Opportunity for Humanities researchers to contribute to debate on challenges facing Humanities Research in Europe.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Humanities in the European Research Area (HERA) is organising a workshop in Berlin, Germany on 14-15 December. The aim of the workshop is to bring together key players in the field of humanities in order to increase awareness of humanities research across Europe, its achievements and contributions to the European research agenda.

The second day of the event is a targeted networking and information event for researchers in the context of the FP7 SSH roadmap, the agenda will include a discussion of the roadmap, presentation of FP7 funded projects and support structures for researchers to engage in FP7. There will also be an exhibition of research projects  

Karl Whitney, a HII doctoral scholar who recently submitted his thesis on modern French urban cultures for examination, was selected to represent the UCD Humanities Institute of Ireland at this event. 

Karl is a graduate of UCD and holds a masters in literature from the University of East Anglia. Karl is an exceptional early stage knowledge worker and innovator. He is a skilled communicator whose journalism has featured in the Irish Times and other national newspapers. He is also pioneering blogging from an academic perspective in Ireland and has co-directed a HII module in academic blogging. Mr Whitney has worked in the civil service and as such he brings valuable experience of broader policy and administrative concerns to bear on his work in the humanities. He is a participant in the HII and Gradcam collaboration on the topic of creative cities.

For a copy of Karl's poster presentation for the event please click on the link

Title of Research ProjectEveryday Life and Urban Space in Post-war France: Henri Lefebvre, the Situationist International and Georges Perec

Activity 5: The Citizen in the European Union (European diversities and commonalities)

The translation and transformation of a set of ideas in a European context characterised the work of Henri Lefebvre, the Situationist International and Georges Perec in post-war France. Lefebvre, a philosopher and sociologist, drew on the early writings of Marx to articulate a critique of everyday life as the site of alienation, but also of political possibility. He later focused on the relationship between the processes of everyday life and the potential of urban space to function as a site of political progress. Lefebvre’s increasing urban focus was hastened by his relationship with the Situationist International, an avant-garde political group which focused on overcoming what its members saw as the constraints imposed by the capitalist system in the post-war era. In the effort to escape this system, much of the group’s urban work centred on uncovering alternatives to functionalist urban planning. Prioritising play as central to human society, the Situationists suggested the creation of urban environments centred on the play function. Ultimately, the group’s failure to realise these urban spaces constituted a withdrawal from tangible urban practice. Nevertheless, the urban character of the events of May 1968 suggested the continued relevance of the group’s urban work. The failure of those events led to a general withdrawal from a sense of urban revolutionary possibility, and a sense of nostalgia for that possibility. This nostalgia can be discerned in later texts by the Situationists and Lefebvre, but also in the urban projects of novelist Georges Perec, who began to record his observations and memories of a number of Parisian places from 1969 onwards. Perec had been involved in political movements in the late 1950s/early 1960s, and drew on avant-garde notions of the city that had previously been articulated by Lefebvre and the Situationists.

With his urban project, Perec tried to point beyond previous avant-garde urban experiments towards a new practice, but ultimately his efforts were drawn back towards the past by a powerful sense of nostalgia, both personal and political. Nevertheless, these works by Lefebvre, the Situationists and Perec constitute powerful attempts to rethink the relationship between the everyday life of the individual and his or her urban environment, and ultimately suggest many potential avenues of research into the contemporary city.

This research addresses issues related to Activity 5, ‘The citizen in the European Union’, specifically the notion of the individual’s active participation in politics and society as a means of regaining a sense of ownership. It also examines the central role of literature and art in the articulation of a critique of politics and society, the relationship between public and private sectors in the creation of the post-war urban environment in France, and investigates the artistic and political networks which, during this period, translated and transformed a number of key ideas about everyday life and urban space.