Moving: a cultural analysis
Saturday 1 June 2013, 15:00-17:00 (followed by drinks)
Universiteitstheater, Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16-18, Amsterdam
My lecture will be a plea for an ongoing commitment to analysis: to detailed and theoretically informed accounts of selected cultural artifacts, situations, and moments. In the present time, national borders can no longer define a culture; yet such borders continue to restrict and confine cultural processes. Other borders join forces in this contradiction, such as, first of all, economic ones. The notion of culture itself has become problematic. A sense of belonging to a culture is most visible in moments of conflict or disagreement. With Johannes Fabian, I prefer to speak of “the cultural”. The cultural (awareness) consists of cultural moments, rather than states, or cultures.
If cultural analysis is to continue to contribute to our understanding of the cultural fabric through which we live, we must both acknowledge, and work with, this new situation, called “globalization” and be alert to resistances. For this we must develop new sensitivities, attuned to different forms of differences, or alterities, than the usual ones. While neither “culture” nor, as a consequence, the classically defined fields within it that the Humanities study can be easily maintained, the need for in-depth insight has only become more urgent. This makes analysis even more needed than ever. I will focus on mobility, or movement, or rather, the qualifier “moving”. With mobility becoming the norm rather than the exception, we must redesign the contours of our objects of study, but not refrain from engaging it in detail. The question is, then: what is a detail, of an object of analysis that is not a stable object?
Drawing on my own recent work and holding it to some principles of the program of newly established Amsterdam Centre for Globalisation Studies (ACGS), I will allege a few examples of such a new object, or even field design, in order to demonstrate that, and how, in-depth analysis has lost nothing of its relevance today.
Mieke Bal is an internationally renowned cultural theorist and critic, as well as a video artist and occasional curator. Based at the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA), which she co-founded, she was Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) Professor from 2005-2011. Her many publications include Travelling Concepts in the Humanities (2002), The Mieke Bal Reader (2006), Narratology (3rd edition 2009) and Of What One Cannot Speak: Doris Salcedo’s Political Art (2011).
The lecture takes place in the context of the two-day ESSCS (European Summer School for Cultural Studies) seminar on “The Futures of Cultural Studies and Cultural Analysis” (31 May-1 June 2013), organized by Esther Peeren and Jaap Kooijman.