“We need discourse. We need one another.” – Stanford Anderson
Despite its widespread use as formalized discussion in speech or writing, discourse is originally a conversation. The art historian Sarah Williams Goldhagen notes how “Derived from the Medieval Latin ‘argument’ and the Latin ‘to run about,’ the word ‘discourse’ is typically used to mean a series of discussions and debates on a relatively closed set of questions. Figuratively, a discourse is a bunch of people running about having an argument – or more correctly, a series of arguments and debates, which are related to one another and governed by a set of underlying concerns or principles. To explore the definition further, a discourse is an extended expression of thoughts on a subject or related collection of subjects, conducted by a self-selected group of people within a discrete set of identifiable social institutions, and lasting over a bounded, which does not necessarily mean short, period of time. It is focused around an essentially coherent (although not always articulated) group of questions and has its own jargon, its own contested terms.”
Over the past year-and-a-half, our action has fostered discourse. We have sustained a long and fruitful conversation; a series of arguments and debates, related to one another and governed by our shared interest in the relations that exist between literary narratives and the built environments of mid-sized European cities. Despite the wealth of this conversation, we must recognize that it has been carried out within a discrete set of identifiable, mostly academic social institutions. Clearly, the object of our study transcends these boundaries, involves other sectors, depends on other ways of knowing.
To broaden our conversation, the Action’s working group 1, focused on communications, is preparing a seminar, with a double intention: On the one hand, we want to continue building on the series of online discussions developed by the other three working groups, which have allowed us to analyze and synthesize theoretical, methodological and practical knowledge about literary narratives and the built environment. On the other hand, we want to initiate a shift in our conversation; from one that is held among ourselves, to one that recognizes those interlocutors beyond our action that are essential to our discourse. The development of our Action requires that we talk about, with and to citizens, scholars and institutions.
The seminar will study how these three kinds of conversations take place, and why it is important to have them in relation to our Action. Different discourses always imply different theoretical foundations, served by distinct instruments and methods, evident in different realities on the field. Notwithstanding differences, though, every discourse requires that all parties involved are able to recognize the meaning of, and are therefore able to appropriate, what is being discussed. In this sense, discourse is the sine qua non for integration.
Unlike previous events, we have chosen not to extend an open call for entirely new presentations. Instead, we want to invite action members who have presented or responded in previous events, and who are interested in revising their responses and presentations in order to abstract (meaning to separate, highlight, or bring forth) only the conversations implied in their theoretical reflections, research methods, or fieldwork projects. Who (citizens, academia, or institutions) is involved in these conversations? How and why do we talk to, with, or about them?
By revising previous presentations, we intend to continue building on the knowledge developed and produced so far. Given the nature of the call, we encourage presenters to use creative formats in order to capture and communicate conversations. They can invite a conversation partner and present jointly, for example – perhaps someone already present in the theories, methods, or fieldwork projects shown earlier; perhaps an unexpected opponent, a narrator, or a character.
The seminar will take place on May 12, 2021. In a first internal round of this call we have already received five concrete proposals. We can still accommodate a few more! To prepare well, we would like to receive a second round of manifestations of interest to participate, in the form of emails directed to firstname.lastname@example.org, before April 15. Those of you who have already manifested interest in participating obviously do not need to do so again.