ASCA Workshop 2019: Realities and Fantasies: Relations, Transformations, Discontinuities

ASCA Workshop 2019:

Realities and Fantasies: Relations, Transformations, Discontinuities

10-12 April 2019, University of Amsterdam

Organized by Divya Nadkarni, Alex Thinius, and Nadia de Vries

Keynote speakers: Jonathan Culler (Cornell University), Annabelle Dufourcq (RU Nijmegen), Nkiru Nzegwu (SUNY Binghamton), Susanna Paasonen (University of Turku).

“Fantasy is precisely what reality can be confused with. It is through fantasy that our conviction of the worth of reality is established; to forgo our fantasies would be to forgo our touch with the world.” (Stanley Cavell)

The world of fantasy often serves as an escape from reality, its limitations, and its many social, economic, and corporeal restrictions. Reality, in turn, is often desired amidst the delusions of the fantastic. However, the two are not always separate. For instance, while social (trans)formations increasingly look like fantasy in more than one sense, a serious turn towards fantasy seems to be ambivalent. A central notion in earlier psycho-analytical culture critique, after being hyped in Fantastic, Futurist and Utopist literature, today, fantasy as a political means of critique seems to have become a delusionary distraction. Yet, fantasy also seems to remain a booming aspect of reality. Creative forms of protest, ideas of aesthetic resistances and critiques are proliferating, and fantasies fomented by magical-realist literatures, blockbusters, serials, pornography, and gaming in the creative industries and digital media seem to be increasingly intertwined with reality.

Some of the conceptual sites where reality and fantasy meet are idealizations, utopias, phantasms, self-deceptions, anxieties, self-fulfilling prophecies, and implicit biases realizing or enacting themselves in reality; fantasies made real and realities made fantasy. The boundaries between what is desired or feared and what is lived, what is oneiric and what is substantial, what is true, and what is realistic and unreachable are often blurred.

In critical and cultural theory, a continuous ambivalent desire for reality appears, for example, in the discussions of New and Speculative Realisms (Gabriel, Meillassoux), Agential Realism (Barad), political and metaphysical Non-Ideal Theory, Critical Race Realism, or Gender Neo-Realism (Mills, Alcoff, Haslanger, Mikkola), in the Ontological Turn in anthropology (Viveiros de Castro, Venkatesan et al., Holbraad et al.), and in the turn towards Authenticity and New Sincerity in contemporary literary theory (Rutten, Vaessens and Van Dijk, Trilling).

In this workshop, we take on the continuous and renewed interest in the real in its relation to fantasy, illusion, and imagination. Whereas typically, debates on realism are focused on its contrast to idealism or nominalism, we ask: What are the contemporary relations between realities and fantasies? How do reality and fantasy speak to intellectual imaginings and possible futures? What role can or should fictions, fantasies, and idealizations play in addressing change from a social, political, individual, and metaphysical perspective? We are interested in presentations that take on the ways in which reality and fantasy relate, how they may contrast, and how, and under what conditions, the one may transform into the other.

The workshop addresses the kinship between realities and fantasies in the following three respects: relations, transformations, and discontinuities.


How do realities and fantasies relate, and how are their relations structured? Does one shape the other, or are they shaped by each other? Is one more valuable than the other? What kinds of relations do they enable? What are the relations between fantasies and the realities they shape, affect, create, envision, or hide? The way we seek to influence, manipulate, change or defy our present pertains to what kinds of relations we envision between both ourselves, as humans, as well as non-human beings. This, in turn, asks for the conditions that make relations possible or impossible, satisfactory or unsatisfactory, utilitarian or utopian, and for the hierarchies, power structures, intentions and capacities that enable and delimit ways of relating.

Moreover, we are interested in examining conceptual, normative, empirical, literary and artistic ways to address the relations between and within fantasies and realities: how are social bonds and interpersonal relations constructed and what are the interrelationships between power, fantasy, actors, action, and forms of socio-political embodiment?


We are interested in how transformations work, in socio-cultural, political, theoretical and philosophical terms, and in the role that realities and fantasies play in them. What are the transformations within and between realities and fantasies? How does (or can) the one transform into the other? What are the characteristics of the real and the fantastical, and what concrete entanglements, interactions, and interdependencies exist between them?

Transformations are happening everywhere, all the time. We can, for example, see the transformative effects of gentrification, of modernity, of reproduction, of colonialism, of aging, of war, of violence, of translation, and of censorship. We can also see how resistance movements and certain social practices actively transform the ways in which we embody and experience. However, insofar as processes and acts of transformation are about changing and giving rise to new forms, they also seem to imply moments of direction and division, exclusion, or rejection in order to define, group, or associate what can be meaningful. We welcome presentations that analyze (both descriptively and normatively) such transformations, or think about how to approach transformative action, and confront the in-between spaces, possible exclusions and hierarchies wrought by envisioned social, political, and cultural transformations.


What continuities and discontinuities are there between realities and fantasies? How would rupturing the patterns of dominance (or the sundering of continuity) become a means of effective transformation? How can (un)productive collisions between reality and fantasy foster socio-political, artistic, and/or cultural change? How do fantasies of change and discontinuity hide or produce real continuities? And how can existing continuities between reality and fantasy be rethought?

We are interested in presentations that (re)consider the role of existing structures, practices, traditions, and forms in likely, potential, or imagined transformations. From the perspective of dis/continuity, we are particularly interested in the question of what constitutes a continuum (for example, in a given tradition) and how such continuums can be either broken or sustained.

We welcome papers from the fields of literary studies, media studies, philosophy, arts, anthropology, sociology, and political theory that speak to, but are not limited to:

  • The conceptual, normative, de facto, and/or imagined interrelations of fantasies with realities
  • Idealist, non-idealist, materialist, or realist theories in their pragmatic or socio-cultural environments
  • The role of realities and fantasies in socio-cultural critique, social construction, and enactment
  • The dynamics of translation, e.g. in literature, media, material culture, or theory
  • relations, transformations, and dis/continuities in artistic, literary, poetic, theoretical, or musical forms
  • The body in the field of reality and fantasy
  • Interrelationships between power, fantasy, actors, action, forms, and reality
  • How political fantasies (e.g. nationalisms) influence social/interpersonal relations
  • How cultural fantasies give shape to new modes of expression, understanding, institutionalizing, bonding, and resisting.
  • Fantasy as a political vehicle of real, unwanted, feared, or desired social transformation

Practical details

We welcome proposals for academic and artistic contributions that speak to the concerns of the workshop as outlined above. Abstracts (max. 300 words) and a short biographical note (max. 100 words) should be submitted to before 15 November 2018 (the October 15 deadline has been extended). Submissions will be responded to before 1st December.

Written versions of all papers will be circulated to all participants before the workshop. All accepted speakers are required to submit a 3000-word paper before 1st March 2019 (extended from February 15), so every participant get’s the chance to have a look at the other papers in their panel. We kindly ask prospective participants to bear this in mind before submitting an abstract.

Thanks to the generous support by the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis, participation is free and lunches will be provided. All questions about the workshop can be directed at the email address mentioned above. More information will soon be announced on:

The Annual ASCA Workshop is organized in collaboration with NICA. RMA students are invited to contribute and may obtain 3 EC for active participation (i.e. presenting a paper).


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 (

Cultural Studies Now

Dates and Time: Fridays 14:00-17:00
November 9, November 16, November 23, November 30, December 7, January 18 (Changed date).
Place: Roeterseiland Complex (see below)
: Murat Aydemir
Register: send an email to Eloe Kingma at before October 15, 2018. Please be sure to specify your master program and university

Cultural Studies and Cultural Analysis are no longer the rebellious upstarts they used to be. They have become canonised and institutionalised fields at a time in which the (critical, hermeneutic, theoretical) Humanities are under attack. At the same time, the political promises of the field — e.g. the emancipatory claims associated with identity politics and popular culture — seem no longer quite warranted, or at least demand new forms of confrontation and engagement.

All this suggests it is now all the more urgent to ask ourselves anew how we want to inhabit or relate to the field. How do we wish to situate ourselves in, or perhaps vis-à-vis, Cultural Studies academically, institutionally, intellectually, and politically? In this course, we will revisit the main genealogies and methodologies of Cultural Studies in relation to current developments, exploring the following five areas of contestation: conjuncture, politics, reality, interdisciplinarity, culture. How did Cultural Studies start out? What can it now be?

With key readings by Stuart Hall, Mieke Bal, Paul Smith, Lawrence Grossberg, and many others.

  • 9 Nov. REC A 2.12
  • 16 Nov. REC B 3.02
  • 23 Nov. REC B 3.02
  • 30 Nov. REC B 3.02
  • 7 Dec. REC D1.00
  • 18 Jan. REC E 0.10 (PLEASE NOTE: Changed date)

This is a NICA core activity. Completing this activity earns you a certificate specifying the number of EC credits at stake. You can have this certificate formally registered at your institution’s administrative office. You may need to acquire the permission of your program coordinator and/or board of examinations in order to participate and earn credits for this activity.


Decolonial Studies and Political Philosophy

Date & Place: 10 April – 15 May, Oudemanhuispoort, Amsterdam.

  • 10 April – OMHP E2.12
  • 17 April – OMHP E2.12
  • 24 April – OMHP E0.13
  • 1 May – OMHP E2.12
  • 8 May – OMHP E 2.12
  • 15 May – OMHP E 0.13

Instructor: Yolande Jansen
Register: send an email to Eloe Kingma at before March 15 2019. Please be sure to specify your master program and university

In the humanities, globalization has until quite recently been studied from two rather distinct perspectives: either from a postcolonial or decolonial cultural-historical perspective, or from a normative, political theoretical perspective, often rooted in the liberal and human rights traditions. Over the last years, it has been increasingly recognized by scholars from both the cultural and political-theoretical fields that integrating these perspectives would be helpful to enhance the humanities’ critical and practical potential in today’s world. Criticism of the legacies of eurocentrism and colonialism in liberalism and the human rights traditions is then combined with cutting edge political philosophical work concentrating on questions of imperialism, freedom and global justice, f.e., increasingly, on resource and environmental justice.

This course looks at the intersection of decolonial studies and normative political philosophy, and tries to address them from a relatively integrated perspective. We bring together both fields in a systematic way by testing normative theories of global justice and human rights in political philosophy against the works of liberalism’s critics from a decolonial or critical theoretical perspective.

During the first three weeks, we will read a number of articles tracing the intricacies of colonialism and liberalism, both from an intellectual historical perspective, and from a systematic political theoretical perspective. After these readings we will concentrate on contemporary work on global justice. We will then compare the two traditions and discuss whether and in what ways they could be fruitfully combined for a decolonial philosophy of global justice, and discuss the the limitations of focusing on ‘justice’.

Teaching goals

  • Insight into political theory about global justice
  • Insight into critiques of the political philosophical liberal tradition from a decolonial perspective
  • Enhancing the capacity to formulate integrative perspectives on the merits of both traditions of criticism for formulating perspectives on global justice that are self-reflexive about the legacies of eurocentrism and imperialism


During the first three weeks, we will read a number of articles tracing the intricacies of colonialism and liberalism, both from an intellectual historical perspective, and from a systematic political theoretical perspective. After these readings we will concentrate on contemporary work on global justice.

We will then compare the two traditions and discuss whether and in what ways they could be fruitfully combined for a decolonial philosophy of global justice, and discuss the limitations of focusing on ‘justice’. The course will take the form of intensive working groups.


  • James Tully. (2008) Public Philosophy in a New Key, Volume II; Imperialism and Civic Freedom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Duncan Bell. (2016) Reordering the World; Essays on Liberalism and Empire. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press
  • Aimé Césaire, Discourse on colonialism. Preferred edition: Monthly Review Press, NY, 1972, 2000
  • Charles Mills (2017) Black rights/white wrongs. The critique of racial liberalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

These books will both be available through the library of the UvA (they will be on the ‘workshelf’). The books can be scanned or copied but not you cannot borrow them during the course. Other articles will be provided during the course, see below for the full list and where to find them.


For those who take credits from this course: Presentation (20%) and either (a) final paper or (b) final paper and take home exam (80%). You can choose between two options for the final exam: (a) either you choose to do a take home exam containing three questions which will be published two weeks before the deadline, together with a final paper of around 1500 words, or (b) you choose to write a final paper of around 4000 words. The deadline for both will be on 28 June at 23.59 hrs. The deadline for the resit is 8 August. The paper should be written according to basic academic standards (contain a bibliography, research question, careful argument, conclusion) but you are free to write in a mostly argumentative or a more essayistic or exploratory style.


  • 10 april – OMHP E2.12
  • 17 april – OMHP E2.12
  • 24 april – OMHP E0.13
  • 1 mei – OMHP E2.12
  • 8 mei – OMHP E 2.12
  • 15 mei – OMHP E 0.13

This is a NICA core activity. Completing this activity earns you a certificate specifying the number of EC credits at stake. You can have this certificate formally registered at your institution’s administrative office. You may need to acquire the permission of your program coordinator and/or board of examinations in order to participate and earn credits for this activity.