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Conference “Reference Cultures and Imagined Empires from a Western Perspective, 1850-2000”

Westward snipConference ‘Reference Cultures and Imagined Empires’

On 11, 12 and 13 June 2014 the conference ‘Reference Cultures and Imagined Empires from a Western perspective, 1850-2000’ will be held in Utrecht. Since a broad range of topics will be discussed by many international speakers this conference may be interesting to many of you.

The conference is 100 euro including conference dinner. The day fee is 20 euro (without dinner). Student can attend the conference for free (excluding the conference dinner). Please register via referencecultures@uu.nl.

This conference explores the concept of reference culture as a way to approach the cultural dimensions of territorial and non-territorial power. By studying reference cultures we want to draw attention to the fact that cultures may assume a role as benchmark or model, both positive and negative, in the international circulation of ideas and practices.

 Reference cultures offer a model that other cultures may imitate, adapt, or resist. In contrast to essentialist and territorial concepts such as empire and nation, the idea of reference cultures allows us to address the shifting subjectivities central to cultural encounters. We take reference cultures to be mental constructs or “cognitive maps” that do not necessarily represent a geopolitical reality with an internal hierarchy and recognizable borders. They may take the form of imagined empires and may also be informed by utopian visions or mythological pasts. Such reference societies are typically established and negotiated in public discourse over a long period of time.

  This conference aims to open up this new field of historical inquiry by exploring the role of these transcultural models within western history in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This includes transatlantic history as well as the complex cultural relations between the West and “the Rest”. We encourage papers that explore and interrogate the concept of “reference cultures” by investigating its theoretical and empirical validity, or by exploring concrete historical examples of transnational or trans-local referencing, cultural adaption/hybridization, or resistance.

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