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21st Transatlantic Students Symposium

Transatlantic Space(s): Interstitial Ties between Utopia and Reality

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Oregon State University,
University of Warsaw
New York (TBC)
March 25-April 2, 2023


Program Description

"The only way through a crisis of space is to invent a new space"
- Frederic Jameson, Universal Abandon

The transatlantic space has always been imagined as holding the possibility of creating a different, maybe even better world. From conceptions of Utopia, a New Atlantis, the State of Nature, the modern remaking of the entire world, to the creation or imagination of actual utopian communities in both North and South America, the contrast between the legacy of the "old" and the promise of the "new" world has remained a major engine for social and political change on both sides of the Atlantic.

While such cultural and social constructions have been extremely productive in promoting and creating change, the nature of that change has affected different communities in oftentimes starkly dissimilar ways. Someone's utopia typically has always come at the price of being someone else's dystopia. This is reflected in the well-known legacies of colonialism, slavery, modernization and political revolutions affecting the entirety of the Americas, Europe and Africa which have become irretrievably interlinked spatially and socially across several centuries.

As Eric Prieto has noted, "space is a fundamental, ineliminable dimension of existence, which manifests itself in every aspect of material, psychological, and social life." In reflecting on space, we might consider not only physical spaces, but also the psychological, political, environmental, social identity, historical and future spaces, and the connections between them, the places - physical and metaphorical - that connect all these different tissues together as they are stitched together in our shared global social fabric.

The 2023 Transatlantic Students Symposium shall therefore examine the interrelationship between space, time, and social life. Imaginaries of space (George Lipsitz) have always undergirded, expressed, supported and sometimes even created social hierarchies. Let's remember that even seemingly innocuous spaces like National Parks were segregated and still define America's identity as a settler colonial state. The title "interstitial spaces" tries to describe a perspective on space, in which one space always stands in relation to other spaces (beyond, around, before or after) - the parks stand in relation to the surrounding industrial spaces, the borderlands stand in relation to the heartlands. Interstices are also intervals of time (such as on your analog watch) - so interstitial spaces also refer to ephemeral or transitional spaces (Marc Augé has called some of them "non-lieus:" non-spaces). Moreover, interstitial spaces can refer to spaces of transition, through which e.g. migrants move when they enter a country, such as Ellis island, Angel Island, and, perhaps, Little Italy, the Lower East Side, and Chinatown; as well as the connections between different and disparate communities, what William Gibson has referred to as "bridge" spaces.

In this respect, the transatlantic space itself is a site of interstitial connections, disconnections and (re)imaginings. Following the framework of Frederic Jameson, space in itself may also serve as new spaces of resistance populated by individuals who seek to break clear of categories of space over categories of time that limit human potential and meaning. In such instances, how does one bridge between time and space, the individual and the collective? In what ways is space a labile and contextual construct, particularly over time? How does this construct affect individual lives, institutional structures, policy, built and natural environments, as well as psychological and societal states of being?

The symposium will provide a chance for critical reflection and analysis of social and political relations throughout space and time, at the backdrop of the multitude of crises affecting our world today, be they the ongoing global pandemic, the war in Ukraine, climate change, social upheaval, the changing role of the transatlantic relationship, and the increasing efforts to come to face with the legacies of colonialism. We will explore the influence and significance of spaces, the cruelty and affordance of spaces, the liberation and limitations through spaces in society, politics and culture.

The 21st Transatlantic Students Symposium will bring together students and faculty from Oregon State University, Humboldt University Berlin, the University of Warsaw and other partners. Students will be prepared by seminars held at all participating campuses. We are looking forward to a joint field trip in spring of 2023.


Dr. Philipp Kneis, Dr. Allison Davis-White Eyes,
Dr. Megan Ward (OSU),
Dr. Martin Klepper, Dr. Selma Bidlingmaier (Humboldt),
Dr. Tomasz Basiuk, Natalia Pamuła (Warsaw)

see also: Latest Program Report

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