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Cultural Studies Program

Previous Conferences

Current Conference

Eighth Annual Cultural Studies Conference: "Spaces of Identity"

Saturday, March 29th, 2003
9:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Indiana Memorial Union - University Club's Faculty Room (upstairs)
Organized by Tom Foster

This year's Cultural Studies Conference, "Spaces of Identity," will explore the relevance of new theories of social space to various cultural studies projects, while also reflecting on this new self-consciousness about the spatial assumptions and metaphors that have informed and still circulate within cultural studies, its intellectual traditions and disciplinary sites.  Invited speaker, Jennifer DeVere Brody, Professor of English and Performance Studies at Northwestern University, will join IU faculty and graduate students in addressing these issues.

The conference will be held on Saturday, March 29th from 9:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. at the University Club's Faculty Room in the Indiana Memorial Union.  If you plan to attend, please complete the On-Line Registration linked to this web page, the registration form provided in the newsletter, or send an e-mail to cstudies@indiana.edu indicating whether you plan to stay for lunch (12:00-1:00 p.m.).  With a format similar to previous Cultural Studies conferences, "Spaces of Identity" will be organized around two panels.  The morning panel will focus on "Metacultures: Transnational Flows" and the afternoon panel will focus on "Subcultures: Local Resistances."  The conference description included below is followed by a conference schedule that includes a complete listing of panelists.  


Descriptions

The conference will take the “spatial turn” within cultural studies  -- the emergence of both a new, interdisciplinary object of study and a new conceptual tool for social and cultural analysis -- as its point of departure.  Within the social sciences, the postmodern geography movement (David Harvey, Edward Soja, Doreen Massey) has returned to Henri Lefebvre’s work to define “the production of space” – that is, the ways that specific constructions of social space play constitutive roles in the production and reproduction of social relations, rather than merely serving as a neutral settings within which more properly historical processes of struggle, transformation, and reaction play out.  That separation of time or history and space has come to be understood as an increasingly problematic assumption of modernity, in contrast to postmodernity’s characteristic forms of “time-space compression,” to quote Harvey, and the revaluing of spatial practices has been central to the cultural studies project of revaluing everyday life as a site of tactical agency capable of introducing some change and play into its determining structures or strategic constraints, to use the terminology introduced by Michel de Certeau.

On a more practical level, rethinking the nature of space and its relation to cultural identities becomes more urgent in an age dominated by new experiences of space.  Today,  processes of globalization emphasize transnational cultural flows and diasporic affiliations over national boundaries and traditional models of citizenship, and new communications technologies make possible more highly mediated forms of social interaction within cyberspace computer networks.  As David Morley and Kevin Robins put it, in their book Spaces of Identity, “it is now not so much physical boundaries . . . that define a community of nation’s ‘natural limits.’  Increasingly we must think in terms of communications and transport networks and of the symbolic boundaries of language and culture . . . as providing the crucial, and permeable, boundaries of our age" (1; my emphasis). 

In general, the goal of this conference is to explore the relevance of new theories of social space to various cultural studies projects, but also to reflect this new self-consciousness about the spatial assumptions and metaphors that have informed and still circulate within cultural studies, its intellectual traditions and disciplinary sites (such as “base/superstructure,” “high” and “low” cultures, “subject position,” the “politics of location,” or “standpoint epistemology”).  More specifically, we want to ask what happens to identity in an age when all boundaries tend to become permeable and the assumption that there are no longer any “natural limits” or “essential architectures” becomes normative, a shift that Donna Haraway uses to define the cultural logic of “the informatics of domination” within late capitalist or post-industrial information economies?  To what extent have we moved beyond the metaphor of space as container, to cultural logics in which there are no absolute boundaries, no clear “insides” and “outsides?”  To what extent are reconfigurations of social space accompanied by redefinitions of the space of subjectivity, of the “inner world” of the individual defined by its opposition to the public and the social?  Do such redefinitions facilitate new forms of coalitional politics or contact zones, and if so what happens to identity politics and cultural autonomy?  What is the fate of nationalism in a diasporic or transnationalized context?  How do we mediate the global and the local, the universal and the particular, modernization and  tradition, openness to cultural exchange and hybridity and the preservation of historical differences and diversity?  To what extent do new concepts of space and new geographies of identity make possible the kind of interdisciplinary project Edward Soja defines in Thirdspace, projects that combine the material, sociological or ethnographic analysis of actual lived spaces and built environments with textual analyses of imagined or figurative spaces?  How is this spatial turn in postmodern cultural studies inflected by different histories and mappings of social relations, such as the ideological definition of home and marketplace as separate gendered spheres, or forms of racial segregation and urban ghettoes or ethnic enclaves? 

In the spirit of David Harvey’s observation, that globalization’s disruption of national boundaries produces both new transnational formations and relations and also new, fragmented forms of enforced localism and neo-ethnicism, the conference will consist of two roundtable sessions.  The first will focus on the topic of “Metacultures: Transnational Flows,” and the second on “Subcultures: Local Resistances.” 


Conference Schedule

9:00 a.m.- 12:00 p.m.  Morning Panel - "Metacultures: Transnational Flows"

Invited Speaker: Jennifer DeVere Brody, Northwestern University
Panelists:  Claudia Breger (Germanic Studies),  Angela Pao (Comparative Lit.),  John Stanfield (African American & African Diaspora Studies),  Laura Shackelford (English)

12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.  Buffet Lunch  (provided by Cultural Studies)

1:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.  Afternoon Panel  - "Subcultures: Local Resistances"

Panelists: Barbara Klinger (Communication & Culture),  Joanne Meyerowitz (History),  Beverly Stoeltje (Anthropology), Tyrone Simpson (English; currently Woodson Institute fellow at the Univ. of Virginia)

4:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. Reception