Trans-Formations: Travelling cultures, cosmopolitan identities and migratory memories


Migration has been a constant throughout human history but today, as a result of economic hardship, conflict and globalisation, more people than ever before live outside their country of birth. Migration involves not only people, but also cultures, religions, information and resources in the shape of goods, skills, ideas, media products, arts, and so on. Moreover, global mobilities challenge traditional understandings of national, cultural and personal memory and reconstitute the ‘archive’ (understood broadly as the discourses, procedures and institutions which select and preserve the past). A new cosmopolitan awareness has grown that draws on older historical models and reshapes the understanding of global politics in the form of a new sensus comunis, or overlapping (Ulrich Beck) or palimpsestic (Etienne Balibar ) identities. Yet globalisation also often reveals a conflict between our ‘sense of belonging’ and factual citizenship. The vocabulary of cosmopolitanism raises the issue of equality among competing visions of identity.

Furthermore, changes in the technologies of representation and communication (including photography, moving images and digital platforms), and in the ways they are used transnationally, redistribute memories and enable ‘migration into other pasts’ (Andreas Huyssen). One effect of this is a greater visibility of transnational and transcultural memory and identifications. In an interplay with globalisation and globalised mediascapes, migration thus acts as a powerful catalyst for new aesthetic and cultural phenomena, hybrid identities and belongings as well as new kinds of narratives and language varieties that challenge our traditional bonds to mother tongue and the ‘monolingual’ text.

Because of these changes, we need to rethink the theories and methodologies of art studies and cultural analysis. Also, contemporary migration and transcultural realities invite a rethinking of earlier globalisation waves, migration and/or national identities. ‘Migration’
prompts us to consider issues such as: How does migration change existing politics and aesthetics of representation, e.g. relative to identity, belonging, citizenship and nationhood? What new forms and politics of representation and recognition are needed?

In this seminar, we will not only explore what innovative theories and approaches can do for cultural analysis, and how they can help answer questions like this. We will also focus on how we can develop a critical awareness of how we work cross-culturally, so to speak, with ‘migratory’ material, concepts and forms, both past and present: How to do this in a self-reflective way? How to raise awareness of the cultural and geographic situatedness of our work? And how can we productively draw on insights, theories and ‘travelling concepts’ (Mieke Bal) from other fields when we do interdisciplinary work?


Nikos Papastergiadis (Professor in the School of Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne, Australia)
Marsha Meskimmon (Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art History and Theory, Loughborough University, UK)
Stefan Jonsson (Professor, Department of Social and Welfare Studies, Linköbing University, Sweden)
Moritz Schramm (Associate Professor, Department for the Study of Culture, University of Southern Denmark, Denmark) 

Please send paper proposals, between 200-300 words, Deadline February 1, to Anne Ring Petersen, Department of Arts and Cultural Studies (Comparative Literature and Studies in Modern Culture), University of Copenhagen, or Karen-Margrethe Simonsen, Comparative Literature, Aarhus University: