City Lights: Urban Space and Civic Identity in the Low Countries and Beyond
Senate House, University of London, 9-10 July 2020
‘The cities of the world are concentric, isomorphic, synchronic … It’s the effect of their permanent revolution, their intense circulation, their instantaneous magnetism – so different from the rural universe where a sense of the global simultaneity of exchanges does not exist’. — Jean Baudrillard
The Association for Low Countries Studies is delighted to announce its third postgraduate colloquium, “City Lights”. Proposals are invited from PhD candidates and early career researchers in the humanities and social sciences. The colloquium will bring together young scholars from the UK and internationally to explore urban space and civic identity in Benelux from an interdisciplinary perspective.
The Low Countries is one of the world’s most urbanised regions. Since the Middle Ages, advances in mercantilism, industry and land reclamation had spurred Bruges, Antwerp and Amsterdam toward exponential growth. Meanwhile, claims to political autonomy and religious freedom caused tension with the powers that be, erupting most violently during the Eighty Years’ War (1568-1648). Today, many Netherlandish cities retain a unique sense of identity, manifested in dialects, local legends and civic buildings.
Cities are the engines of culture for both their social connectivity and their inspiring topographies. Chambers of rhetoric were once a mainstay of burgerlijk culture, while civic guilds commissioned some of Rembrandt’s most celebrated works, not least the Night Watch. Entire sub-industries of painting capitalised upon the beauty of Amsterdam’s canals and Utrecht’s churches, and Amsterdam has continued to inspire writers and filmmakers, from Albert Camus to Paul Verhoeven. Are cities replete with utopian possibility, or are they moral and ecological miasmas? As Plato remarked in the Republic, ‘Any city, however small, is in fact divided into two, one the city of the poor, the other of the rich’. How does the countryside compare?
Proposals on this year’s theme are broadly welcome, but those covering cities and empire, as well as the phenomenology of urban space (including smell- and soundscapes), especially so.
How to apply?
Please send an abstract of no more than 300 words to Adam Sammut, c/o firstname.lastname@example.org, with “ALCS 2020” in the subject heading, together with a short biography. Bursaries will be available, with priority given to self-funded students. Please indicate should you wish to be considered.
Deadline for submissions: 31 March 2020.