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Spaces of Entanglement: Negotiating European Crossroads

Christophe Collard, Janine Hauthal and Lesley Penné, "Introducing European Entanglement"



Ina Habermann, “British-European Entanglements: M.G. Sanchez’ The Escape Artist and the Case of Gibraltar”

Is it true that Brexit is the inevitable consequence of the existence of the English Channel, which creates an ‘island mentality’ that makes the British incapable of being part of a European project? An in-depth study of the impact of space on cultural identity reveals the ‘pseudo-logic’ of such ‘geographical’ arguments that is often deployed for political purposes. If geography matters, how, precisely, does it matter? Taking my cue from geocriticism and topopoetics, I will make space central to my analysis of the negotiation of cultural identity, emphasizing points of contact, liminal spaces, crossroads and border zones. One such liminal space where Britain is connected with Continental Europe is Gibraltar, historically significant due to its geopolitical location, still a British colony in the Mediterranean, and truly a hybrid ‘space of entanglement’. I will offer a reading of The Escape Artist (2013), a novel by the distinguished Gibraltarian writer M.G. Sanchez, set during the time when the Spanish dictator Franco had closed the border with British Gibraltar. As I will argue, the novel provides us with a fascinating literary exploration of a Gibraltarian predicament newly relevant in the era of Brexit.

Keywords: Britain and Europe, Gibraltar, hybridity, literary geography/geocriticism, topopoetics



Janine Hauthal, “Europe at the Crossroads: Zinnie Harris’s How to Hold Your Breath”

Prompted by the 2016 United Kingdom European Union membership referendum, this article investigates whether, and how, social and political factors that may have fed into the ‘Brexit’ vote had been tackled proactively on the British stage. The first section presents a brief survey of the ambivalent relation of Europe and/in contemporary British theatre, ranging from 1990s ‘post-wall plays’ and their turn to Eastern Europe to expressions of Euroscepticism in both plays and critical discourse since the new millennium. Subsequently, a case study of How to Hold Your Breath by Scottish playwright Zinnie Harris demonstrates how this “state of Europe piece” (Collins) continues the rethinking of Europe so characteristic of post-wall plays while it also – by engaging with Europe’s financial and refugee crisis – addresses topics closely related to the issues that allegedly informed the ‘Brexit’ vote. The analysis argues that Harris’s strategy of reversal evokes Europe as a space of entanglement, but that her commitment to a binary spatial logic crucially limits the play’s critical potential. In addition, the aesthetics of Harris’s dystopia are scrutinized and linked to the notion of entanglement. Finally, the conclusion discusses how the play’s depiction of a Europe both literally and metaphorically at the crossroads contributes to imagining Britain in/out of Europe.

Keywords: British drama, Brexit, Euroscepticism, imagining Europe, entanglement



Annelies Augustyns and Arvi Sepp, “German-Jewish Urban Experience in the Third Reich: Space and Persecution in Diaries from Breslau”

This contribution aims to investigate the textual representation of National Socialist city space and everyday urban experience in German-Jewish diaries of the city of Breslau (today the polish Wrocław). The corpus exists of the diary writings by Willy Cohn (Kein Recht, nirgends. Tagebuch vom Untergang des Breslauer Judentums, 1933-1941) and Walter Tausk (Breslauer Tagebuch 1933-1940). Both diarists describe how Breslau, home to the third largest Jewish community in the German Reich, changed dramatically during the Nazi reign. The spatial perspective on anti-Semitism in Breslau will be put in relation with the spatial self-orientation of the subject in the Breslau diaries. In order to present a theoretical framework to inquire into the tension between spatial subordination and tactical re-appropriation of lost space in Breslau, we will draw on Michel Foucault’s concept of “heterotopia”, as a microcosm which establishes a deep and ambivalent relationship with the world at large and the sphere of utopia. The Jewish heterotopia that will be discussed are the cemetery, the library and the synagogue. They invert the center-periphery logic and are used to preserve remnants of the bourgeois habitus and to continue to express selfhood. Another theory, the one of the Certeau with his strategies and tactics will be useful. After 1933, the experienced “shrinking” of the Jewish life-world (cf. Cohn, November 5, 1938) due to the production of National-Socialist space elicited a range of Jewish tactics, by continuously trying to recreate their lived space. We will show how the authors engage in subtle forms of resistance in order to contest exclusion in ways that offer mixed and often unpredictable results. Because we are dealing with diaries, the importance of this genre will equally be shown, as it can be considered as a triumph against the imposed tyranny.

Keywords: Breslau, space, heterotopia, National Socialism, diaries



Christophe Collard, “Belgian Spaces of Obsolescence: (Re)Materializing a History of Forgetting”

Planning public spaces is an enterprise entangling actual necessity, socio-political context, and cultural heritage – yet also the far less ‘concrete’ dimension of mythology. After all, any new plan must first be plugged to all parties concerned, attract funding, and muster enthusiasm. To this end, stories are told and theories scripted to sell the new concept before it is indeed inscribed in the landscape. But in Belgium said entanglement tends to get further intermingled by a culture of compromise that may interrupt or re-route the materialization of myths at any given moment. The net result thereof led RTBF-journalist Jean-Claude Defossé in 1986 to create his mockumentary series Journal des Travaux Inutiles (JTI), dedicated to mapping the worst excesses in misguided or downright obsolete building projects. Incidentally, this initiative itself thus materialized what mass culture-critic Norman Klein has called ‘a history of forgetting’ – an attempt to concretize that what once was supposed to be and remain hidden. This article, in turn, will pick up Klein’s lead to repurpose Defossé’s recently revisited cult series as a subversive artistic practice dedicated to opening up the essentially entangled but traditionally disparate conceptions of space, myth, and writing as complementary constituents of a now re-emphasized history: less focused on facts, yet all the more on the materialization of its narrative nature.

Keywords: entanglement, narrativisation, mythology, historiography, architecture



Ronald Geerts, “Brussel - New York (niet Parijs): De ruimtes van Chantal Akerman”

Belgian’s most renowned filmmaker, Chantal Akerman (1950-2015), had something with (urban) space. In the first half of her career (from 1968 up to the early 90s) two places are prominently present in Akerman’s films: Brussels and New York, albeit in very different ways. Birthplace Brussels seems to exist only as private interiors. On the other hand New York exists principally as a public exterior. I explore what the specific construction of narrative space – New York as ‘real’ and objective, Brussels as ‘fictional’ and subjective – tells us about Akerman’s ‘truth’.

Keywords: Chantal Akerman, space in film, Brussels, New York, film studies