LECTURE SERIES WINTER SEMESTER 2017-18
Sites of Encounter: Boundaries, Liminalities, Media
(Butler, Keck, Greve)
This lecture series continues the cooperation of the NNN (Network of American Studies in Northern Germany), featuring bi-weekly talks by invited guest speakers.
We understand sites of encounter to involve geographical, social, and medial spaces/places, which this lecture series seeks to address from a variety of perspectives. Mary Louise Pratt famously conceptualized colonial sites of encounter as “contact zones” (1992) of cross-cultural interaction, movement, and appropriation. As spaces of diversity and cultural mobility, “contact zones” allow for diversity and transculturality at the same time that their specific material and topographical contexts contribute to the relationships between persons, objects, and ideas. “Liminal spaces” likewise constitute sites of cross-cultural movement, diversity, and transactions according to specific spatial, temporal, and social regimes (van Gennep 1960; Turner 1969). “Liminality” denotes social and epistemological flux and ambiguity as actual and symbolic boundaries and thresholds are traversed. Like “contact zones,” liminal spaces represent moments of uncertainty, improvisation, and even confusion. The multilayered concept of “borderland(s)” can also help us conceive of sites of encounter as taking place in dynamically shifting topographies and along increasingly policed borders, engendering imaginary spaces of identity formation and cultural dis/continuity (Stoddard 1983, Anzaldúa 1987, Alvarez 1995).
Since 9/11 and the subsequent War on Terror, national borders have been increasingly reinforced by surveillance, control, and the use of violence. Some scholars have therefore shifted their focus from borders as “contact zones” to borders as barriers and barricades (Brunet-Jailly 2007, Salter 2010). However, as other scholars argue, these reinforced borders have been emerging as display of state power alongside the continuing migration and flow of persons, goods, and ideas in a globalized world (Andreas 2003, de Lint 2008, Parker/Vaughan-Williams 2014). With changing technologies and information systems, the bodies of those who traverse borders may themselves become carriers of new kinds of borders (Amoore 2006, Cooper and Perkins 2014).
These developments are inevitably affected by the media and medial representation within the discursive formation of meanings and knowledge. The media are a central part of the larger “circuit of culture” (du Gay/Hall/et al. 1997) at the same time that they constitute complex sites of encounter in and by themselves. For scholars of memory studies, for instance, visual metaphors, figures/figurations, and topoi become dynamic and contested sites of memory when mediated by later generations (Warburg 1929, Nora 1989). We invite lectures about these and other sites of encounter from early modern to contemporary times in the context of North America, the Americas, the circum-Atlantic, and the Pacific Rim. We will especially facilitate discussions of sites of encounter dealing with
• diversity and cross-cultural relationships;
• spatial topographies;
• discourse and power;
• media and representation.