Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Crisis and Critique Network

This network brings together scholars whose work explores how contemporary frameworks of crisis produce experiences of the present, rehash or disrupt established narratives of the past, and broker specific outlooks on the future. We collaborate in studying these crisis-scapes and exploring how they could breed new cultures and grammars of critique, decolonization, and resistance to the neoliberal governmentality of crisis, or alternative narrativizations of past, present, and future.

Contact
Maria Boletsi

Coordinators: Maria Boletsi, Janna Houwen, Liesbeth Minnaard and Astrid Van Weyenberg.

The term ‘crisis’ dominates public debates, from the global financial crisis to the ongoing migration crisis, and from the environmental crisis to the global covid-19 health crisis. Crisis today is often ‘hijacked’ by populist, xenophobic, and anti-democratic agendas that limit the space of political choice and the imagination of alternatives. Can the concept of crisis still do the work of critique or partake in alternative grammars and modes of representation that can voice marginalized subjectivities and liminal experiences? Can crisis be part of contrarian or transformative languages by academics, activists, and artists, or should we explore different grammars to understand and interrogate present realities and imagine alternative futures?

This network approaches crisis not as an objective condition but as a framing through which specific narratives of the present gain valence while others are excluded. Making crisis an object of interrogation, our network brings together scholars whose work explores how different frameworks of crisis produce experiences of the present, rest on or disrupt established narratives of the past, and broker specific outlooks on the future.

We are particularly concerned with whether and how crisis studies today could avoid the pitfalls of academic opportunism and enable a rethinking of critique itself. How can we generate critical vocabularies that are better equipped to address new challenges in our globalized present than previous critical paradigms? How can the experiences of subjects-in-crisis be voiced without producing a spectacle of misery or resorting to the trope of victimhood? How can hegemonic grammars or conceptual metaphors involved in contemporary crisis rhetoric be transformed towards alternative social imaginaries?

Thus, by thinking together crisis and critique, we ask: Under which conditions could crisis-scapes foster new cultures of critique, decolonization, and resistance to the neoliberal governmentality of crisis, or alternative narrativizations of the past, present, and future? We are particularly interested in spaces of futurity that emerge from contemporary crisis-scapes, with an emphasis on Europe, the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and the Global South: new grammars and expressive forms in art, cinema, literature, protest cultures, and social movements that move beyond crisis rhetoric to envision critical transformations of the present and paths to possible futures

Several projects, conferences, and activities on this topic have already sprung from the collaboration among members of this network. For example:

  • the workshop “Voicing Refugee Experiences in Art, Literature and Cinema,” organized by Janna Houwen and Liesbeth Minnaard at Leiden University, September 2016. Part of the V4T Festival People in Motion: Refugees, Migrants and Travellers.
  • the research-based MA course “Crisis, Literature, and the Contemporary,” which Maria Boletsi and Liesbeth Minnaard have been teaching in Leiden since 2017
  • the seminar “Europe in Crisis? Crisis-Rhetoric, Alternative Subjectivities, and Languages of Protest,” organized by Maria Boletsi, Janna Houwen, and Liesbeth Minnaard, at the ACLA (American Comparative Literature Association) annual meeting in Utrecht, July 2017
  • the workshop “Crisis-Rhetoric and Critical Interventions in Art and Theory,” organized by Liesbeth Minnaard and Maria Boletsi, for the NOG (Netherlands Research School of Gender Studies), November 2017
  • the international workshop “(Un)timely Crises in Europe and Beyond: Chronotopes and Critique,” organized by Maria Boletsi, Natashe Lemos-Dekker, Kasia Mika, and Ksenia Robbe for the OSL (Netherlands Research School for Literary Studies) and ASCA in Amsterdam, October 2019
  • the symposium “Narrative, Heritage and Crises,” with Astrid Van Weyenberg and various international colleagues, hosted by Magdalena Kmak, project leader “Migration and the Narratives of Europe as an ‘Area of freedom, security and justice’” at the University of Helsinki, 2019.
  • the panel “Narrating ‘Europe’: A Contested Imagined Community,” 26th International Conference of Europeanists, Sovereignty in Contention: Nations, Regions and Citizens in Europe, by Astrid Van Weyenberg and Alvaro Oleart, Madrid, 2019.

The network members are planning various activities in the future, including the panel “European heritage and citizenship” at the 27th International Conference of Europeanists, Europe’s Past, Present, and Future: Utopias and Dystopias, Reykjavik (2021) and the international workshop “From Crisis to Critique,” co-funded by OSL and LUCAS, to be held in Leiden, 4-5 March 2021. This last workshop will include a presentation of the edited volume

Languages of Resistance, Transformation, and Futurity in Mediterranean Crisis-Scapes: From Crisis to Critique, edited by three members of the network and forthcoming in October 2020 (see “Key Publications”).

The network members are also involved in international collaborations with other groups and networks within and outside the Netherlands working on different aspects of this topic, such as the ASCA research and reading group “Crisis, Critique, and Futurity”; the Oxford-Amsterdam network “Rethinking Modern Greek Studies in the 21st Century: A Cultural Analysis Network”; the international research network “The ‘European Way of Life’: Construction and Critique” (Leiden, Groningen, Helsinki, Jyväskylä, Kraków); They also collaborate with several colleagues from the universities of Amsterdam, Berlin, Bonn, Groningen, Helsinki, Jyväskylä, Kraków, Madrid, and Oxford.

Members of this network have published widely on the topic. A small selection of their key publications on this topic includes the following works:

  • Boletsi, Maria, Janna Houwen, and Liesbeth Minnaard (eds.). Languages of Resistance, Transformation, and Futurity in Mediterranean Crisis-Scapes: From Crisis to Critique. Palgrave Macmillan, 2020. (The introduction to this volume will be published open access in October 2020)
  • Oleart, Alvaro and Astrid Van Weyenberg (eds.). Narrating “Europe”: A Contested Imagined Community. Special Issue Politique Européenne, 2020.

Maria Boletsi

  • “From the Subject of the Crisis to the Subject in Crisis: Middle Voice on Greek Walls.” Journal of Greek Media and Culture. 2.1 (2016). 3-28. This article was also translated in Greek and German and published in The Documenta 14 Reader. Ed. Quinn Latimer and Adam Szymczyk. Prestel / Random House, 2017. 431-468.
  • “Recasting the Indebted Subject in the Middle Voice.” Social Science Information. 58.3 (2019): 430-453.
  • “Rethinking Stasis and Utopianism: Empty Placards and Imaginative Boredom in the Greek Crisis-Scape.” Languages of Resistance, Transformation, and Futurity in Mediterranean Crisis-Scapes: From Crisis to Critique. Ed. Maria Boletsi, Janna Houwen, and Liesbeth Minnaard. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020. 267-290.

Janna Houwen

  • “In the Refugee Machine: The Absence of Crisis and its Critical (Re-) Production.” Languages of Resistance, Transformation, and Futurity in Mediterranean Crisis-Scapes: From Crisis to Critique. Ed. Maria Boletsi, Janna Houwen, and Liesbeth Minnaard. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020. 43-62.
  • “Video Against the Machine: Lens-Based Interventions in the Refugee Crisis.” FKW: Zeitschrift für Geschlechterforschung und visuelle Kultur 2019, 66. 72-87.
  • “An Empty Table and an Empty Boat: Emphatic Encounters with Refugee Experiences in Intermedial Installation Art.” American, British and Canadian Studies Journal 27.1 (2016). 44-73.

Liesbeth Minnaard

  • With Kea Wienand (eds.), Positionierungen. Kritische Antworten auf die „Flüchtlingskrise“ in Kunst und Literatur // Taking Positions on the “Refugee Crisis”: Critical Responses in Art and Literature. Special issue of FKW: Zeitschrift für Geschlechterforschung und visuelle Kultur 2019, 66 (September).
  • “Lampedusa in Europe; or Touching Tales of Vulnerability.” Languages of Resistance, Transformation, and Futurity in Mediterranean Crisis-Scapes: From Crisis to Critique. Ed. Maria Boletsi, Janna Houwen, and Liesbeth Minnaard. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020
  • “Heb je dat, betrokken blanke wereldburger?” De vluchtelingencrisis, betrokkenheid en opportunisme in twee werken van Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer. Tijdschrift voor Nederlandse Taal- en Letterkunden. 2020, (3) 136.

Astrid Van Weyenberg

  • “European History in Display.” Narrating “Europe”: A Contested Imagined Community. Special Issue Politique Européenne. Eds. Alvaro Oleart and Astrid Van Weyenberg, 2020.
  • “’Burgers van Europa’: Bedenkingen bij de Retoriek van Verbondenheid.” COLLATERAL: Online Journal for Cross-Cultural Close Reading. Cluster 21, 2019.
  • “Repairing Europe: A Critical Reading of Storytelling in European Cultural Projects.” Peripheral Visions in the Globalizing Present. Eds. Hanneke Stuit, Esther Peeren and Astrid Van Weyenberg. Amsterdam: Brill, 2016.
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