International Graduate Conference 2013

Graduate School of North American Studies, Freie Universität Berlin


Confirmed Keynote Speakers are:



Film Screening on Saturday: Mark Lombardi: Death-Defying Facts of Art and Conspiracy (the film maker Mareike Wegener will be present)


Claiming Space:

Reconfigurations in Times of Crisis

May 24 - 25, 2013

A deep-seated notion of crisis has arguably become a defining feature of today’s United States. The aftermath of the financial meltdown, growing economic disparity, ecological problems, internal political and societal divisions, challenges to the nation’s global standing, and uncertainty about the country’s direction all add up to instill a pervasive sense of insecurity in both internal and external observers.

Moments of crisis and their devastating effects put into question the very foundations on which society rests. Such is the nature of crisis that it unsettles stable structures and generates the need for fundamental reorganization. As a result, a variety of social forces will seek to claim space for themselves in the emerging new order. Among the most contested arenas in this struggle for political, social and cultural space are those in which the relationship between individual freedoms and communal responsibilities, between private and public spaces in American society, are being negotiated. This dialectic can currently be observed in many different spheres of American life.

In the political and economic realms, it shapes the debate that posits market rule and individual freedom against government regulation and redistributive policies. In urban environments, forms of spatial segregation oppose integrative and community-based residential models. Most recently, attempts to re-claim public space for a discursive bottom-up democratic process were embodied by the Occupy movement. In a parallel development, new forms of social interaction emerge in the virtual space of social networks, often effacing the boundaries between public and private.

This dialectical tension – between community and individual, public and private, freedom and restriction – can also be observed in the artistic realm. One might ask, then, what kind of stories are told in times of crisis, and how crises themselves are informed by and infused with different narratives. The conference will therefore also deal with how claims to space are negotiated within literary and cultural productions, and what kinds of spaces the arts themselves can create.

The sixth international conference hosted by the Graduate School of North American Studies invites students and scholars to engage in interdisciplinary investigations into the competing claims to geographical, political, economical, social, and cultural spaces that are currently being made within North America.


We encourage papers on a wide range of topics, which may include, but are not limited to:


  • Whose crisis? Framing current crises historically and conceptually
  • (Re-)negotiating the public/private divide in politics, society and the arts
  • Free markets / individual freedom versus government regulation /(re)distribution
  • Neoliberalism and its discontents: Austerity and inequality
  • The contest for the city space: Integration versus segregation
  • The “tragedy of the commons”: Ecological crisis and climate change
  • (Re-)claiming the public space: Social movements and Occupy
  • New social networks and the search for the contemporary Agora
  • Conceptions of social, artistic and political space
  • Narratives of crisis / Crisis of narrative: American stories for the 21st century


Abstracts should be limited to 250 words and be accompanied by the author’s name, e-mail address, institutional affiliation, discipline(s), and a short CV (please complete the form and name the document starting with your family name (“name_abstract”)). The deadline for submissions is February 13th, 2013. A confirmation email will be sent when we receive your abstract. Those selected to present will be notified by mid-March 2013. Please submit all abstracts and questions to:

The application form can be downloaded here: Application GSNAS 2013 Claiming Space.pdf

The conference language will be English. You can find the program here.

Dahlem Research School
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft