Doctoral training school “Urban Chronicles in Empirical Context”, 26-28 April 2022 in Osijek, Croatia

Sonja Novak, on behalf of the local organizers

As one of the doctoral students and participants of the training school said in their feedback, “for the first ever doctoral school at our Faculty, it went great!” Indeed, it was a first attempt to internationalize the doctoral studies programme “Literature and Cultural Identity””, the so called KiKI in Osijek and to open i tup not only to international participants, but also to interdisciplinary research that connects literature, architecture, urban studies, political science, history, cultural studies, political geography, literary criticism and many other scientific disciplines. We were lucky enoug to find great support within the COST Action CA18126 Writing Urban Places. New Narratives of the European City and the Academy of Arts and Culture Osijek as well as Osječko-baranjska County, all of which supported the Faculty of Humanities and Social Science sin Osijek in this endeavour.

We planned to organize a fieldwork event for doctoral candidates and early career researchers that would combine theory (lectures), methodology (city walks and literary readings) with practice (creative workshops – drawing, plaster and writing). The ineterst and motivation of present participants was very high from the beginning to the end of teh three days and they really kept their minds open and went even outside tehir comfort zone sin taking up activities which they normally wouldn’t have. As a whole, with theis event we wanted to achieve the following short-term goals: To experience the written and the real mid-sized European city on the example of Osijek, to be informed about different, interdisciplinary theoretical approaches to literature and space/place, to experiment with methodology and practice, to creatively express oneself and to network. As far as the long-term goals are concerned, we emphasized the objectives: to form research questions within an interdisciplinary framework of literature, architecture and urbanism, to provide insight into cognitive processes that occur when learning, reading, researching, creating… in an urban environment of a mid-sized European city and to nurture and encourage productive collaborations among participants.

With more than 30 international and local participants, lecturers and trainers, it was an event that brought together different cultures and languages, research interests, scientific disciplines, ina a mid-sized European city of Osijek. Even thhe feedback from the participants given as reflections on each day of the event can serve as valuable material in researching different cognitive processes in dealing with notions of space, place, encounter, pondering the past and the future we and others experience in a certain space and/or moment…Here are some reflections made bat the participants

“The lectures today had me thinking a good deal about spaces of encounter, and how we manage those spaces through the imaginary, whether writing or drawing, and how it impacts our personal practices of space. This COST Action is clearly a form of space of encounter — is that what a network is? — in the sense that we are meeting other researchers, from other cultures, with different disciplines and methods, different perspectives on the city, on urban practice, and on value. What is going on in my mind as I make these meetings? Am I growing? Am I adding elasticity to my understanding of the city, or even just of research?”

“Today I was thinking a lot about what felt different between visits to the city accompanied by fictional accounts versus memoires. I’m still not sure I can articulate the difference. In both cases I enjoyed being able to experience the city beyond my immediate grasp of the existing, and to look into another person’s capacity to project into the space, to project a place I couldn’t have known otherwise.”

“This walk gave me a sense of the territory of Osijek, beyond what I could read on a map. Crossing the very different types of neighborhoods to arrive at the lower town helped me situate myself, feel the urban fabric more fully as it changed. So the itinerary in itself was useful, and the texts livened up parts of the town that I might not have felt strongly, or maybe not even noticed, without those scenes.”

Indeed, for all the people involved, both participants as well as lecturers and trainers, this fieldwork event seemed to be an overall excellent opportunity to learn, grow, network, think, research, create and share, not only the moments and days we spent together in Osijek, but also an experience that will remain with us and inevitably influence us, both personally and professionally.


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