CFP – Displacements Women’s Writing and Creative Practices in Modern Central and Southeastern Europe

Women’s Writing and Creative Practices in Modern Central and southeastern Europe. Emancipatory Experiences and Transnational Trajectories?

Organizers: Mateusz Chmurski, Clara Royer, Lola Sinoimeri
Time and Place: March 16-18, 2023 – CEFRES (CNRS-MEAE), Prague
Proposal Deadline: October 15, 2022
Languages of the conference: French, English

Scientific Committee:
Anna Borgos (Magyar Tudományos Akadémia), Libuše Heczková
(Univerzita Karlova), Luba Jurgenson (Sorbonne Université), Iwona Kurz (Uniwersytet Warszawski), Jasmina Lukić (Central European University), Markéta Theinhardt (Sorbonne Université)

Partners: EUR’ORBEM (CNRS-Sorbonne Université) – CEFRES (CNRS-MEAE) – Ústav české literatury a komparatistiky, Filosofická fakulta, Univerzita Karlova – Instytut Kultury Polskiej, Wydział Polonistyki, Uniwersytet Warszawski

Using a transnational approach, this conference tries to bring together and confront the polysemic category of dépaysement (exile, uprootedness, dislodgement – hereinafter coupled with its imperfect English equivalent, displacement) with the literary and artistic trajectories of Central European women. It is an attempt to see how the experience of dépaysement/displacementin its variety of meanings (exile, disorientation, dislocation, but also ec-centric creativity or transfer of marginalized traditions) — fuels the creative and writing practices of women from a region that has been torn between different imperial structures (Bartov & Weitz 2013), marked by mass violence (the Holocaust, forced migrations, war crimes) and where culture has always been permeated by a strong dialectical relationship between norms and transgressive gestures – with the later themselves tending to gain strong normative undertones (Royer 2019). The starting point of this conference is that the social, political, and cultural engagements prodding women artists from a variety of fields — artists, photographers, musicians, actresses, directors, literary figures (authors, critics, translators, etc.) — to reinvent themselves elsewhere requires a type of historical analysis that pays attention to the variety of practices of dépaysement: displacement that could be as much geographical as creative or even epistemic.

In recent years, the notion of dépaysement has become an analytical category frequently used in social sciences or the humanities (e.g. Balandier 2009; Roelens 2015). A similar claim can be made for its partial English analogue, displacement, which has sparked fruitful debates in sociology, anthropology, or literature (among others see Smith 2010; Baronian, Besser & Jansen 2016; Yiftachel 2020; Choudhury & Sengupta 2022, but also the Displacement Research and Action Network based at MIT). In the case of literary studies, the theoretical import of dépaysement/displacement is echoed by recent developments in the field of geo-criticism, gender studies or eco-criticism. Moreover, as Marie-Hélène Boblet and Marie Hartmann have noticed, the close connection between dépaysement and literary and aesthetic theory(ies) has very much influenced the humanities’ evolution in the last century: the aesthetic potentialities of this constellation of experiences can be seen as essential in the emergence of different interpretative categories like Viktor Shklovsky’s defamiliarization (ostranenie) or Brecht’s distancing effect (Boblet & Hartmann 2018).

For Central Europe asking the question of women’s artistic displacements requires a reinterpretation of an entire conceptual series: the notions of exile and diaspora, of cosmopolitism and internationalism, of the transnational or the transcultural fields structuring the region. If the experience of exile — mostly men’s exile — has been profusely studied in the contexts of Central Europe (Jechová & Wlodarczyk 1987; Smorag-Goldberg 1997; Neubauer & Török 2009, etc.) or Southeastern Europe (e.g. Comberiati 2010; Comberiati & Bond 2013; Grujičić 2019), exile does not completely subsume dépaysement or even displacement as such. On the contrary, one might think of exile as a subcategory of displacement; such a notion, more capacious and structurally more dynamic, opens up towards experiences which are not easily readable as mere exile: transgression of norms and frontiers which are not simply geographical or political.

In addition, the usage of the term dépaysement fulfills as much a heuristic as an experimental function, proposing an efficient way of circumventing methodological nationalism (Beck 2007, 2014). Thus, on the one hand it allows us to point out and rethink the variety of normative contexts in which the women artists and writers of Central Europe found themselves integrated or even confined in: different competing nationalism and their everyday practices; the literary field with its patriarchal hierarchies; different imperial and regional dynamics, etc. One of the stakes of this conference would be to unravel these diverse normative contexts, their interrelations, and points of contact, as well as their effects on the women we study. On the other hand, the notion of dépaysement might enable us to reanalyze the everyday experience of these normative contexts: the strategies and the types of negotiations undertook to transform, deconstruct, defy, or even surpass them by creating different social alternatives.

Taking into consideration uncommon trajectories (marginal or rather marginalized by the national cultural cannons of the region) which transgress political, linguistic, or intellectual frontiers can thus prove, as Agatha Schwarz and Helga Thorson have pointed out, a necessary task if we want to unravel the complex networks of interlinkages, transfers and practices born from the disjunctive offset of languages, cultures, and frontiers that defines the region (Schwarz & Thorson 2017).

Thus, the study of such transcultural phenomena of 20th century Central Europe can help in showcasing the historical importance of this kind of (apparently) atypical trajectories and cultural configurations which crisscross, nevertheless, repetitively the region’s cultural history, in what Mitterbauer & Smith-Prei (2017) describe as a rhizomic movement. Observing the writing and other creative practices of what Irène Némirovski called les désaxées (the ec-centric women) in a historicized, localized, and gendered fashion, while at the same time focusing on the representations which surrounded and framed them, will provide more historical and theoretical insights into the intersection between displacements and the various self-(re)invention(s) that they occasioned. Some of the questions that we tackle are:

  • Does the forced or voluntary crossing(s) of different frontiers (political, cultural, linguistic, etc.) necessarily open different emancipatory or creative opportunities? Does it automatically result in a surplus of alterity? And at what price?
  • Can such an experience be restructured, renegotiated through the creative work that it occasioned and in what ways?
  • How is the experience of loss (of countries, languages, selves) configured within such creative projects?
  • What is the relationship between the emancipatory potentialities of displacement(s) and the various normative discourses (political, social, aesthetic, etc.) that such an emancipation tries to surpass and/or recreate?
  • How is the relationship with oneself and with the others restructured by such experiences of displacement? What is the role played by different languages (artistic, literary, musical) in such restructuring of the self?
  • Are there specific models of displacement(s)? Can we talk about a plurality of such models in a particular body of work? Can this plurality lead to contradictory, conflicting mixtures?

In a nutshell, the central question we would like to pose is: how can a woman create, build, and live within “a room of one’s own” (Woolf 1929) which is constantly displaced, permanently on the move; an errancy which is at once migratory, political, and linguistic or simply an intimacy on the run?

Contributions focusing on these questions and that draw on at least two personal trajectories of women writers/creators are especially welcome. Young researchers are warmly encouraged to apply. Proposals should include a title, an abstract of approximately 300 words and a short bio (including relevant publications). They can be sent, until October 15, 2022, to:

Preliminary Bibliography

  • Balandier 2009 : Georges Balandier, Le Dépaysement contemporain. L’immédiat et l’essentiel, entretiens avec Joël Birman et Claudine Haroche, Paris, Presses universitaires de France.
  • Baronian, Besser & Jansen 2016 : Marie-Aude Baronian, Stephan Besser, and Yolande Jansen, Eds. Diaspora and Memory: Figures of Displacement in Contemporary Literature, Arts and Politics. Brill.
  • Bartov & Weitz 2013 : Omer Bartov & Eric D. Weitz (dir.), Shatterzone of Empires. Coexistence and violence in the German, Habsburg, Russian, and Ottoman Borderlands, Bloomington-Indiana, Bloomington University Press.
  • Beck 2007 : Ulrich Beck, « Cosmopolitical Realism: On the Distinction between Cosmopolitanism in Philosophy and the Social Sciences », Global Networks, vol. 4, 2004, n° 2, p. 131-156.
  • Beck 2014 : Ulrich Beck, « Nationalisme méthodologique – cosmopolitisme méthodologique : un changement de paradigme dans les sciences sociales », Raisons politiques, n° 2 (54), p. 103-120.
  • Boblet & Hartmann 2018 : Marie Hartmann, Marie-Hélène Boblet (dir.), Le Dépaysement dans la littérature et le cinéma aux XXe et XXIe siècles, L’Entre-deux, n° 4.
  • Bond & Comberiati, 2013 : Emma Bond & Daniele Comberiati (dir.), Il confine liquido : rapporti letterari e interculturali fra Italia e Albania, Nardò, Besa.
  • Choudhury & Sengupta 2022 : Choudhury Suranjana & Sengupta Nabanita, Eds. Understanding Women’s Experiences of Displacement Literature, Culture and Society in South Asia, Routledge India.
  • Comberiati 2010 : Daniele Comberiati, Scrivere nella lingua dell’altro : la letteratura degli immigrati in Italia (1989-2007), Bruxelles, Peter Lang.
  • Federici 2016 : Anna Federici, Écrivaines italiennes de la migration balkanique, thèse de doctorat en Études italiennes sous la direction de Margherita Orsino et Flavia Cristaldi, Université Toulouse 2-Le Mirail.
  • Grujičić 2019 : Milica Grujičić, Autoren südosteuropäischer Herkunft im transkulturellen Kontext, Berlin, Peter Lang.
  • Jechová & Wlodarczyk 1987 : Hana Jechova & Hélène Włodarczyk (dir.), Émigration et exil dans les cultures tchèque et polonaise, Paris, Presses Universitaires de Paris-Sorbonne.
  • Mitterbauer & Smith-Prei 2017 : Helga Mitterbauer & Carrie Smith-Prei, Eds. Crossing Central Europe. Continuities and Transformations, 1900 and 2000, Toronto, University of Toronto Press.
  • Neubauer & Török 2009 : John Neubauer & Borbála Zsuzsanna Török, Eds. The Exile and Return of Writers from East-Central Europe. A compendium, Berlin, de Gruyter.
  • Proto Pisani 2013 : Anna Proto Pisani, Dans une autre langue: Écrire l’altérité: femmes, migrations et littérature en Italie (1994-2010), thèse de doctorat en Études romanes sous la dir. de Claudio Milanesi, Université d’Aix-Marseille.
  • Roelens 2015 : Nathalie Roelens, Éloge du dépaysament, Paris, Kimé.
  • Royer 2019 : Clara Royer, « Introduction. Normes et transgressions dans la littérature polonaise », Revue des études slaves, vol. XC, fasc. 4 |, 2019, p. 525-527.
  • Schwarz & Thorson 2017 : Agatha Schwartz & Helga Thorson, « The Aesthetics of Change: Women Writers from the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy » in Mitterbauer & Smith-Prei 2017, p. 27-50.
  • Smith 2010: Daniel Smith, « Social Fluidity and Social Displacement », The Sociological Review, n° 58/4, p. 680-698.
  • Woolf 1929 : Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own, Londres, Hogarth Press.
  • Yiftachel 2020 : Oren Yiftachel, « From displacement to displaceability », City, n° 24/1-2, p. 151-165.