From Wednesday June 20 until Friday June 22, 2018, 180 scholars, students and artists will participate in the conference Urban Matters: Material Engagements with Communities and Borders in Times of Movement at Utrecht University. The conference is situated on the intersection of two approaches to the study of materiality and meaning-making: the philosophical tradition of new materialism, on the one hand, and, on the other, material religious and urban studies.
A technologically mediated world
Today’s world is heavily technologically mediated. Our bodies and sensory apparatus, as well as our homes and cities, are becoming more and more algorithmically regulated. Equally effective, and oftentimes known only through their consequences, are influences of the natural environment, also in our built environments that are generally seen as being culturally shaped and shaping culture. Examples here are water shortage or surplus, and pollution.
Inclusive material turn
Studying material infrastructures helps us figure out and discuss how nature, culture, and technologies have always already influenced our perceptions, emotions, knowledges, beliefs, ethics. What im/perceptible roles do digital and other media play in how we live our lives, how we do the sensing and knowing of the world, how we imagine and experience the other-worldly? Theoretically, the conference asks how the material turns of ‘new materialism’ and of ‘material approaches’ in fields such as media and urban studies and anthropology converge and diverge? Communities and borders in pluriform cities in Europe and beyond provide a particularly fertile ground for experimenting with these interactions and for working towards an inclusive ‘material turn.’
The conference consists of two keynote speakers, three plenary panels and 23 parallel panels. Some urgent topics are:
- Practices of Religious and Activist Place-Making
- Toxic and Postindustrial Cities
- Urban Encounters and Interfaces
- Community in Cities, Migration, and the Materiality of Media
The conference is organised by Humanities scholars and Social Scientists, all from Utrecht, and initiated by both the research programme Religious Matters in an Entangled World and by participants in the COST Action New Materialism: Networking European Scholarship on ‘How Matter Comes to Matter’ (2014-18). The conference is sponsored by the Descartes Centre for the History and Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities, the research programme Religious Matters in an Entangled World and the research focus area Cultures, Citizenship, and Human Rights.