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Walking the line – Art of border zones in times of crisis

International Summer School

July 26 to 31, 2015


Organisers: Cathrine Bublatzky, Isabel Ching and Franziska Koch, in collaboration with the Chairs of Global Art History, Monica Juneja, and Visual and Media Anthropology, Christiane Brosius, and the Research Network “Arts and the Transcultural


Walking the line – Art of border zones in times of crisis

The summer school will engage with the production, circulation and the disruption of art and visual practices as they navigate the (thin) line between creative and destructive impulses in times when wars, struggles for national independence and conflicting ideologies result in border contestations and territorial partitions. These crises produce both immediate and enduring physical, economic and political consequences for persons living within affected regions, including flight from one’s homeland, traumatic histories left unprocessed between generations, and the elaboration of repressive political systems and surveillance. Art might be used as a propaganda weapon that affirms and enforces demarcations or it could be a creative path to transgress contested borders, a space to envision alternatives. The notion of the border will be explored both as a divisive force and as a zone of crossing by discussing larger questions about the complex and often seemingly contradictory relation between trauma and visual/aesthetic practices on the one hand, and complex issues of space and politics that (in-) form these practices on the other.

The summer school is organised around three themes dealing with partitions, art and civil society, and trauma and memory. In particular, it will examine narrative modes and structures which emerge when the raw history that inhabits subjects is transformed into representation, or its refusal. While artistic articulations in conflicted border zones often explicitly reflect upon collective as well as individual experiences, they might equally be marked by the attempt to gloss over the existence of wounds and political and social divides. Artistic strategies become necessary as expressions in/on border zones. The complex spatial dimensions involved call on disciplines such as art history and anthropology to develop critical approaches for analyzing these artistic negotiations as striking aesthetic and cultural practices. In an age of globally circulating art, it becomes particularly important to examine the dynamics of global spaces in their enabling possibilities as well as their overweening claims to the power of representation. Is the domain of the global simply a liberating site that offers art from zones of conflict redemption from censorship and ethnocentrism? Eschewing an understanding of art as a looking glass to view cultures in terms of geo-political units, the discussions will encourage critical ways of locating transregional and transcultural relationships and the region per se within a discursive field of knowledge production and disciplinary practice. 

We welcome advanced graduate students and junior researchers to apply and present their research on the relation between art and border/political/societal conflicts or crises. The summer school provides a unique opportunity for learning through participant-oriented discussions and a hands-on approach to writing. Instruction will be delivered through individual lectures, a plenary forum and interactive afternoon sessions consisting of guided group workshops. Participants will bring their own written and visual material for dialogue with an international community of peers and distinguished scholars present at the summer school, with the objective of developing individual visual essays relevant to the participants’ research project or new trajectories for future work.


The keynote address will be delivered by Iftikhar Dadi – art historian, artist and curator (Cornell University) – who has extensively researched Islamic Modernism and is currently investigating new avenues of civic participation among emergent urban publics in South Asia.

Confirmed guests include art historian and independent curator Eckhart Gillen who will discuss the impact of the East-West division on art production in post-War Germany, Raminder Kaur (University of Sussex) who will focus on issues of censorship and cultural regulation in South Asia, Friederike Wappler (Ruhr University Bochum) who will question the productive use of trauma as a concept for analyzing modern and contemporary art, and Patricia Spyer (University of Leiden) who will elaborate on the circulation of Muslim jihad VCDs in Indonesia in the 2000s. Contributing scholars from Heidelberg include Christiane Brosius and Cathrine Bublatzky (Visual and Media Anthropology), and Monica Juneja, Franziska Koch and Isabel Ching (Global Art History).

Read more about the speakers here.


What kind of programme is being prepared...

The summer school programme consists of lectures, interactive discussions, student presentations and cultural activities. The participant will present a poster of his or her project at the beginning of the summer school, and work on elaborating a visual essay during the course. Three main themes or lines of investigation structure the course format, while case studies of different localities in Asia and Europe are being planned.

Read more about the themes here.

More information about the programme is available here.


How to apply

Applications can only be made online and a letter of motivation is required. Interested students should note that since the Summer School 2015 emphasizes the practical component, applicants are additionally required to upload 1 to 3 high-resolution images which they wish to work with towards producing an individual visual essay relevant to the theme of the summer school as part of the learning outcome.

Find more information here.

Applications for this Summer School are now closed.  

For queries and further information, please contact us at summerschool@asia-europe.uni-heidelberg.de.

Picture Copyright Reference:

Top: Bani Abidi: “The Distance from Here”, 2010, video, 12:00 min. (still).

Bottom: Tom Molloy: “Borderline”, 2006, enamel on globe, diameter 12cm, courtesy Rubicon Gallery, Dublin.


Please Note!

The deadline for applications on May 31, 2015 has been extended to June 14, 2015.



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