Calls for papers – Conferences taking place in November 2017

Space, Place and Hybridity in National Imagination (Colonial and Postcolonial English-speaking World, 18th – 21st century)
Grenoble-Alpes University, France, 23-24 November 2017
Deadline for proposals: 6 January 2017

The research group ILCEA4 is pleased to announce the organisation of an international conference on “Space, Place and Hybridity in National Imagination” to be held at Grenoble Alpes University. It proposes to examine the notion of hybridity or cross-fertilization in the highly controversial field of national identity–namely the spaces, figures and historical events that best symbolize it, as exemplified in the cultural productions originating from a nation or an ethnic or community group. The concept of “third space” as developed by Homi Bhabha in his seminal book The Location of Culture, is particularly productive in that it suggests a vision of space based not on confrontation, binary oppositions or antagonistic relationships of lordship and bondage, but on interactions involving exchange, transfer and mediation.

The conference shall examine the foundations of any “imagined community” (Benedict Anderson) and the ways in which artistic productions cause this set of images, values and references to evolve. These both reflect a history and a heritage but also expose their inherent limitations and underlying ideology, thus paving the way for the progressive transformation of such national figures, values and spatial representations.

All the elements pertaining to culture in a general sense and commonly considered as representative of national identity are within the scope of the symposium:

  • Iconography: flags, posters (nationalistic or otherwise), emblematic figures (specimens from the local flora and fauna for example), the representation of the national landscape in painting or photography, allegorical figures of the nation.
  • The short form as a medium for the national sentiment: national anthems, songs, poems.
  • Literature in a general sense: fiction, children’s and young adult literature, textbooks, political speeches, philosophical essays, history books.
  • Places, types of geographical spaces but also historical events crystallizing what the nation is supposed to represent (map making, memorial ceremonies, official events).
  • Cultural productions: film, dance, street art.

Every nation perceives itself as articulated around the concept of origin: a choice then emerges between a founding myth specific to it (a sort of self-generation devoid of any hybridity), and an impure, problematic genesis, born out of the contact with another cultural, historical and geographical sphere. Thus, within the British world itself, Scotland for example can be said to have been defined, both historically and culturally, in close relation to its rival and double, England. Similar considerations are relevant for Ireland and Wales.

More generally, former colonies of the British Crown have founded themselves in an ambiguous relationship to the “motherland” while trying to free themselves from its influence. After the colonial period, the goal was for the settler colonies (the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa) to found their identity antagonistically to that of the motherland, especially by focusing on their new land and the type of relationship they had with it so as to invest both with distinctive national characteristics.

An interesting and contentious point of study is the undeniably hybrid character of such early identity formations devoid of any cultural heritage or history except for those bequeathed by the motherland. Another essential and no less challenging issue is that of the relationship to the Indigenous populations of the colony whose culture and values, whose very existence sometimes, were voluntarily erased. The question of a possible hybridization between the culture of the colonizer and that of the colonized could be seen as a form of defilement, corruption or degeneration. Conversely, the appropriation and even the instrumentalization of symbols, places and values specific to Indigenous peoples in national mythologies is a highly controversial issue deserving careful scrutiny.

In what is commonly referred to as the “postcolonial” period, the discussion often centres on the denunciation or re-definition of national figures, symbols and places as well as the great texts and events constitutive of the core of a nation’s identity. Examining those shows how much they have evolved, across generations, through an underlying hybridization allowing greater representativeness, not only of the first inhabitants but also of new migrant communities or minority groups.

Space and place are not to be apprehended as exclusively geographical or referential but also as textual, thus enabling new hybrid subject positions within national mythologies. The rewriting or new adaptation of famous works into other forms (with generic, gender or modal variations) characteristic of the postmodern approach also allow the reevaluation of what constitutes the core of a nation’s identity, changing it into a field of experimentation and cross-fertilization. The contribution of historians, geographers, sociologists and semiologists will also enable the conference to examine the complexity and variety of the forms and functions of hybridity in national representations.

The deadline for proposals is 6 January 2017. Please send an abstract (max. 300 words) either in French or in English, and a short biographical note (max. 150 words) to both Christine Vandamme ( and Cyril Besson ( by January 6, 2017. The notification of acceptance will be sent by February 10, 2017, at the latest. Selected papers will be considered for publication (in English).

(posted 24 June 2016°