Cultural Perceptions of Safety

On Thursday 21st and Friday 22nd of January 2021 the Humanities Department of the Open University of the Netherlands organizes the international conference ‘Cultural perceptions of safety’. The conference will be held in Utrecht, at the Academiegebouw, and is supported by the Huizinga Institute (Research Institute and Graduate School of Cultural History).

Questions of safety are at the foreground of many societal and spatial issues. Nowadays as well as in the past, the longing for safety is an important driving force for people and political and religious regimes. The pursuit of safety is often used to legitimize political action and social interventions. Therefore, it is important to reflect on how we define, experience and represent safety. In our modern day and age, according to statistics on crime, hunger, illness or death most parts of the world appear to be safer than ever before. However, the information age we live in brings us daily news of ecological catastrophes, drug crimes, epidemics, terrorism and trade wars, which influences our sense of safety significantly. Feelings of safety are thus connected to much more than measurable numbers alone. Changing experiences of safety over time are influenced by social, political, environmental and personal factors and need to be seen in a broader context to fully grasp its impact.

During this conference cultural perception of safety will be put at the foreground to focus on questions such as: When do feelings of safety and unsafety emerge? How is safety and unsafety portrayed and imagined in literary works, artworks, architecture and media? Do modern representations of safety and unsafety differ from those in earlier times? And how have safety practices been generated, implemented or used by people in policymaking and constructions of society?

The conference ‘Cultural perceptions of safety’ brings together scholars from various humanities disciplines in order to stimulate an interdisciplinary reflection on and contribute to our cultural understanding of the experience of safety and its larger societal impact.

Keynote speakers:

Prof. dr. Nils Büttner

Nils Büttner is a professor ordinarius of Art History at the State Academy of Arts Stuttgart and member of the Centrum Rubenianum vzw. He specialises in the visual culture of Germany and the Netherlands from the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries. He has published monographs on Hieronymus Bosch, Pieter Bruegel, Rubens, Rembrandt and Vermeer, as well as a History of landscape painting and books on the history of drawings and prints. He has also written numerous catalogue essays and has served as a curator for several museum exhibitions.


Prof. dr. Eddo Evink

Eddo Evink is Professor in Philosophy at the Open University in the Netherlands and Assistant Professor in History of Modern Philosophy at the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Groningen, the Netherlands. His main areas of research contain phenomenology, hermeneutics, metaphysics, philosophy of the humanities and philosophy of art. He recently published Transcendence and Inscription. Jacques Derrida on Metaphysics, Ethics and Religion, Nordhausen: Traugott Bautz, 2019.


Prof. dr. Beatrice de Graaf (provisionally confirmed)

Beatrice de Graaf is professor of History of International Relations and Global Governance at the University of Utrecht. Her research focuses on how states and societies try to maintain high levels of security and how these attempts relate to core values and institutions (democracy, freedom, rule of law, constitutional and responsible government). She studies the emergence of and threats to such security arrangements from the 19th century until the present, including in times where both the effectiveness and the legitimacy of these arrangements were at risk. She currently leads the “Securing Europe” (SECURE) project, funded by an ERC Consolidator Grant.


Dr. Debra Benita Shaw

Debra Benita Shaw is a Reader in Cultural Theory at the University of East London where she teaches Architecture and Photography. She is a critical posthumanist concerned with issues of gender, social structures and the politics of space and has published widely in the fields of cultural and urban theory, science and technology studies and science fiction criticism. She is the author of Posthuman Urbanism: Mapping Bodies in Contemporary City Space (2018) and is the co-editor of Radical Space: Exploring Politics and Practice (2016). She is a founding member of the Centre for Cultural Studies Research at UEL and principal editor of the Radical Cultural Studies book series for Rowman & Littlefield International.

Critical Times: Interventions in Global Critical Theory

Announcing New Critical Times Blog | In the Midst



On behalf of the Editorial Team of Critical Times: Interventions in Global Critical Theory, I am writing to direct your attention to the new blog that we have just launched on the journal’s website. We have called the blog In the Midst in an effort to convey the difficulties of writing during critical times, and to register the importance of writing from within concrete, unfolding situations, of staying with the troubles of the moment, of thinking from particular grounds, and of allowing for responsive, experimental, and tentative interventions. Published online alongside the journal’s issues, the blog will allow us to respond to world events in a more immediate way than is possible through the journal’s longer editorial and production processes. We launch In the Midst during the time of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. These are distressing times of devastation and loss. But these are also times of reflection on the state of the unequal world that this pandemic has brought to sharper relief, intervened in, and interrupted. Like the journal, In the Midst will feature reflections and interventions from different parts of the world in an effort to develop critical vocabularies for understanding our present and possible futures.

Three texts are now featured on In the MidstThe first, “Covidian Catastrophes,” by Canadian poet M. NourbeSe Philip, is a meditation on surviving catastrophes, thinking through and with the catastrophe of slavery to apprehend the challenge of COVID-19. The second text, by Osama Tanous, a Palestinian pediatrician, reflects on Israeli settler-colonial politics of erasure in the time of the coronavirus. And the third text is by Robin Celikates, a member of Critical Times’ Editorial Team, and discusses borders in times of pandemic and the tasks of critical theory.

We hope that you will visit our blog and will help us to direct readers to it. To stay apprised of new posts to the blog, please visit and “like” the Facebook pages of Critical Times and the International Consortium of Critical Theory Programs.

In Solidarity,
Samera Esmeir
Senior Editor, Critical Times

Call for Papers: On Maps, Kunstlicht Vol. 41 (2020), No. 2-3.

Call for Papers: On Maps, Kunstlicht Vol. 41 (2020), No. 2-3.

Managing Editor: Anna Sejbæk Torp-Pedersen

Deadline for proposals: 27th April 2020

God as Architect/Builder/Geometer/Craftsman, The Frontispiece of Bible Moralisee, ca 1220-1230, illumination on parchment, 34.4×26 cm, Austrian National Library, (Photo: Wikipedia Commons).

Cartography is a Western science which emerged in the seventeenth-century.  Cartography’s origins in the Western world is still crucially evident in the standardised projection of the world map with north at its top and Europe at its centre. Furthermore, modern cartography became a discipline simultaneously with the formation of the ‘nation-state,’ a geographical emblem of Modernism. As cartography became a tool of nationalism, it too became an instrument for domination and control, tethered to the imperial project. Thus, cartography is not merely an image, but essential for the development of ideologies such as nationalism and western hegemony.

Map-making was practiced centuries before the origins of cartography, which standardised map making as a graphic representation of the world from a bird’s-eye perspective (or a god-like perspective). The western definition of maps is limiting to all the ways they have been interpreted and produced prior to cartography’s invention as a discipline and non-Western modes of mapping. Maps can be spoken and performed, they can be walked and depict our inner emotional lives. However, in recent literature ‘mapping’ largely remains a metaphor despite the increasing number of artists utilising them (in all of their forms).

One does not have to look far to find examples of recent artistic mapping practices. Consider Ariane Littman’s Wounded Map (2011) in which the artist cuts fragments of official maps of the Green Line between Israeli settlements and Palestinian villages, covers them with sterile bandages and plaster, before sewing them back together again. Or think of the multiple practices of counter-mapping where Indigenous Peoples reclaim the land they inhabited long before Western imperialism spread its tentacles. Many artists have also questioned borders with the use of maps. The artist Pedro Lasch handed out maps to people who were to cross the US-Mexico border in 2003. The maps were red borderless projections of the North and South American continents with the words ‘Latino/a America’ imprinted on it. Upon return to their final destination, the migrants returned the maps to Lasch. The few maps he received bears marks of the journeys, narrating a story of migration through the folds and dirt on the paper.

This call for papers encourages writing on maps, whether that be critiques of celebrated historical maps, artists’ interpretations of new cartographies, essays which expound the art historical writing on maps, or critical insights to why we are repeatedly presented with geographical investigations of our world. We want to welcome writing on cartography which does not turn the blind eye to the map itself, its history, and its continued utilisation as an instrument of power.

Yet, other research is also welcomed, to consider, for example, why an increasing number of artists utilise maps in a time of heightened focus on migration (both in academia and gallery spaces)?; How can we understand mapping beyond ideas of nation-states?; How do we gain tools to talk about mapping practices within art history, tools in which we deal with cartography rather than utilise it as a metaphor?; And how, when incorporating mapping into art history do we also expand its framework into other mediums?; Can films be treated as a cartographic environment of journeys and landscapes?; And how, if possible at all, do we overcome cartography’s bird’s-eye perspective upon the world, and instead describe it as something intimate, vulnerable, bodily, or even, as ‘soft’?

Proposals (200-300 words) with attached résumés can be submitted until April 27th 2020 via Selected authors will be invited to write a 2,000–3,000-word paper (excluding footnotes).

Authors who publish in Kunstlicht will receive three complimentary copies. Unfortunately, Kunstlicht is not able to provide an author’s honorarium. Two articles will be selected to be available online. Two years following publication, papers will be submitted to the freely accessible online archive. The editorial board reserves the right to decline contributions.

Anna Sejbæk Torp-Pedersen obtained a MA in Contemporary Art History program from the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, and completed her BA in Art History from The Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London. She has previously focused on Scandinavian identity and the region’s historical amnesia. Her current research touch upon issues of cartographic representations and migration.

Kunstlicht is an academic journal for visual art, visual culture, and architecture, founded in 1980. It is affiliated with the Arts & Culture department of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, but operates from an independent foundation. Kunstlicht is published three times a year, and features both scholarly and artistic contributions.

Articulating belonging: translingualism, belonging and the creation of South African social collectivities

Call for papers

Articulating belonging: translingualism, belonging and the creation of South African social collectivities

University of Amsterdam and Ghent University, 12 and 13 November 2020, Amsterdam.

In the creation of nation-states during the 19th and 20th century, standardized and official languages were of key importance to develop feelings of belonging to social collectivities through the public sphere. However, contemporary global neoliberal conditions have put pressure on Romantic notions such as belonging, togetherness and culture, that used to be seen as the building blocks of national identity. Postcolonial and decolonial debates have, furthermore critiqued the presumed monolingual character of communities and nations (Yildiz 2012; Mignolo 2003) by pointing to their linguistic heterogeneity. The complex linguistic context of South Africa offers a fruitful starting point to explore the recalibrated relationships between language, the creation of social subjects, the politics of belonging and social group formation (Yuval-Davis, 2006, Meinhof and Galasinksi, 2005).

This conference wants to zoom in on translingualism and transculturality – broadly understood to refer to the fluidity and dynamism of linguistic and cultural borders – in South African literature and culture. The conference has at least three aims. Firstly, it wants to explore how narrative art forms (literature, performance poetry, cinema, theatre and so forth), but also more popular expressions (television series, newspapers, advertisements, graffiti, songs) linguistically produce, and critically reconsider the relationship between language and membership of social collectivities within the South African context. Secondly, this conference also wants to explore how language variations, multilingualism and translingualism in cultural representations index complex social and cultural entanglements in the day-to-day, ordinary lives of South Africans. Thirdly, it wants to investigate how translingualism, the use of multiple language varieties and different languages in narrative texts “destabilize” the position of dominant and/or standardized languages and what such minorizing practices (Dagnino, 2019) might imply for how language construes social subjectivity and categories of belonging in the South African context.

This call invites proposals for papers that reflect on:

  • How translingual South African literary texts create (new) social subjects and categories of belonging;
  • How popular genres (such as hiphop/rap and genre fiction) contribute to a critical analysis of the relation between language and belonging in the South African context;
  • The minorizing of (standardized) Afrikaans and English through the use of other languages and language varieties and what the destabilizing of these languages implies for belonging and the construction of social collectivities;
  • How language use functions as a form of “border work” that sustain or challenge, resist and rebel against the inclusion and exclusion created by the politics of belonging;
  • The (linguistic character of) the cultural public sphere in this process of creating belonging and togetherness in the South African context;
  • Translingualism and translation of South African literature (in any South African language) as world literature.

We invite those interested to submit a short abstract (no more than 300 words), accompanied by a biographical note (150 words) by 8 May 2020. A notice of acceptance will follow by the end of May 2020. The conference will accept contributions in Afrikaans, Dutch and English. The selected presentations should be 20 minutes. The conference organizers foresee the possibility to deliver papers by Skype in cases where travel to Amsterdam cannot be arranged. A possible publication of (selected) contributions is considered.

Please send your proposal to before 8 May 2020.

The organizing committee:

Yves T’Sjoen (UGent en UStellenbosch)
Annelies Verdoolaege (UGent)
Margriet van der Waal (UvAmsterdam)

Two PhD Positions in Critical Humanities Approaches to Platform Society

Two PhD Positions in Critical Humanities Approaches to Platform Society

  • 40 hours per week
  • Maximum gross monthly salary: € 2,972
  • Faculty of Arts
  • Job level: Research University Degree
  • Duration of the contract: 4 years
  • Application deadline: 10 May 2020

We are looking for

As a PhD candidate you will be responsible for one of the three subprojects within the ERC-funded project “Platform Discourses: A Critical Humanities Approach to the Texts, Images, and Moving Images of Tech Companies”. This project studies how companies like Google, Facebook, and Airbnb increasingly position their for-profit online platforms as neutral spaces for social exchange, while addressing their users as “digital citizens”. The project employs methods of literary analysis, visual analysis, and film studies to explore the visions of humanity that speak from tech company discourses, forming an integral part of these companies’ branding strategies (from advertising and corporate blogs to manifestos and user interfaces). The first subproject, on discourses of everyday life, is carried out by the Principal Investigator (Dr Niels Niessen). The two vacancies concern two other subprojects. The second subproject examines the topic of digital citizenship: How do tech companies intervene in debates on democracy and state structures? The third subproject explores the topic of climate crisis: What visions of humanity are ingrained in tech companies’ self-presentation as green?