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LUCAS “Modern and Contemporary Studies” Research Cluster 2nd annual conference: Back to Normal? The Shifting Ground before, during, and beyond the Pandemic

Friday 4 February 2022
Online (Teams)
Online (Teams) The Teams-link will be sent to registered participants.
Mural by street artist Señor Schnu, Berlin, April 2020.

On Friday, February 4, the “Modern and Contemporary Studies” research cluster at LUCAS will hold its 2nd annual one-day conference, with the theme “Back to Normal? The Shifting Ground before, during, and beyond the Pandemic”.

Conference theme

The theme of last year’s Cluster Conference was “Engagements with the Contemporary: The Humanities in, on, and beyond Crises”. In this year’s edition of the cluster conference, our initial plan was to center more on the “Beyond Crisis” element. The conference was initially planned to take place on campus in December 2021, but we had to move it to early February in light of the covid-19 measures. And although we were planning a campus event in February, we had to move the conference online following the intensification of these measures. Such an uncertainty is now almost becoming endemic to our lives and routines. With the conference moving to February due to the protracted Covid-19 crisis, we felt compelled to slightly adjust the initial title we had (optimistically) conceived for the conference – “Back to Normal” – by adding an emphatic question mark: “Back to Normal?”

During this conference, we want to unpack this question, both as a rhetorical and an actual one, and with reference not only to the pandemic but to several other conditions, events, and declared crises that unsettle understandings of the ‘normal,’ for better or for worse: Back to normal – really? When/how/under which conditions do we get ‘back to normal’?  Who determines the ground of normality and how does the normal ‘feel’? Which normal would that be? How has the ground of normality shifted historically and how is it shifting today?  In what ways does the covid-19 crisis, as well as other intersecting crises of our times, constitute a ‘new normal’ that people (are expected to) get used to, and in what ways do these chronic crises shift our experience and understanding of the ‘normal’ and the ‘strange’ in the current conjuncture? What may the “back” in “back to normal” refer to? Which ‘new normal’ would be worth aspiring towards in the future?


10:30-10:45    Welcome & virtual coffee

10:45-12:15    Plenary Session: brief introductions and reflections on the conference theme by all participants

12:15-13:00    Lunch break

13:00-14:30    Parallel panels:

Panel 1

Jessie Morgan-Owens, “Contest Images”: Subject Rights in Nineteenth Century Photography

Ali Shobeiri, Psychosomatic Imagery: Photography and Acute Social Withdrawal

Evert Jan van Leeuwen, If Things Grow Wrong: Unmasking Doublespeak in Advertising

Panel 2

Gerlov van Engelenhoven, Perpetual Lockdown as Experienced from within Temporary Contract Prison

Yasco Horsman, Covid, Control Society, and Ordinary Psychosis

Saniye Ince, Ambiguity and Escalation: The Digital Playground of Turkey’s Warring Secularists and Islamists

14:30-14:45    Coffee break

14:45-15:15    Plenary closing session & conclusions

All members of the cluster are encouraged to attend! To register, please send an email to mc-lucas@hum.leidenuniv.nl. The Teams-link will be sent to registered participants.

*Sign up before 26 January* if you want to receive a chocolatey ‘back to normal’ element, and you can pick up yours on 2 or 3 February at the LUCAS office. If you are not planning to travel to work during this period, please email us your address, and we will send it to your home.

Conference format:

In the opening plenary session, members of the cluster, and particularly new LUCAS colleagues, will introduce themselves and be asked to very briefly offer a thought on the conference topic in the form of 1-2 minute ‘pitches’: how does each of us relate to, or experience, the shifting ground of normality either in our research, everyday life, or on a more collective level?

The 2 parallel panels comprise 10-minute presentations by 6 speakers on topics that respond to the conference theme from the diverse thematic areas of research within the cluster, followed by discussion.

The conference will close with a plenary discussion during which we will share final thoughts on the overarching topic and discuss how we can create a stimulating and inclusive environment for pursuing our individual or collaborative research plans at LUCAS, especially under the current precarious and shifting ground due to the pandemic.

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