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Unfree Spaces in the Modern World: Resistant Responses – Empowering Acts

19.01.2023 – 21.01.2023 IOS Regensburg, Universität Regensburg, KZ-Gedenkstätte Flossenbürg Veranstaltungen Workshops

Viewing experiences of spatial unfreedom as both a prerequisite and aftermath of modernity, this workshop focuses on resistant and empowering reactions to the experience of being un/free in spaces of different scales.

This workshop takes as a starting point challenges, counter versions, and alternative perspectives to positively connoted (and mostly White, Western) narratives of modernity as human-orchestrated development, progress, innovation, or control framed by philanthropic dimensions of rationality (see e.g. the works of Adorno; Arendt; Eisenstadt; Feagin; Gilroy; Ong; Sloterdijk). Echoing voices that view “freedom [as] modernity’s central contradiction” (Ruth Wilson Gilmore), this workshop discusses the experience of modernity’s unfreedoms via the crossroads of two specific trajectories: space and cultural reactions. It zooms in to cultural forms of expression from or about Europe, Russia, or America that present reactions to the experience of spatial un/freedom as a potential form of empowerment and/or resistance.

The workshop approaches space as multidimensional and multiscalar, with a particular interest in dis/connectivities and relationships between different spatial scales and formations. It deliberately takes into account individual and collective, material, social, ecological, cultural, and virtual spaces and scrutinizes the loss of control of one’s own relationship to space. It discusses issues of power over and choice of spaces in which human being reside or move, instances of forced im/mobility, ownership of and/or access to space and infrastructures, as well as the control of one’s social, cultural, and political position in space (examples—to be linked to modernity—may include: slavery, lager, camp, (mass) incarceration, expulsion, flight, abduction, (economic/climate) migration, land theft; settler colonialism; segregation, gentrification; hidden lager situations, totalitarian spaces; marginalization and social liminality; etc.).

Thereby, this workshop centers on cultural reactions to the experience of these spatial unfreedoms that presuppose or emerge from modern conditions—reactions that may then in turn attempt, demand, envision or constitute freedoms. Interested in the dynamics of “thinking / writing / acting” back, it scrutinizes a variety of individual, institutional, and communal forms of cultural expression, from or about Europe, Russia, or America (e.g. literature, visuals, performance, new media, spatial design, etc.) and examines their resistant and empowering potential (also see Tsing, Lorde, Shparaga, Fricker, Medina, etc.).

Ultimately, we are hoping for a joint discussion of the following questions:

How is un/freedom in space experienced? How is it linked to modernity? What do and can reactions look like? Which forms of empowerment and resistance do (and do not or cannot) emerge, and what is their impetus (e.g. also ‘belated empowerment,’ ‘epistemic resistance,’ ‘counter memory,’ traumatic ‘frictions’ etc.). And, ultimately, in the sense of Mieke Bal’s ‘traveling concepts’: What can a transcomparison of these processes in different, separate, or linked spaces contribute to our understanding of concepts such as multiscalarity, freedom and space, bondage and lager, empowerment and resistance?

Taking an inter/multi/transdisciplinary and transcomparative approach, we wish to not suggest a connection between ‘everything’ but to encourage a fruitful discussion of the benefits, potentials, and possible limitations of concepts and methods of multiscalar area studies. In the spirit of the Regensburg Leibniz ScienceCampus “Europe and America in the Modern World,” the workshop purposely brings together diverse critical perspectives that shed light on the dark(er) shades of modernity in order to create a productive conversation.

This is a Leibniz ScienceCampus Regensburg event, co-organized by the IOS Regensburg.


Workshop Registration:

Guests are welcome anytime! However, in order to maintain a smooth planning process, we’d kindly ask you to register if you wish to attend several sessions, a whole day, or the whole workshop.

Please register via email to un.free@ur.de:

Workshop Organizers:

Birgit Hebel-Bauridl, Regensburg European American Forum (REAF)
Sabine Koller, Slavisch-Jüdische Studien, Slavistik


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