Eminently European (?) or Occidental (?) phenomena—the debate remains largely open for historians—the station and the railroad, constitutive of our cultures as economic, architectural, political and aesthetic phenomena, are also invitations to immobile but endless voyages, which perhaps do not lead to a destination, towards the end of our desires or that of the night. Therefore, we would like first and foremost in this Humanities conference to reconsider the station and the wagon as what they are, inter-zones, enclosed spaces without really being that, borderless places or places with shifting and unstable borders, where law and society suspend their particular rules, where a game of entirely artificial indifferences gets established, sometimes obscenely because of the exacerbated intimacy created in such close quarters. The station can in fact be a space of disorder, of heterogeneity, but also of cross-fertilization and communication.
The station is first of all, within the city, an enclave; and the wagon, in our lives, a fantasy of annihilation of the Other.
On the occasion of the TGV line Mulhouse-Gare Centrale arriving this winter, we invite our future conference speakers to study the station and the wagon (in literature, history, the visual arts and why not even by taking to the tracks of philosophy) as cultural and artistic vectors of the programmed obsolescence of technological innovation. For historians, this may be an occasion to consider stations and railways’ predominant role in the evolution of urban development.
Finally, to join act and speech, this conference will be nomadic, thus privilege the selection of propositions which may be interpreted as “university performances”. Apart from a few talks which will take place within the elegant walls of the Société Industrielle de Mulhouse (a few feet from the Mulhouse Gare) most of the workshops will take place on a moving train. We will be forced to take to the stations, platforms and stops, without any particular itinerary, just an uncertain destination in search of ourselves on a perpetual round-trip voyage.
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