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Spectral Cities — Western Humanities Alliance 2018 Conference

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The New Calgary Central Library

800 3rd Street SE

Calgary, AB T2G 2E7

Canada

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Spectral Cities Conference
Hosted by the Calgary Institute for the Humanities
Nov. 2-3, 2018

Featuring keynote lectures by
Alberto Manguel, Ato Quayson
Larissa Fassler, and Abraham Akkerman

To be held at the new Calgary Central Library &
Studio Bell, Home of the National Music Centre

The conference will draw together a variety of scholars and artists to explore how the experience of the city is shaped by more than just its physical make-up.

Spectral cities can include utopian urban programs, forgotten city planning exercises, past versions of the city captured in media, film, or literature, as well as other kinds of city ghosts and ghost towns. Our panelists will discuss the role of cities in art and literature; forgotten and abandoned cities; medieval cities; postcolonial cities; cities of the future; utopias and dystopias; alternative histories; the city as system; and the city as biosphere.

How do these spectral cities shape our understanding of contemporary cities or cities we plan for the future?

What different versions of the city appear when we look at the everyday one from a different angle or in a different light: cities of animals, cities of transience, cities of opposition?

This free conference will feature six academic panels on Nov. 2 and 3 at the new Central Library:

Friday, Nov. 2

10 - 11:45 a.m.
City Literature 1

2 - 3:30 p.m.
The Postindustrial City: Photographic Realities and a Romantic Resurgence in Popular Culture

3:45 – 4:45 p.m.
Speculative Fiction to Sentient Cities: Living in Spaces of Surveillance and Data Collection

Saturday, Nov. 3

9 – 10:30 a.m.
Spectral Cities in East European Literature and Visual Culture

10:45 a.m. – 12:45 p.m.
City Literature 2

3:15 – 4:45 p.m.
The Ancient and Medieval City as Religious and Economic Nexus

The conference will also host four keynote lectures:

Friday, Nov. 2

12 – 1 p.m. | Performance Hall, Central Library
The Ideal City and the Authentic Street: Between the Apollonian and the Dionysian in City-Form
Abraham Akkerman, Professor of Geography and Planning (USask) and Fellow, Royal Geographical Society (UK)

Abraham Akkerman perceives keenly the psychology of the northern city. He worked as a principal planner for the City of Edmonton Planning & Development Department from 1982 to 1990 and is now a professor in the Department of Geography & Planning and in the Regional & Urban Planning Program, University of Saskatchewan.

Akkerman's 2016 book, Phenomenology of the Winter-City: Myth in the Rise and Decline of Built Environments, was the first to consider weather and city-form jointly in phenomenological research.

His proposed lecture will contrast the ideal city with the authentic street. He will demonstrate how this debate between planned design and organic cityscapes is one that has been waged since classical antiquity, when Aristotle presented an urbanist outlook based not only on an ideal city-form, but also on a form celebrating haphazard and twisting streetscapes — deliberate schemes “to arrange the houses irregularly as husbandmen plant their vines.”


7 - 9 p.m. | Studio Bell, Home of the National Music Centre
The City as Dream OR The Poet as City Planner
Alberto Manguel, author and anthologist

"No journey permits explorers to return to their exact point of departure. No sooner have they weighed anchor than the port changes behind them: new buildings spring up on re-drawn streets and new people come to live in them. The explorers are doomed to remember cities that no longer exist. This imaginary geography is infinitely vaster than that of the material world." - Alberto Manguel

Alberto Manguel is the author and anthologist of dozens of titles, including A History of Reading (Times Literary Supplement Best Book of the Year and winner of France’s Prix Medici).

Manguel has spoken of how his childhood mentor, Jose Luis Borges, defined the city of Buenos Aires. Manguel carried this idea that places are built by the stories we tell about them to one of his earliest works, The Dictionary of Imaginary Places. His belief that “the telling of stories creates the real world” remains a core principal he espouses decades later.

Saturday, Nov. 3

2 - 3 p.m. | Performance Hall, Central Library
Space and Interdisciplinarity: From Oxford Street to Postcolonial Literature and Somewhere In-Between
Ato Quayson, Professor of English, New York University

Ato Quayson will draw on insights from his book Oxford Street, Accra: City Life and the Itineraries of Transnationalism (Duke UP, 2014)—winner of the 2015 Urban History Association Best Book on Cities (non-North American category).

Quayson’s research is interdisciplinary — drawing inspiration from urban studies, anthropology, history, and political science — and is a mixture between personal memoir and biography. In Oxford Street he presents the case study of a commercial district in Accra, Ghana to explore the historical and urban processes that have transformed the city.

Quayson has published widely on African literature, postcolonial studies, and literary theory. He has authored, co-authored or co-edited twelve books and was the inaugural director of the Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies at the University of Toronto.

5 - 6 p.m. | Performance Hall, Central Library
Walking in Place
Larissa Fassler, visual artist

Larissa Fassler’s artistic practice reflects her interest in the architecture of cities and the way in which places affect people — psychologically and physically. She is an alumna of Goldsmiths College, University of London (MFA) and Concordia University, Montreal (BFA).

Fassler's work currently stems from her observations of dominant locations within a city: Columbus Circle (New York), Moritzplatz (Berlin), Gare du Nord (Paris), Taksim Square (Istanbul). In the words of critic Diana Sherlock, Fassler “uses conflicting perspectives and scales to unsettle the artist’s and viewer’s positions, and to flip subject-object relations. An artist-ethnographer of the everyday, Fassler most often observes the site from the point of view of her subject” (Canadian Art Spring 2016).

Fassler will speak about her feeling that there exists a knowledge to be found through ‘deep’ looking, and assumptions and preconceptions about a place and its inhabitants can be corrected through personal observation. Her exhibition CIVIC. CENTRE was held at Esker Foundation, Calgary in 2016. Reproductions of some of Fassler's large-scale explorations of Calgary’s public spaces will be on display during the conference.

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Location

The New Calgary Central Library

800 3rd Street SE

Calgary, AB T2G 2E7

Canada

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