The Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA) invites proposals for an international workshop, INSIDE KNOWLEDGE, to be held at the University of Amsterdam on March 28-30, 2007.
Confirmed keynote speakers:
Derek Attridge (University of York)
Leo Bersani (University of California, Berkeley)
Steven Connor (Birkbeck College, London)
Saurabh Dube (El Colegio de Mexico)
Bruce Holsinger (University of Virginia)
Scholars think of themselves as having “inside knowledge” or being “inside” knowledge. The state of being inside can be interpreted as a comfort zone or privileged position, or on the other hand, a trap excluding other ways of knowing. Is being inside knowledge a kind of all-compassing frame forming our subjectivity or are scholars active agents in this process? Do we discover or invent knowledge? While the myth of knowledge as objective and neutral appears to have been debunked, a question remains unresolved: If not objectivity, then what?
In search for an answer to this question, academic disciplines today often find themselves trapped between relativist and essentialist tendencies. Faced with the new multiple and complex realities of globalization, cross-cultural encounters and conflicts, the inadequacy of old approaches to knowledge underscores the need for either radical revisions of traditional modes of knowledge production, or alternative ways of doing and thinking knowledge. Disciplines therefore appear to be in need of specific methodologies, which could function across disciplinary borders and provide (tentative) grounds for inter- or transdisciplinary communication.
The previous ASCA workshop focused on specific issues of commitment and complicity for self-reflexive, engaged and responsible scholarship. This year, we have decided to make knowledge itself an issue. In dedicating a whole workshop to the admittedly vast issue of knowledge, we intend to bring practices and theories of knowledge to the foreground, thereby making knowledge a starting point for critical discussion and interrogation, rather than a pre-given fundament of our academic, scientific and everyday practices.
By revisiting the theme of knowledge, we wish to challenge, question and resist existing methodologies; revise traditional modes of knowledge production; revisit the histories of knowledge and epistemologies of the past and the present; culturally contextualize and situate knowledge; discuss new emerging regimes of knowledge and the power relations that they (re)inscribe; imagine different ways of experiencing and doing knowledge; and, finally, dare to envision the future of our various disciplines through different ways of knowing.
In light of the above, we encourage workshop participants to explore the issue of knowledge through the following panel themes:
1. Knowledge production: conversation or conservation?
2. Configurations and practices of knowledge
3. Resisting knowledge
4. Alternative sites for knowledge
5. Corporeality and the senses as sites for knowledge
6. Technologies and methodologies of knowledge
For more on each thematic panel, see below.
We welcome proposals from a range of disciplines, including (but not limited to) art history and theory, literary studies, cultural studies, film and media studies, theatre, dance and performance studies, philosophy, history, gender studies, queer theory, art and design, musicology, anthropology, sociology, political science, geography, religion studies, and linguistics.
This conference is the latest in a series of ASCA International Workshops and is inspired by the 2005-2006 ASCA theory seminar on Ways of Knowing, organized by Mieke Bal. Please send your one-page proposal (500 words maximum) and a short biographical note by 1st October 2006 to the ASCA office: firstname.lastname@example.org, Dr. Eloe Kingma (managing Director ASCA), Oude Turfmarkt 147, 1012 GC, Amsterdam., tel: +31 20 525 3874. Please indicate in your proposal which panel theme (out of the six mentioned above) you believe your proposal would best fit in.
Proposals will be selected according to their relevance to the topics of the conference. The workshop format is designed to stimulate discussion in the panels. For this purpose, participants will be asked to send the final version of their papers (no more than 4000 words) two months prior to the conference. We shall strictly adhere to this deadline since we will prepare a reader for each of the panels in advance, to be circulated before the conference. Upon permission of each participant, the papers will also be placed on the official website of the workshop beforehand, and will be accessible only to the participants through a username and password. This way, participants can also have access to papers from other panels that fall within their interest, something that will hopefully encourage communication among the people of the workshop and create an ongoing discussion. During the workshop, instead of reading their papers, participants will give a short summary of their work and make connections with other people’s contributions in the panel. To stimulate discussion rather than formal presentations, each participant is asked to limit their presentations to 10 minutes.
For more information and updates on the workshop, please visit our website: www.insideknowledge.nl
Organizing Committee: Carolyn Birdsall, Maria Boletsi, Itay Sapir, Pieter Verstraete
Knowledge production: conversation or conservation?
Knowledge can be thought of as vertical or as horizontal. The former concept implies a solidly structured knowledge based on clear foundations; the latter understanding of knowledge sees it as based on social negotiation and constant conversation. Whereas the “horizontal” spatial metaphor has gained important currency in the various schools of “theory” (Deleuze, Rorty and others), it seems that in the everyday practice of most scholars in the humanities the idea of a systematic, hierarchical and well-established knowledge is still the ideal model to follow. And then again, many possible combinations of the two are imaginable.
This state of affairs, with its highly political ramifications, raises many questions that this panel will revolve around: What are the advantages and the problems of each concept of knowledge? Historically, which concept of knowledge was prevalent in which kind of social and intellectual circumstances, and what is the situation today? How is the idea of interdisciplinary or hybrid knowledge related to the opposition foundational vs. conversational knowledge? And should there be a distinction between the production and the communication of knowledge in this respect?
Configurations and practices of knowledge
Theory ideally does not go without practice. Cultural analysis regards knowledge production as a continuous negotiation and interaction with the object as a theoretical tool for analytical practice. In this section we would like to reposition both knowledge in practice and theoretical research as practice. Different modes of analytical practice, such as the experiment, the test case or the case study call for a re-examination of the positions and perspectives the analyst chooses to take. Such positions could be the exterior microbe-like perspective and the view-on-high of the theorist (De Certeau), or the interior perspective of the flâneur (Benjamin) and the artistic practitioner who perform modes of knowledge by reconfiguring the immediate spatial modalities. We want to examine how such performative interventions can lead to new models of theory as practice, and how they are positioned in practice.
Among the many questions raised in this section are: How can artistic and analytic practice today still add to the expansion of knowledge? Which alternative models of knowledge have evolved from these practices? To which reconfigurations have they led? And how can we conceptualize practicing modes of knowledge?
Knowledge, especially since Foucault, has been indissolubly linked with discursive regimes of power. It does not pose as the expression of a truth that exists “out there”, but is filtered, mediated, and subject to processes of cultural translation. Locating knowledge within discursive limits also entails that there is an outside to the “knowable,” which resists appropriation by existing modes of thought. In order to resist knowledge, we sometimes have to refashion the configurations of knowledge that we inhabit, in order to occasion “the other’s irruption into the settled order” (Derek Attridge) and dare to walk on what Rebecca Saunders has called “a zone of error”: the zone of the foreign, the erroneous, the anomalous, the barbaric. One question we would like to pose in this panel is: what do we do with the unknown, the (absolute) other, the unintelligible – that which exceeds the limits of our discourse? And, perhaps most importantly, what does the unknown or foreign do to us? If we resist our impulse to decipher and appropriate the unintelligible into our own modes of knowing, how could we still turn the encounter with the “unknowable” into a productive experience, without having to make sense out of it?
To resist knowledge could also mean to resist the comfort of remaining within one cultural/social system, and to provoke encounters among different modes of knowing; to stand at the “significatory boundaries of cultures”, which is where, according to Homi Bhabha, “meanings and values are (mis-)read or signs are misappropriated”. In this case, the other of our mode of knowing could be that which subscribes to another culture, social group, discipline, methodology or code.
Alternative sites for knowledge
In academic practices of knowledge production, we are confronted with the difficulties in the task of “thinking otherwise”. This is especially the case, Gayatri Spivak reminds us, when scholars from privileged backgrounds attempt to represent and “know” the experiences of others. For this reason, it is essential to probe assumptions about knowledge as objective or “value free”. When considering the situatedness of the scholar and their academic practice, we might turn to Donna Haraway’s notion of the “privilege of partial perspective” (1991), where gender is one of the many important and necessary interventions in standardised forms of knowledge production.
Among the many approaches to “ways of knowing”, this panel could prompt a discussion of how non-Western contexts or alternative forms of knowing interact with dominant frameworks of knowledge production. What methods can be employed to reflect on the “situatedness” of the scholar, along with his/her relation to disciplinary and institutional contexts? How might an investigation of subcultures, social practices or material cultures engage in the production of new forms of knowledge? What alternatives are available to the scholars who want to participate in radical scholarship or academic practices of discovery?
Corporeality and the senses as sites for knowledge
Knowledge can be regarded as an effect (Althusser), whereby ideology produces and conditions our modes of knowing. In this sense, knowledge can also ‘affect’ the filtering processes of our senses and bodies. This section places knowledge on and in the body, thereby highlighting the spatial and corporeal dimensions to knowledge production. We want to space out the topographies, stratifications, and borders of the sensing body with both its atavistic and surface levels: the flesh, the skin, the ‘five’ senses, affects and emotions as tools for producing, filtering and storing knowledge. This mapping of the body will be critically assessed by the question of what it means to know the world through our senses. The human senses and their intersensory nature could be discussed in terms of “embodied knowledge”, a perceptual and corporeal knowing (“habitus”, literacy and competence), and an (en)gendered knowledge, including queer, transsexual and other bodies as sites for knowledge and contestation. These sites seem nowadays to reach beyond the senses towards a concept of “posthumanism” (Niklas Luhmann, among others).
Working through cultural objects in relation with the (post-)human experience invites us to reflect on the following questions: How do we perform forms of knowledge through sights, smells, sounds, touch? How do we conceptualize intersensory and transsensory experience? What kinds of conceptual tools can the body and the senses offer us through embodied knowledge and corporeal memory? And how could gendered bodies contest the established theoretical frameworks, narratives, and categories of analysis?
Technologies and methodologies of knowledge
Discussions about the nature of knowledge can serve as the basis for the actual elaboration of new methodologies for academic knowledge-production. Thus, this panel will centre on concrete strategies and technologies of knowledge in the aftermath of the undecided debates between poststructuralists and traditionalists, postmodernists and humanists, rationalists, psychoanalysts, post-colonialists, and so forth. We propose to consider the following questions: How do research methodologies in the Humanities reflect different concepts of knowledge? How can we invent new methodologies that avoid epistemological problems of existing ones? What are – and what could be – the procedures of legitimation for new methodologies?
While theoretical frameworks are indispensable, we are looking in this section, for new propositions concerning “the know-how of knowledge”, concrete and case-related ways of knowing that can innovate the research programs of different disciplines – and, indeed, of not-yet-existing inter-disciplines.
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