Nanne Timmer is a University Lecturer at the Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society. 'As a lecturer in Latin American cultural analysis, my research is intimately concerned with interculturality and cultural translation. In both my teaching and my research, one of my goals is to listen carefully to stories from specific and diverse cultural backgrounds, even when at first those stories might not be easy to understand. Both as a scholar and at a personal level, I am driven by a desire to engage with divergent social, political, and cultural contexts, never taking any meaning for granted. The richness and diversity of Latin American culture provides a never-ending source of inspiration for my research.'
Fields of interest
- Latin American cultural analysis
- New Media, Civil Society, and the Internet in Cuba
- Interculturality, Cultural Translation, Migrant Literature
- Cuban Studies, Caribbean Studies
- Literature, Law and Politics
- The Body and Performance Studies
- Gender and Latin American Arts
- Environmental Humanities
- Urban Writing and Multilingual Poetry
As a lecturer in Latin American cultural analysis, my research is intimately concerned with interculturality and cultural translation. In both my teaching and my research, one of my goals is to listen carefully to stories from specific and diverse cultural backgrounds, even when at first those stories might not be easy to understand. Both as a scholar and at a personal level, I am driven by a desire to engage with divergent social, political, and cultural contexts, never taking any meaning for granted. The richness and diversity of Latin American culture provides a never-ending source of inspiration for my research.
I have taught at Utrecht University (Netherlands), the University of Antwerp (Belgium) and Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina (Brazil). I obtained my PhD at Leiden University in 2004 with a dissertation on postmodern Cuban literature (supervisor Luz Rodríguez Carranza). Since then, I have become interested in the relationships between subjectivity and discourse, art and politics, and the body and biopolitics.
These interests have been key in many of my recent research projects. In 2013, I edited, introduced and contributed to Ciudad y escritura. Imaginario de la ciudad latinoamericana a las puertas del siglo XXI (The City and Writing: Latin America at the beginning of the XXIst Century), a volume of essays on the Latin American megalopolis and its urban imaginaries. The scholars contributing to this volume examined fictional cartographies in São Paulo and Santiago de Chile, performance poetry in Mexico City, testimonies of violence and migration in Medellín and Lima, and the use of blogging to create virtual cities in Havana and San Juan.
In 2018, I edited, introduced and contributed to Cuerpos Ilegales. Sujeto, poder y escritura en América Latina (Illegal Bodies: Subject, Power, and Writing in Latin America), a volume of essays studying the ways that bodies are subjected to discourses of power and the possibilities for the arts to challenge legal, moral and political regimes. Among other cultural expressions, contributors discussed Chilean film; Argentinean, Mexican and Colombian performance art; Venezuelan poetry; and Cuban theatre.
One of my ongoing research interests is the tension between official and unofficial journals in Cuba. As part of my graduate research (1997), I studied the official journal Casa de las Américas. This was part of a larger project around Latin American cultural journals. Studying these journals sparked my interest in cultural historiography and in conceptualizing history in relation to politics. Some of my recent articles (2012 and 2021) focus on the underground poetry journal Diáspora(s) in the 90s and on online journals and communities in present-day Cuba, where a digital revolution and alternative journalism have had a substantial impact on culture and civil society. Debates around dramatization and theatricality in relation to the political are crucial to understand this specific context, which puts play, performance, and the law at stake.
Many of my earlier interests come together in my most recent book, El presente incómodo: subjetividad en crisis y novelas cubanas después del muro (2021) (The Uncanny Present: Subjectivity in Crisis and Cuban Novels After the Berlin Wall). In this book, I analyze cultural transitions and negotiations between art and politics in Cuba from 1989 to 2020. Through the close reading of thirteen novels, I study a problematic notion of temporality “entre muros” (after the fall of the Berlin Wall and before the construction of Donald Trump’s “Wall,” itself just before the COVID-19 pandemic) in both a specific national setting (“postsoviet” Cuba) and the global setting.
Another recent project relates to emerging forms of (eco)feminism in the Hispanic Caribbean. Here I am interested in sexual dissident identities, maternities, and post-apocalyptic representations of the environmental crisis. I address some of these themes in a first draft of “Vloedgolven en rukwinden in literatuur uit Cuba, Puerto Rico en de Dominicaanse Republiek” (“Tidal Waves and Gusts in Literature from Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic”) (2020). I have also recently been exploring some specific transcultural links such as the Chinese-Cuban and Surinamese-Hispanic connections.
The intercultural dimension of my work is guided by my interests in translation studies, the practice of translating as such, and the boundaries between translation and creative writing. These interests are reflected in Twaalf Verhalen en een Revolutie (Twelve Stories and a Revolution, 2016), an anthology of short stories that I collaborated with a group of former students to edit and translate from Spanish to Dutch; Speech van de dode moeder (Speech of the Dead Mother, 2019), a Cuban theatre piece by Carlos A. Aguilera that I translated from Spanish to Dutch; and Los hombrecitos hasselblad (2019), a collection Dutch poetry by Gerard Fieret that I selected, introduced, and translated to Spanish. I am interested not only in the limits between cultural contexts, but also between languages as such, as well as between the theory and practice of literature. These interests converge in creative writing projects such as the online journal El Nieuwe Acá, which I founded together with a group of former students. In my own creative work, I explore the tensions between performance and (multilingual) poetry, and the limits of scholarly writing.
During my studies—in the Netherlands, Spain, and Cuba—I first started teaching language courses in my spare time. After my PhD I lectured courses at Utrecht University, Antwerp University and Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina (Brasil). At Leiden University, I have taught a range of courses in the BA and (R)MA Latin American Studies, the BA International Studies, the (R)MA Arts and Culture, the (R)MA Media Studies, the (R)MA Literary Studies, and at Leiden University College. You may have met me in one of the following courses, taught in Spanish, English, or Dutch:
- General BA courses on Latin American culture and literature: Latijns-Amerika in Woord en Beeld (BA1 Latin American Studies); Maskers, Identiteit en Latijns-Amerikaanse Cultuur (BA2 Latin American Studies); Het Beeld van de Ander (BA1 Latin American Studies); Culture of Latin America (BA1 International Studies)
- BA and MA courses on specific topics: Censorship and Arts (elective, BA2 International Studies); The Body in Latin American Literature ((R)MA Latin American Studies); La ciudad latinoamericana y su expresión cultural (BA and (R)MA Latin American Studies); Nuevos feminismos latinoamericanos ((R)MA Latin American Studies), Escribir la violencia en América Latina: humor, afecto y cuerpo (Interuniversitary course Masterlanguage)
- Methodological courses: Onderzoeksmethodologie Culturele Analyse Latijns-Amerika (BA3 Latin American Studies); Methods of Cultural Analysis and Critical Readings (MA Latin American Studies); Methods I, II, and III (RMA Latin American Studies); Cultural and Visual Analysis (BA2 Leiden University College)
- MA courses related to literary theory: Interculturality I: Key Concepts ((R)MA Media Studies: Comparative Literature and Literary Theory); Experiences of the Metropolis: From Baudelaire to Benjamin (team-taught, (R)MA Literary Studies and (R)MA Arts and Culture); Literature and Society: Narrative, Fiction and Voice (team-taught, (R)MA Literary Studies)
- Leiden Elective Academic Periodical, a new course which my colleague Astrid van Weyenberg and I developed to guide a group of (R)MA students in publishing a faculty-wide graduate journal
In my lecturing, the transmission of knowledge about my field of expertise (Latin American arts in society) is of equal importance to the way I teach, which involves skills training. I describe my educational vision in my SKO-portfolio (2019):
Far-reaching individualization and obsessive emphasis on success and happiness often lead our education system to become too focused on the pursuit of individual and materially measurable success. As a humanities scholar, I see it as my task to offer a counterbalance to these tendencies. Beyond training students in independent thinking, I particularly aspire to make students think critically about forms of coexistence and cooperation, and about their own roles in these ways of living together. When we talk about “excellence,” I would say that my motto is “excellence in living together,” reflecting my desire to stimulate social engagement. My goal is to produce academic professionals in the humanities who will be sensitive to issues relating to inclusivity, diversity, and social vulnerability when they begin participating in the labor force. I use my substantive experience with other cultures and forms of community to make students aware of the bubbles in which they live and think. I do this through the use of concrete cases in which I ask students not just to formulate their own points of view, but to discuss them with others. I also teach systematic methods of cultural analysis, inviting students to think about intercultural society while avoiding both dogmatism and relativism (e.g. “I’m OK, you’re OK”).
Students are only motivated to learn not when they passively absorb information, but when they are really touched by social issues, texts, or artworks, and when their work is project-based. Course projects that I have facilitated include compiling and translating a short story collection from Spanish to Dutch (Twelve Stories and a Revolution), organizing a colloquium (Cuerpos Illegales), creating a blog, and publishing a graduate journal (Leiden Elective Academic Periodical). Through these projects, I aim to engage students in active research. In this, I fully agree with the “inquiry-based learning” principle in Leiden University’s educational vision. I believe that it is important to allow everyone to speak up and express themselves as clearly as possible. In my seminars, allowing room for creativity, individuality, respect, and safety is essential for fruitful debate.
Timmer N. (2020), Place Becoming Space: Nation and Deterritorialisation in Cuban Narrative of the Twenty-First Century. In: López, M.; Vera-Rojas, M. T. (Eds.) New Perspectives on Hispanic Caribbean Studies. London/ New York: Palgrave/ MacMillan. 67-83.
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