Missing Limbs

Major General Daniel Sickles’ lower leg bone. (Image courtesy: National Museum of Health and Medicine, Washington DC.)

Moosje Goosen | Universiteit van Amsterdam  | Promotors: Patricia Pisters and Esther Peeren I am a PhD fellow at the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis. My research, titled ‘Missing Limbs’, focuses on the discursive formation of the phantom limb. While there have been several accounts of sensations and pain in missing body parts from the Middle Ages onwards, these only seem to have found provenance in the body of quadruple amputee George Dedlow, a character conceived by the physician Silas Weir Mitchell (1829-1914) in an anonymously published, fictitious case report. Five years after this initial apparition in fiction, Mitchell first postulated the condition in his 1881 article ‘Phantom Limbs’, based on accounts of injured men who had fought in the American Civil War. In this research, I intend to trace these phantom footsteps and analyze under what circumstances the missing may enter our field of perception.

Image: Major General Daniel Sickles’ lower leg bone. (Image courtesy: National Museum of Health and Medicine, Washington DC.)

Postdating the Post: Examining (Neo)Epistolary Practices in Contemporary Culture

Emma de Vries | Leiden University | Promotor: Yra van Dijk

In my interdisciplinary PhD-research Postdating the Post: Examining (Neo)Epistolary Practices in Contemporary Culture, I signal and scrutinize a remarkable phenomenon: today’s simultaneous dis- and reappearance of the letter. Over the last decades, digital communication media has ousted the letter into disuse, and the postal services into crisis. Yet at the same time, in art and literature a vigorous revival of the letter can be observed. ‘Neo-epistolarity,’ as I call these emerging practices, has hardly been theorised, and the few academics addressing this development explain the present rehabilitation of the letter form as nostalgia. Thus conceived, epistophilia equates technophobia. However, the complexity of neo-epistolary practices invalidates such an explanation. For oftentimes, these works combine the materiality of paper, pen and postal delivery, with a pronounced engagement with digital culture. This gives rise to the question whether neo-epistolarity is merely a retrocedence of an old form, or whether it can be regarded as a new form in its own right. And if so, what are its distinctive traits, what are its philosophical implications? Is it possible to discern correlations between forms of writing, forms of reading and forms of life? Can the analysis of neo-epistolary practices provide insight into contemporary culture?

Sustainability beyond the commodity-machine

Sustainability beyond the commodity-machine:

The production of the common in post-capitalist design cultures

“What happens when this commodity-machine —now conveniently located out of the view of most of us— breaks down, as environments give out, markets crash, and/or sweat-shop workers scattered across the globe somehow refuse to go on?” —Hal Foster

Balamir Selçuk | Design cultures have so far been analysed in separate stages of production, mediation and consumption, or, along the circuit of the ‘commodity-machine’ —an unsustainable configuration vulnerable to multiple financial, social and ecological crises. Emergent ‘postcapitalist’ design cultures bypassing market mediation require a different framework, based on the production of shared value, as opposed to exchange value. Three ‘commoning’ strategies are distinguished: a) peer production, in the activity of designing subjects, b) open source, in the circulation of design projects, c) digital fabrication, in the making of designed objects. Can design be disentangled from its commodity-form? To what extent these practices prefigure a new and sustainable basis for product design, and redirect the production and distribution of material artefacts towards viable, desirable and equitable configurations?

Supervisors | Joost de Bloois, Johan Hartle and Jeroen de Kloet. (2013-2017)

Deciphering the Cultural Palimpsest of New Amsterdam

Artyom Anikin | The notion of the palimpsest as on object containing stray remnants hinting at an older and hidden layer of information, when adjusted for the field of cultural analysis, offers a methodological framework for deciphering and re-manifesting bygone cityscapes and culture in a contemporary context. This framework will be investigated and applied to the spatial re-territorialization of New York as New Amsterdam in recent years. In the decade since September 11th public and academic debates in the city have focused on the politics of memory and the process of memorialization. Renewed interest in the colonial history of New York and recent attempts to reconstruct the space of Dutch Manhattan through architecture, monuments, festivals, literature, film, and digital media have superimposed an image of a vanished city upon a contemporary metropolis. By developing the palimpsest as an critical theory and surveying this (re-)created space the cultural palimpsest of New Amsterdam can be deciphered, providing a clear perspective on the relation of the city to its past.

Supervisors | Christoph Lindner & Esther Peeren

Theatre Festivals, International Prestige, and National Heritage

Festival Curation in the Forcefield of International Prestige and National Heritage

Lonneke van Heugten | Supervisor Kati Rottger | University of Amsterdam 2011-2015

This research project focuses on the impact of theatre festivals as cultural identity mediators in-between international prestige and national heritage. Two developments fuel this question. Firstly, processes of Europeanization and globalization provoke a need for rearticulating what cultural identity means and ways of affirming it. The Dutch cultural and historical canon is one way of affirmation through official (artificial?) cultural memory. The second development is a renewed interest in different modes of transmission of history. Living or immaterial heritage and its importance for cultural identity formulated by UNESCO is an exponent of this consciousness. These developments open up a rethinking of theatre and especially internationally oriented theatre festivals as agents in cultural identity transmission.