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The Experience of Cohabited Space, University of Rostock, 14-17 July 2012 [DL: 15 August 2011]‏


The Experience of Cohabited Space - Representations of
Contested Areas in Text, Cinema and Sound, 1920-50. An
International Interdisciplinary Conference, jointly organised
by Centre of European and International Studies at the
University of Portsmouth

“Cohabited space” is a useful term for defining complex social spaces. Often, however, it oversimplifies the experience of different ethnic and social groups living together in a shared environment, and ignores the numerous tensions arising from the condition of multi-ethnicity within a limited territory. The margins or boundaries of settlement have always been acutely at issue. Besides being real spaces - countries, ghettos, cantons �" there are cultural spaces too, which are fought over at the level of discourse and style and which are produced by authors and artists with varying degrees of autonomy.

We think the time is ripe to address these issues, but with a very precise historical focus. Much has been written lately about the ideology of the Diaspora, but for the most part debates have been given a very contemporary spin. This conference will look specifically at the consequences of the disintegration of the multinational empires after the First World War, and the rise of discrete or emergent cultures who found themselves without a home, and who attempted to fashion one from various materials. The diasporic imagination, which resides in a landscape of regret and yearning, is firmly located in historical determinants, and it is one of the tasks of this conference to begin to sketch those out.

Although there have been an increasing number of studies in recent years on the experience of twentieth century migration and diasporas, the coverage of cohabited space and its possible research landscape is still very patchy. While both migrant communities and their agents and institutions have been the subject of major studies and conferences, the role of their textual representation during the various stages of reorientation in the new environment, although of vital importance for the academic enquiry, has so far been neglected. As time went on, notably in the mid 1920s, the new audiovisual media of sound recording and cinema dealt with forward looking emotions such as yearning and expectancy, but were even more preoccupied with nostalgia, homesickness and the dilemmas of coping in a new environment, whether seen from a humorous or dramatic angle.

Obviously, the collapse of stable notions of national identity was much more acutely experienced in some countries than in others. The conference wants to invite discussion of these differences, asking, for example, why some countries developed a much more complex and coherent diasporic sub-culture than others. Why were minority groups able to gain status and cultural power in some countries and not in others? Which media facilitated their expression, and which hindered it?

There are real spaces, and there are imagined spaces, and the latter exert tremendous power. In this conference, we want to try to move towards mapping out that landscape of desire and regret which characterizes diasporic cultures in this early period. To do this, we might need to draw sharp distinctions between countries and periods, and indeed media. The cultural task undertaken by the press, for example, might be radically different from the cinema.

Papers may address:
• the spatial formation of contested areas, and the way in which they were represented
• the transatlantic dimension of migrant passage
• the transformation from province to urbanity
• cultural varieties of nostalgia
• film production and minority groups

Please submit abstracts of proposed papers or proposals for panels, together with a list of relevant publications and a CV of no more than half an A4 page to include recent employment history and current post. Abstracts should not exceed 300 words for papers or one A4 page for panel proposals. On all e-mail correspondence please include "Cohabited Space" in the subject line. Please submit these not later than 15 August 2011 (deadline). The conference languages will be English and German.

Please direct all correspondence to Susanne.Marten-finnis@port.ac.uk