please contact the student assistant Sara-Lot van Uum:; and the coordinator of the Research Group Dr Paula Albuquerque: If you’re a Research Master student, please contact NICA directly at and mention your affiliation. Once registered as a participant you are expected to attend all or most of the five sessions.

Repairing Infrastructures

In the 2018-19 ASCA Cities seminar series we examine the city through the lens of infrastructures. This seminar will take stock of the many failures and crises of infrastructure, gathering thinkers and ideas committed to reparative infrastructures that both anticipate and help sustain sociality. Putting infrastructure at the heart of our social and cultural analysis, as Deborah Cowen (2017) argues, “insists that we ask how power works, in its most mundane and practical ways,” in turn helping to refine concepts of resistance and justice.

Attending to the infrastructures that reproduce sociality, this seminar pursues recent insights in feminist thought and the Black intellectual tradition, among others, in order to reframe social reproduction and its gendered and racialized labours in the normalization of existing power relations. In Lauren Berlant’s account of the repair or replacement of broken infrastructure, for instance, “the extension of relations in a certain direction cannot be conflated with the repair of what wasn’t working” (2016). This means exerting caution before embracing ‘the commons’ as a political concept since it may too quickly gloss over how systematic divisions and exclusions permeate everyday life today. What, then, is the promise of infrastructure, both as normative condition and critical possibility not yet lived? What becomes of infrastructure as an analytic tool when it is approached from the social sciences and humanities?

This year’s seminar series will consider how to incorporate these questions into the cross-disciplinary frameworks of the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis: How can we analyse citizenship through a focus on alternative material and social infrastructures rather than corporations or nation states? How do infrastructures determine politics of life and death, especially as played out across uneven power networks in urban environments? Could alternative infrastructures help initiate an imaginary other than ongoing crisis or seemingly unending state of political, economic, and environmental emergency?

Dates and locations for Semester 1: 

  • Fri. 14 Sept. 2018, 3-5pm, OMHP D1.18A
  • Fri. 12 Oct. 2018 (3-5pm), OMHP D1.18A
  • Tues. 13 Nov. 2018, (3-6pm), Bushuis/OIH, D 3.06
  • Fri. 14 Dec. 2018 (3-5pm), OIH D2.04

The seminar is open to all ASCA/NICA members and registered participants, including PhD and Research MA students from all Dutch universities. Selected Research MA students may participate in the seminar for university credit and have it count as a tutorial for their studies. Please contact the organizers for further details: Kasia Mika (, Jeff Diamanti (, Simone Kalkman ( or Carolyn Birdsall (