Circle 3: The Praxis of Social Imaginaries. Cosmologies, Othering and Liminality

Circle 3: The Praxis of Social Imaginaries. Cosmologies, Othering and Liminality

Circle 3 Website: https://scalar.usc.edu/works/praxis-of-social-imaginaries/
Contact us: praxis.social.imaginaries@gmail.com

This study circle works through three different strategies: praxes of reading, listening and the telling of stories. The project can be described as a cosmological artistic intervention. By bringing artists, activists and researchers from different disciplines together in laboratories of praxis, we want to create a transformational learning environment and study how shifts in awareness and epistemic paradigms may occur.     

The Praxis of Reading
The praxis of reading will take two different forms. Artists, activists and researchers will be delving into medieval cosmology by reading a series of travelling accounts. We will critically engage with works of learned elite of medieval Europe, describing their encounters with the people and cultures at the borders of their ‘world’ through close reading and co-contextualization with counter-narratives and authoethnographies. Historians and theologians like Mary Louise Pratt, Geraldine Heng and Willie James Jennings have identified that these particular stories were at the core of what created and spread the racialised social imaginary that later became a racialised gaze of white Christian Europeans. Jennings further argues that this inverted, distorted vision of creation reduced theological anthropology to commodified bodies at the same time as it disrupted the relationship to land, place and creatureliness of Christian white westerners.[1] By following this formation in the texts spanning from the period of the 11th to the 16th century, we hope that the participants in the circle will gain deep insights into how questions of race[2] and relationship to creation are intertwined.

The second type of reading material will consist of biographies. The particular biographies that we intend to read focus on stories told by people today living in the Nordics. These will include stories from underrepresented populations in university settings – including but not limited to racialised and Indigenous peoples, sexual and gender minorities, people with disabilities, as well as those living under economically, religiously and politically precarious circumstances.[3] Reading these stories is a reading praxis that will run throughout the study circle with zoom meetings every second month.

The Praxis of Listening

In the laboratories, the praxis of listening refers to both the fact that the texts we encounter come from lived experiences of marginalised people in the Nordics as well as historic and diverse worldviews. The praxis of listening will also take the form of listening to each other’s experiences of the joint reading. This includes the expertise of Indigenous peoples.

The Praxis of Telling Stories

Finally, the praxis of telling stories arises when both artists and researchers are guided into interpreting how the praxis of reading and listening could be transferred into their particular fields of work. All of the medieval travelling accounts carry, for example, descriptions of dancing, cultural customs, food, weather, and animal and landscape descriptions that we hope will inspire further explorations by both artists and researchers. Our aim is that the praxis of telling stories will lead to artistic collaborations arising from the time spent together. The study circle will create joint article publications, an anthology and artistic exhibitions. For the latter, we are collaborating with events like Aboagora and European Night of Research.


[1] Jennings 2010, 58.

[2] Our working definition on racism is: In principle, race theory (…) understands, of course, that race has no singular or stable referent: that race is a structural relationship for the articulation and management of human differences, rather than a substantive content. Heng 2018, 19.

[3] These books will be selected considering the language preferences of the participants. Some suggestions are: Riikka Tanner and Tuula Lind’s Käheä-ääninen tyttö (2009); Sanna Hedman’s Henry Hedman – Kärrynpyörä, taivas ja maa, (2013); Niillas Holmberg Halle Helle (2020); Nura Farah’s Aavikon tyttäret (2014) or Aurinkotyttö (2019); Elin Anna Labba’s Herrarna satte oss hit:om tvångsförflyttningarna i Sverige (2020); Elin Cullhed’s Eufori. En roman om Sylvia Plath (2021).

Winter Symposium:
University of Oslo, Norway
March 3-7 2023

Information on our Winter Symposium can be found here.

Välkomna till vår studiecirkel!

Under dom kommande tre åren kommer vi att bekanta oss med medeltida reseskildringar.

Idén är att vi ger oss ut på en spännande resa i historiska och etnografiska material där resor vid Europas yttersta gränser skildras av medeltida lärda människor. Under tre års tid kommer vi att tillsammans utforska berättelser med start hos Gerald av Wales (c. 1146 – 1223) besök på Irland och Wales, William av Rubrucks (1248–1255) och Marco Polos (1254-1324) resor österut, Ibn Khalduns (1332-1406) besök i Afrika, Xu Guangqis (1562 – 1633) och Matteo Riccis (1552-1610) beskrivningar av Kina, Olaus Magnus (1490-1553) resor i Norden och slutligen José de Acostas (1540-1600) och Bartolomé de las Casas (1484-1566) seglatser över Atlanten. Genom att följa skilldringarna ser vi hur blicken på “den andre” skiftar och formas genom århundradena så att slutligen visar sig den rasifierade blicken där den vite mannen anses vara “skapelsens krona”. Berättelserna skapar också ett samband mellan hur ett västerländskt rasifierat tänkande växer fram sida vid sida med ett vetenskapligt utforskande av världen – en världssyn som tror sig kunna manipulera och styra över både kroppar och materia.

Samtidigt innehåller berättelserna även många rika natur och kulturbeskrivningar som kan inspirera till utforskning av sambanden mellan då och nu. Därtill möter läsaren av texterna kunskaps och samhällsystem som är väldigt olika den västerlänningar idag är vana vid. Dessa kanske öppnar upp helt nya sätt för oss att närma oss varandra och världen vi lever i!? Genom mötet med varandra och texterna, och genom samtal med special-inbjudna gäster så som den samiska danskonstnären Ola Stinnerbom önskar vi skapa utrymme för kreativa dialoger kring teman som hållbar utveckling och utanförskap idag. Du är varmt välkommen att vara en av dem som bidrar till dessa samtal och denna dialog genom din konst och din forskningsexpertis!

I mars 2023 är det Gerald av Wales som vi börjar läsa tillsammans under en gemensam tre-dagars träff i Oslo. Deltagandet i symposiet fungerar även som en kurs i vetenskapskommunikation inom kurshelheten Social Justice and Sustainability för magisters och forskarstuderanden vid Åbo Akademi. Se på vår hemsida hur du kan ansöka om att få delta!

Coordinators:

Laura Hellsten
Coordinator Study Circle 3

(hon/hän/she)

Finland

Dr. Lindsey Drury
Coordinator Study Circle 3

(she/sie)

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