Experiencing Space – Spacing Experience

PhD School at the Faculty of Humanities at University of Copenhagen

Concepts, Practices and Materialities

European Summer School in Cultural Studies ESSCS 2013
PhDnet Literary and Cultural Studies Summer School 2013 in cooperation with the RuhrTriennale Festival for the Arts 2013

Experience takes time – whether it occurs as a surprising moment or grows out of long-term practice. Yet, the term experience is not only bound to a temporal logic. The PhDnet/ESSCS Summer School Experiencing Space – Spacing Experience aims, namely, to explore the spatial dimensions of experience: The German word for experience, “Erfahrung,” etymologically stems from words like to wander or ramble (Umherschweifen) and to cross or perambulate (Durchwandern). Not only the eventful experience of a short moment but also the gradual, long-term gathering of experience are linked to the specific materiality of places, such as schools, laboratories, workshops, sporting fields, etc. Experiences gathered in one particular place can be valueless and even hindrances outside of the spatial specificity in which they happen or are culled.

The Summer School draws upon a long tradition in philosophical, theoretical and empirical scholarship that deals with the concept of experience, ranging from ancient philosophy to European classics by, for instance, Kant, Schopenhauer, Locke and Kierkegaard and more recent works by Oskar Negt, Alexander Kluge and Bernhard Waldenfels, among others. Raymond Williams developed a term for experience throughout the second half of the 20th century which illustrates the ambivalence sketched above and in which experience is a kind of “knowledge gathered from past events, whether by conscious observation or by consideration and reflection” as well as “a particular kind of consciousness, which can in some contexts be distinguished from ‘reason’ or ‘knowledge’”. Experiences that are truly eventful can transform the routine continuity of gathered experiences, throw former experiences into question and usher in states of inexperience.

In addition to these frameworks, the Summer School addresses theoretical approaches that could be organized under the label of the ‘spatial turn’ and which investigate what constitutes various types of space and experience. Which practices contribute to the reciprocal relationship between space and experience? In what way are topologies created and how do they affect subjectivity? The interdisciplinary PhDnet/ESSCS Summer School turns its attention to these key topics – experience and space – within the study of culture to consider their positions within phenomena of transformation and materialization. To pursue these lines of inquiry, the Summer School has chosen a programmatic location. It will take place in cooperation with the RuhrTriennale, an international festival that offers a wide-ranging cultural program within the impressive monuments of the Ruhr area and under the direction of Heiner Goebbels. The venue alone brings spatial experience front and centre. The Ruhr area’s coal mines, coke ovens and industrial halls are assigned new meanings, transformed into spaces for experiences entirely different from those for which they were originally intended. Beyond its aesthetic dimensions, the Ruhr region – with its complex social and cultural processes of transformation – offers a variety of impulses for reflecting upon the relationship between experience and space that even extend to questions such as how a metropolitan region consisting of 53 cities and communities can possibly be experienced.

Contributions to the Summer School can deal with artistic forms of the RuhrTriennale and its region but are by no means restricted to these topics. The program is much more geared toward all PhD students and post-docs working within disciplines that relate to the study of culture (the humanities, philosophy, sociology, political science, fine arts, theater studies, literary and media studies); exploring the relationship between space and (in)experience as sketched above; and seeking a forum for rigorous, interdisciplinary dialogue.

In addition to providing the opportunity to present and discuss one’s own research project, the Summer School offers an attractive academic program with Keynote Lectures and Master Classes and will organize a range of activities that integrate the RuhrTriennale Festival.

Possible topics include the following facets of spatial experience, as well as their treatment within fictional forms of media, in short: their symbolic representations:

  • Transformations of space and spatial experience (e.g. climate change, gentrification)
  • Socially differentiated experiences of space
  • Augmented reality: the interplay between fictional and factual experiences of space (e.g. literary and television-series tourism)
  • Experience of things and experience of space: subjectivity and materiality (e.g. the staging of space in museums)
  • Metaphors and spatial experience (e.g. the city as body)
  • Practices for experiencing space (e.g. eventisation, cocooning)
  • Experience of non-places (airports, parking lots, etc.)
  • Experience of closed and open spaces
  • Sexualising space (e.g. cruising areas)

Select Bibliography:

  • Liz Bondi, Joyce Davidson and Mick Smith (eds.). Emotional Geographies, Aldershot 2005.
  • Katrin Dennerlein. Narratologie des Raumes, Berlin/New York 2009.
  • Wolfgang Hallet and Birgit Neumann (eds.). Raum und Bewegung in der Literatur. Die Literaturwissenschaften und der Spatial Turn, Bielefeld 2009.
  • Martina Löw. Raumsoziologie, Frankfurt (Main) 2001.
  • Doreen B. Massey. Space, Place, and Gender, Minneapolis 1994.


Please submit your abstracts (max. 250 words) for 20-minute presentations together with three to five keywords and a short CV (5-10 lines) to Christine Schwanecke, ipp@ggk.uni-giessen.de until April 15, 2013. The selection process will be completed until June 3, 2013. Please also notify your host institution about your application (phdschool@hum.ku.dk).

The 2013 European Summer School in Cultural Studies (ESSCS)/PhDnet Literary and Cultural Studies Summer School is jointly organized by the International Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture (GCSC), the PhDnet Literary and Cultural Studies Summer School (PhDnet) and the International PhD Programme in Literary and Cultural Studies (IPP), in close cooperation with the RuhrTriennale Festival for the Arts http://www.ruhrtriennale.de/en/.