The Uncanny City
Strangers and Strangeness in Urban Literature
Conference: 15-16th June, 2017
Abstract submission closed
The conference will be held at the Sir Roland Wilson Building, at The Australian National University in Canberra.
Dr Matthew Beaumont (University College London)
Dr Brigid Rooney (University of Sydney)
Call for Papers
Cities are in constant flux as chaotic, amorphous spaces of hybridity and cultural contamination. According to Bill Ashcroft, they operate “in an interstitial space between the nation and the world.” As cultural nerve centres and hubs of trade and administration, they often represent a nation to the world and yet urban landscapes with their radical openness, creativity and dissent create their own spaces of contestation that can potentially unsettle any totalising discourse of national identity. There is a quintessential strangeness or subversive residue in a city that remains unmappable within a single, homogeneous narrative of identity. Everyone who dwells in the city sees it differently, inhabiting different spaces and generally functioning within defined territories. Thus, the encounter with “strangeness” and strangers in our everyday may happen in random ways. Sometimes we simply stumble into other people’s maps and realities outside our comfort zone that bring us in contact with the “otherness” of city, lurking beyond the peripheries of the familiar. However, the protean and ever-changing face of the city shaped by incongruous and heterogeneous affects, ideas, sentiments and aspirations also induces a sense of crushing disconnectedness, a feeling that we live as strangers. To grapple with the myriad forms of alienation, cities have simultaneously built up strong cultures of commensality through different communal activities, sporting cultures, friendship and urban sociality in the public domain to create, however falteringly, a sense of being at home in the city.
As fecund sites of imagination, yearning, desire and fantasy, the metropolis opens up spaces that are crucial in bringing about significant political and creative transformations. This symposium calls for the multifarious ways of representing the city space in literary and cultural narratives, particularly in the light of its contradictions, and overlaps between the familiar/familial and the manifold categories of “strange,” “alien” and “unknown” that a city breeds and comprises in itself. It aims to look at the ways in which the city has engendered and dealt with the polarities of intimacy and aloofness or isolation in private and public spheres. This negotiation with difference/distance and connectedness extends to different realms, interfaces and contact zones of representation, be it in the diverse range of affective realities clamouring for coexistence in urban spaces, or in the subversive ideologies, art forms and literature that challenges the mainstream and the habitual.
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Abstract submissions are now closed. Selected presenters will be informed by the 25th of March, 2017.
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