Be Careful What You Wish For: On Impact as a Proxy for Value in Arts & Humanities Research

Master Class with Eleonora Belfiore

The context for this masterclass is offered by one of the defining debates in the academic humanities, namely the one around the tension between a desire (and often external pressures) to be useful to those outside academia, and the aspiration to preserve the scholar’s critical distance from the object of analysis, intellectual autonomy and the freedom to critique. Whilst this tension is especially noticeable within a small and emerging interdisciplinary field such as cultural policy research, in which I work, it is not by any means only found there. Taking developments in the UK as the geographical focus of analysis and as an example, it is clear that increasing expectations that research, especially when publicly funded, should have ‘impact’ bring with them similar kind of tensions. Expectation that research ought to deliver ‘impact’, which is often understood as a contribution to policy development, have been hotly contested and resisted, yet an important set of questions still remain open:

  • What is the ultimate purpose of critical scholarly research? Or in other words, what comes after critique?
  • Is critique for critique’s sake a satisfactory goal for cultural policy analysis or can we envisage a constructive engagement between critical research and policy debates that is not subservient to the needs of policy advocacy?
  • Are there ways to articulate the contribution to society of arts and humanities scholarship that avoid turning ‘impact’ into a proxy for ‘value’?

Reflecting on her experience as an eternally engaged scholar and the academic lead for the Warwick Commission for the Future of Cultural Value (2013-5), Prof. Belfiore will invite the participants to explore the possibilities and challenges that publicly engaged research brings, and to develop their skills in articulating the value of scholarship and how to pursue impact and knowledge exchange in ways that preserve the authenticity and integrity of research.


(required to be studied beforehand)

Eleonora Belfiore

I joined Loughborough in May 2016 from the University of Warwick, where I had been working since 2004. My PhD thesis (2006, Warwick) was a comparative study of post-1980s cultural policies in Italy and England and the growing prominence of an economic instrumental rationality in the development of arts and heritage policy in the two countries. Since then, I have developed further my exploration of discursive formations, and I have developed an international profile in policy sensitive research which combines a scholarly and critical drive with a commitment to facilitating public engagement with research and collaborations with non-academic partners, mostly from the cultural and creative sectors and from the third sector.

About the masterclasses

Utrecht University Humanities Conference 2019 programme includes two masterclasses, led by the conference keynote lecturers Eleonora Belfiore and Simon During. The masterclasses will be simultaneous, which allows us to extend the number of the participants by 30 to the overall event (15 for each masterclass).

Participants can gain 1 ECs for the masterclass participation and 1 EC for conference presentation. The masterclass workload is divided into three parts: reading and a preliminary abstract (1); masterclass participation (2) and a conclusive reflection paper (3).

Please register by sending an email to:

Overall workload

1 ECTS for:

  • Preparing the masterclass (3 readings and a 500 word abstract),(22 hours)
  • Participation in the masterclass (2,5 hours)
  • Writing a 1000 word reflection (2,5 hours)

1 ECTS for:

  • Preparing one’s own conference presentation and presenting it (28 hours).

0,5 ECTS for:

  • Joining one panel on impact in the humanities and the Centre for Humanities discussion on Thursday, April 11 (3 hours)
  • Joining two keynotes and two of the student panels on Friday, April 12 (7 hours)
  • Writing a 750 word reflection (2,5 hours)

About Utrecht University Humanities Conference

The Utrecht University Humanities Graduate Conference is organized for and by R(MA) students and PhD candidates; our mission is to deepen and broaden the understanding of the role and position of the humanities field both within and outside of academia. We invite contributions of research master students and PhD candidates from all the disciplines in the humanities, to analyze and reflect on the twinned issues of impact and knowledge utilization, be it within their own field of research or that of humanities research in general.

It is an annual conference for Humanities research-oriented (R)MA students and PhDs both from Utrecht University and other (inter)national institutions. In 2019, the general topic of the conference is “What’s the point? Impact, and the future of Humanities”, and the conference is going to house among other activities three keynote lectures, a day of parallel sessions and two master classes.

New media dramaturgy: performing matter and the ecological question

MASTERCLASS Offered by the Centre for the Humanities and the Transmission in Motion research group ( at Utrecht University, in collaboration with NICA and SPRING Performing Arts Festival.

 20 May 2018, 10.30-15h, Het Huis (Boorstraat 107, Utrecht)

In this masterclass, Prof. Peter Eckersall (CUNY, New York) will consider the theory and practice of new media dramaturgy.  As developed his recent book (co-authored with Edward Scheer and Helena Grehan), new media dramaturgy (NMD) considers the rise of new materialism in theatre and performance.  It examines how live performance has been transforming – compositionally and aesthetically – by a renewed attention to material objects, atmospheres and affective states, all broadly defined as new media.  In light of the on-going need for the arts to address climate and ecological crisis, NMD is an approach that calls for considering the performative sensibilities of objects and materials in connection with thinking informed by eco-criticism and writings on the Anthropocene.  It is intended to be both theoretical and activating, hence, the focus on dramaturgy as a creative process that is between thinking and doing.  The masterclass will include an introductory lecture and then branch into discussion and the workshopping of ideas and responses.

Credits: RMA Students can acquire 1 EC if they actively participate in the masterclass, complete the readings and write a blogpost (750-1000 words) about the subject of the masterclass.

Registration: Please send an email to,  including your affiliation (RMA/PhD Programme).


  • Peter Eckersall, Helena Grehan, and Edward Scheer, New Media Dramaturgy: Performance Media and New-Materialism (co-authored with Helena Grehan and Edward Scheer). Basingstoke & New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017. (read the introduction).
  • Peter Eckersall, ‘On Dramaturgy to Make Visible’, Performance Research: A Journal of the Performing Arts, 23: 4-5, 241-243, 2018.


Peter Eckersall is Professor of Theatre Studies in the PhD Program in Theatre and Performance at the Graduate Center, CUNY and Honorary Professorial Fellow in the Department of Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne. His research interests include Japanese performance, dramaturgy and theatre and politics. His recent publications include: The Routledge Companion to Theatre and Politics, co-edited with Helena Grehan (Routledge, 2019), New Media Dramaturgy: Performance, Media and New-materialism, co-authored with Helena Grehan and Ed Scheer, (Palgrave 2017) and The Dumb Type Reader, coedited with Edward Scheer and Shintarô Fujii (Museum Tusculanum Press, 2017).  He has worked as a dramaturg for more than 20 years and is the co-founder of the Not Yet It’s Difficult performance group based in Melbourne.

Infrastructure Otherwise? Cartographies of Settler Colonialism, Resistance and Repair

Masterclass and ASCA Cities Public Talk by Dr. Deborah Cowen (University of Toronto)

organized by ASCA Cities Project in collaboration with NICA

April 15th, 2019

Public Talk: April 15th, 15.00 – 18.00 uur, Doelenzaal in de UB

“Infrastructure Otherwise? Cartographies of Settler Colonialism, Resistance and Repair”

Despite commitments to systemic and institutional change in the wake of the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission, ‘Canada 150’ celebrations proceeded apace over the summer of 2017. Festivities were awash with the language of reconciliation, but performed amnesia regarding both historic and ongoing state violence, including the very act of celebrating ‘replacement’. Indigenous people organized against the whitewashed birthday festivities, insisting that struggles over pipelines, damns, and drinking water offered a better diagnosis of ‘Nation to Nation’ relations. Drawing attention to the infrastructure that underpins contemporary settler colonialism, water and land protectors expose ties that are long and bind tight. In fact, ‘Canada 150’ also marks the completion of the national railroad on which settler state confederation relied. The CPR was famously referred to as ‘the spine of the nation’, but it was built on Indigenous, Black, and Chinese backs. This talk explores the key role of infrastructure in the formation and contestation of settler colonial space. It traces a set of cartographies that cut across nationalist narratives to foreground the violent ways infrastructure holds us together across time and space. Tracking the making of this ‘national spine’ through the transnational slave trade, indigenous dispossession, and violent racial capitalism, but also through work of resistance and repair, this talk asks what decolonial infrastructures might look like.

Readings for public talk
  • Coward, Martin (2015) “Hot Spots/Cold Spots: Infrastructural Politics in the Urban Age.” International Political Sociology. 96-98.
  • Kipfer, S. (2018) “Pushing the limits of Urban research: Urbanization, pipelines and counter-colonial politics.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 36(3) 474–493.
  • Murphy, Michelle (2013) “Distributed Reproduction, Chemical Violence, and Latency.” S&F Online.
  • Cowen, Deborah (2018) “The Jurisdiction of Infrastructure: Circulation and Canadian Settler Colonialism.” The Funambulist. 14-19.

Masterclass: April 15th, 10.00 – 12.00 uur, Potgieterzaal in de UB


Readings for masterclass 

  • Cowen, Deborah (2014) “The Citizenship of Stuff in the Global Social Factory,” in The Deadly Life of Logistics. University of Minnesota Press.
  • —  “Logistics Cities: The “Urban Heart” of Empire” in The Deadly Life of Logistics. University of Minnesota Press.
  • — (2017) “Infrastructures of Empire and Resistance” Verso Blog,
Readings available by emailing:

Imperfections: Mistakes, Cracks, Noise Today

Image copyright: Mary Ponomareva. 

The Sublime Imperfections research collective (Amsterdam) devotes a round table + performance event to aesthetics & discourses of imperfection, mistakes, glitches and noise, repair and distortions. The event is part of a conference that address cravings for imperfection in design, music, art, writing, psychology, and genetics.

Featuring Mieke Bal, Graham Dunning, Linor Goralik, Patricia Pisters, Ellen Rutten, Yuriko Saito, DJ Trish Trash.

Date: March 12

Time: 18:00-23:00

12 March, 2019, 18:00-23:00, Sexyland, Ms. Van Riemdijksweg 39, Amsterdam. Entrance is free but space is limited; register via sublimeimperfectionsassistent at gmail dot com. For updates follow our Facebook event.

In recent decades, the trend to present imperfections as a plus rather than a problem has resonated across a scala of social disciplines and a range of world localities. Designers respond to hi-tech perfection with a love for wonky forms. Psychologists tell us to embrace imperfection in a mediatized age. Artists and musicians toy with electronic glitches and cracks. Philosophers and biologists plea against perfection in genetic engineering.

The Sublime Imperfections research collective (Amsterdam) devotes a round table + performance event to these and analogous discourses & aesthetics of mistakes, cracks, and noise today.

At the round table (18:00-20:00), leading thinkers and practitioners of the imperfect interrogate the contemporary craving for cracks, mistakes, and noise. When & why do artists, writers, filmmakers, and designers hail mistakes? Why do shabby chic and urban-ruin cults so easily lead to elitism or poverty porn? What does repair mean in times of love for the non-polished? And is a politics of imperfection and failure an answer to the Trumputin era?

Speakers: Mieke Bal (Amsterdam) – prizewinning cultural theorist, video artist, ASCA-founder!, and author of ao Thinking in Film (Bloomsbury 2013); Linor Goralik (Tel Aviv/Moscow) – designer, fashion scholar, poet and author of Found Life (Columbia UP 2017); Yuriko Saito (Rhode Island) – professor of philosophy, author of Everyday Aesthetics (Oxford UP 2008); Joanna van der Zanden (Amsterdam) – curator, initiator of ao the Repair Manifesto. Moderators: Patricia Pisters (Amsterdam) – professor of media studies, author of ao The Neuro Image (Stanford UP); Ellen Rutten (Amsterdam) – professor of literature, initiator of the Sublime Imperfections project.

The performance program (20:00-23:00) unites performers/DJs with a predilection for cracks, noise, and trash. DJ Trish Trash (Amsterdam) creates music & autonomous work inspired by vintage magazines, graphical and architectural shapes. Graham Dunning (London) works with array of turntables, contraptions, smashed vinyl, recycled objects. Combined his performances – which recently staged in ao Berlin, Oxford, London, Madrid – draw on rhythm and repetition, experimentation and improvisation. Glice (Amsterdam) – Melle Kromhout & Ruben Braeken – produces dark noise improvisations fused with post-industrial & post-classical sound structures. Curated by Caleb Kelly (Sydney) – media theorist, curator, author of ao Cracked Media (MIT).

‘For Bal research is pure marvel, a creative form of thinking where science becomes art’ Metropolis M

‘Windswept and expansive in its bruised intimacy’ Wire Magazine on Graham Dunning

Guests are also welcome at the Imperfections conference of which the event is a part, and which unites 17 imperfection experts and practitioners in cultural and critical analysis, history, literary studies, marketing, design, philosophy, music, art, linguistics, and area studies. The meeting, which brings together specialists from Western and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, the United States, and New Zealand marks the conclusion of the NWO research project Sublime Imperfections. Click here for a program and registration details.

This event is supported by the Netherlands Scientific Organization, the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis, and the Amsterdam Center for Globalisation Studies.

Register via (for ‘round table,’ ‘performances,’ or ‘both’).





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: to be announced

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.