IMAGINING CITY FUTURES ACROSS DISCIPLINES

Turku Institute for Advanced Studies. Co-organized with SELMA, in cooperation with the Association for Literary Urban Studies.

Agora lecture hall XXII, University of Turku, 19 November 2018, 9:00h-17:30

This one-day symposium brings together researchers of future narratives from across disciplines. Its focus is on representations of city futures across a range of genres, from literary fiction to futures scenarios, policy, and urban planning. It aims to examine the language, narrative frames, and metaphors with which future cities are told, and the implications of such discursive strategies.

Please register by 12.11. via this link:

https://link.webropolsurveys.com/S/91D415EDDABB4E7A

PROGRAM

09.00-09.10 Welcome & introduction, Lieven Ameel, collegium researcher, TIAS

09.10-10.10 KEYNOTE ADDRESS: Paul Dobraszczyk

Paul Dobraszczyk is a teaching fellow at the Bartlett School of Architecture in London. His most recent book project is Future Cities, Architecture and the Imagination (Reaktion, 2019). He has published widely on visual culture and the built environment, with recent books including The Dead City: Urban Ruins and the Spectacle of Decay (IB Tauris, 2017); London’s Sewers (Shire, 2014); and Function & Fantasy: Iron Architecture in Long Nineteenth Century (Routledge, 2016). He is also a visual artist and photographer.

10.15-11.45 FORECASTING, FUTURE VISIONS, AND PLANNING

Forecasting to ensure the safety of society, Vesa Valtonen, Secretary General, Security Committee, Ministry of Defense   

Ecological city visions and their impact on the development of Chinese cities, Outi Luova, East Asian Studies, University of Turku

Zoning Versus Private Action: Planning Texts and Urban Futures in St Louis and Houston, 1910–1960, Jason Finch, English literature, Åbo Akademi University

Future visions of the region Kotka-Hamina, created during the planning of the master plan, Kaisa Granqvist, Urban Planning, Aalto University

11.45-13.00 LUNCH

13.00-14:30 CITY FUTURES ACROSS MEDIA

Thirty Years of Imaginary Los Angeles. Climate Change and the Retrofitted Megalopolis in Blade Runner (1982) and Blade Runner 2049 (2017), Kimi Kärki, Cultural History, University of Turku

Reading for Ruins: On the Post-Apocalyptic Tense and Context, Jouni Teittinen, Comparative Literature, University of Turku

The flood of 1862 in Viennese humorous magazines: Jokes and cartoons about natural catastrophe as means of urban improvement, Heidi Hakkarainen, Cultural History, University of Turku              

Participatory design fiction and future cities, Johanna Ylipulli, cultural anthropology, Helsinki Institute of Urban and Regional Studies

14:30-15:00 COFFEE BREAK

15:00-16:30 AGENCY & CITY FUTURES

Agency in Urbanizing Finland, Hanna Heino, Geography, University of Turku  

From co-creation to agency in urban futures, Kaisa Schmidt-Thomé, Demos Helsinki

Agency, Voices and Visions for Preferable Futures: Ethnographic research on the World Heritage Site Suomenlinna, Pauliina Latvala-Harvilahti, The Finnish Literature Society Research Deparment

‘Small Island States and their Little Capitals: Lessons for Climate Resilience?’, Milla Vaha, International Relations/Political Philosophy, University of Turku

16.30-17.00 ROUNDTABLE

Methods, approaches and things ahead in Imagining City Futures across Disciplines

17:00-17:30 CLOSING WORDS AND RECEPTION

 

Organizer: Lieven Ameel / lieven.ameel@utu.fi / blogs.helsinki.fi/urbannarratives

Travel and space – utopia as satirical travel narrative

Speaking today at the Travel and Space Seminar at the University of Helsinki, a seminar focusing on travel writing as non-fictional literary genre. Perspectives from linguistics, non-fiction writing, and literary studies.

I’ll be presenting a tentative talk on utopia as travel writing – and travel writing as utopia, with reference, in particular to E.E. Hale’s Sybaris (1869), a little-known utopian text that I looked at in some extent in my article ”Cities Utopian, Dystopic and Apocalyptic.”

The title of today’s talk is “Travel literature ad socio-critical satire: Everett Hale’s utopia Sybaris and other homes (1869)”.

The program of the seminar can be found here.

Source:

  • Ameel 2016: “Cities Utopian, Dystopic and Apocalyptic.” In Tambling, Jeremy: The Palgrave Handbook to Literature and the City.

 

Presenting at the Marine Research Laboratory for Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Turku, 18.5.2018

Presenting my research on future cities at the water across genres, today in Turku, at the Marine Research Laboratory for Humanities and Social Sciences.

The context is Wave Riders (AHAAallonharjalle in Finnish), “an active research and teaching laboratory for the humanities and social sciences at the University of Turku specializing in the study of maritime and other water systems. Its goal is to gather together researchers  whose research is related to the maritime and shipping-thematic collaboration in the University of Turku’s new strategy. Along with participating in various projects and organizing regular research seminars we also conduct commisioned research.”

More on the program here and below (in Finnish):

Meritutkimusseminaari pe 18.5.2018

Turun yliopiston humanistis-yhteiskuntatieteellinen merentutkimusverkosto Aallonharjalle (AHA) järjestää tutkimusseminaarin PE 18.5.2018 klo 9:30-12:00. Tapahtumassa on tarkoituksena paitsi tutustua verkoston piirissä tehtävään tutkimukseen, myös ideoida yhteisiä hankkeita ja viritellä uusia yhteistyömuotoja.  Paikkana on seminaarihuone Pha2 (Pharma City, Itäinen Pitkäkatu 4, Turku).

Tilaisuuden ohjelma:

  • Lieven Ameel:  Narratives of Future Cities at the Water
  • Outi Luova:  Merialueyhteistyön vertaileva tutkimus: Japaninmeri, Itämeri, Karibianmeri
  • Jaana Kouri:  Koettu ja kuviteltu Itämeren vesiympäristöön liittyvä kulttuurinen tieto
  • Laura Seesmeri:  Näkökulmia vedenalaiseen maisemaan, autoetnografiseen maisemantutkimukseen ja kenttätöihin Suomenlinnassa
  • Nina Tynkkynen:  Ilmastonmuutostieto ja Itämeri
  • Lauri Kaira: John Nurmisen säätiön ja Loki-palvelun esittely
  • Keskustelua

Tilaisuuteen on vapaa pääsy, mutta ennakkoilmoittautuminen on kahvitarjoilun vuoksi suotavaa.

Futures of New York: Narrating Environmental Agency in Fictional and Non-Fictional Texts

I present a paper on my research project “Narratives of the Urban Waterfront in Crisis – Negotiating Possible Futures of Post-Industrial Harbour Cities” at Narrative2018 in Montreal, at the University of McGill.

How do metaphors emplot the relationship with the urban waterfront? How do different kinds of textual genres narrate agency – the possibility to act? What do such metaphorizations and narrated frames for agency tell us about how power relationships and the possibility to act are shaped in language, through language, and intimately entwined with developments in the material world? I address these questions in an examination of the New York comprehensive waterfront development plan Vision 2020 and Jonathan Safran foer’s story “The Sixth Borough”.

The paper, entitled “Futures of New York: Narrating Environmental Agency in Fictional
and Non-Fictional Texts” is on Friday afternoon 15:30-17:00, in the “Agency and High Stakes Storytelling” panel.

source: https://narrative2018.ca/

SELMA seminar, 18.1.2018: “INTERSECTIONS OF NARRATIVE STUDIES AND URBAN STUDIES”

Welcome to the SELMA seminar “INTERSECTIONS OF NARRATIVE STUDIES AND URBAN STUDIES”, where I will present ongoing research projects together with Jason Finch, with whom we’ve had a number of inspiring collaborations in the field of literary urban studies so far.

I’ll present my new research project, Jason will be speaking of mediations and representations of mass housing.

More information here.

18. JANUARY, 14.00-16.00, E325 (Minerva, Kaivokatu 12)
SELMA seminar: “INTERSECTIONS OF NARRATIVE STUDIES AND URBAN STUDIES”
Jason FINCH: “Mediations and Representations of Mass Housing: Visions versus Phenomenologies?”
Lieven AMEEL: “Narrating Urban Futures: Cities at the Water in Fictional and Non-fictional Texts.”

A vital dimension of contemporary literary studies is increased engagement with real-world issues such as social policy and planning. Practitioners including urban historians and policy-makers gain understanding of aspects of human experience not readily available otherwise in collaboration with literary scholars. Also, techniques originating in literary studies can be used productively to read texts not conventionally labelled literary, including municipal plans and oral histories preserved in archives. On 18 January, SELMA presents two speakers with links to the Centre who work in this interdisciplinary area, and on the frontier dividing academic and extra-academic social analysis. Lieven Ameel and Jason Finch are founder members of the Association for Literary Urban Studies (ALUS), the most recent international conference of which was ‘(Im)Possible Cities’ (University of Tampere, 2017). They have jointly edited two volumes arising from the work of the Association and are editors of the Palgrave series Literary Urban Studies (http://www.springer.com/series/15888).

Starting a new project at the Turku Institute for Advanced Studies!

Excited to embark on a new research project at the Turku Institute for Advanced Studies, with an affiliation at comparative literature, University of Turku. In this three- year project, I will examine narratives of urban futures, with a specific focus on how the (near) future of cities at the water is negotiated in different textual genres, including literary fiction, future scenarios, and urban planning and policy documents. One of the key issues is the hypothesis that different narrative genres have different abilities (and different limitations) in how they can posit personal and communal choice and agency. At the background of this project is the notion that the stories we tell of the future are in large part responsible for how we see our own possibilities of action towards a possible future.

In this research project, I will focus on Helsinki, New York City, and urban futures in the Low Countries, in the period 1990-2030.

More information here.

If you would like to collaborate or want to hear more, please contact me at lieven.ameel [a] utu.fi – I’m interested in hearing more from other people (academics, policy makers, media) working with similar issues!

Humanities and the City

Very much looking forward to tomorrow’s “Humanities and the City” conference at the Singapore University of Technology and Design, where I will give a keynote on “City Scales and the Urban Humanities”. Thanks to Nazry Bahrawi and everyone at Singapore University of Technology and Design for making this event possible.

“This one-day conference proposes yet another angle that can possibly inject fresh perspectives to discourses about the city. What if we factor in the humanities? Here, we invite policymakers, academics, scientists, engineers and curious city dwellers to think with us how humanities disciplines such as philosophy, literature, history, art, cultural studies, and others can play a role in the constitution as well as the development of a city. Our conference will attempt to rise to that challenge by engaging with international speakers and Singapore-based researchers.”

Conference Programme

  • 8.30am-9.00am Registration with refreshments
  • 9.00am-9.10am First opening address
    Prof. Sun Sun Lim
    Head of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (HASS)
    Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD)
  • 9.10am-9.20am Second opening address
    Prof. Chan Heng Chee
    Chairman, Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities (LKYCIC)
  • 9.20am-10.50am Keynote Discourse/Roundtable Discussion
    “The Good City: Justice and Technology in 21st Century Capitalism”
    Dr. Paolo Di Leo (HASS, SUTD)
    Dr. John Powers (LKYCIC)
    Dr. Nazry Bahrawi (HASS, SUTD)
    Moderator: Prof. Jane M Jacobs, LKYCIC/Yale-NUS
  • 10.50am-11.10am Coffee Break
  • 11.10am-11.50am “City Scales and the Urban Humanities:
    New Perspectives for Developing and Understanding Cities”
    Prof. Lieven Ameel, University of Helsinki
    President, Association of Literary Urban Studies
  • 11.50am-12.30pm “The Communicative City in Asia”
    Prof. Audrey Yue, National University of Singapore
  • 12.30pm-1.30pm Lunch
  • 1.30pm-3.00pm Film screening at Albert Hong Lecture Theatre
    The Sound of Old Rooms (2011), a documentary set in Kolkata
    Post-film discussion with Dr. Sandeep Ray (SUTD HASS), Director
  • 3.00pm-3.40pm “Maps in Post-Reunificaiton Hong Kong”
    Dr. Elizabeth Ho, Assistant Professor, University of Hong Kong
  • 3.40pm-4.00pm Coffee Break
  • 4.00pm-5.00pm Panel discussion on literature and the city
    Prof. Philip Holden, NUS (on Singapore)
    Dr. Pallavi Narayan, NUS Press (on Istanbul)
    Dr. Nuraliah Norasid, author of The Gatekeeper (on Singapore)
    Moderator: Dr. Rhema Hokama, HASS, SUTD
  • 5.00pm-5.20pm Closing remarks by Drs. Paolo and Nazry
  • 5.30pm End of conference

Ways of Telling the Future – limits to scientific texts and fiction for describing climate change?

The New York Times recently published a piece where scientists are asked to comment on climate fiction and to assess to what extent these depictions of the future are realistic.

image source: NYTimes / Jordin Isip

The short piece feels strangely inadequate and limited for a variety of reasons, the first reason being, perhaps, that literary fiction is exactly defined by not having truth-value in the referential world. If the starting point of the article is flawed, the researchers interviewed seem to point at that in their own answers, for example when one answers that “Humans are able to probe these issues in ways that are different through the lens of fiction.” What the article does, then, is have scientists tell us what literary fiction can do, by asking of literature what science can do.

The best point of the article comes in the end, when “Dr. Foley [executive director of the California Academy of Sciences] said that if he ever wrote a novel, it would be one in which “we all do the slow, hard muddling work of just pitching in, but no hero rides in on a spaceship to save us all.” It would be a terrible novel, he admitted. “No one would buy it, and Hollywood wouldn’t make a movie, but it’s the one I want, and it would surely save the world.””

The article is enlightening for the most part by the very questions it asks, emphasizing the difficulties we continue to have in imagining futures emanating directly from our current choices, and the way in which different kinds of texts are able to envision different aspects of such futures, from accumulating effects, numbers and figures in scientific data, to the “qualia” of what change feels like in literary fiction. Questions that are at the heart of much current work in the environmental humanities, and also in my current research project “Narratives of the Urban Waterfront in Crisis.

“Folding City” at ENN2017, Prague

Thanks to everyone at ENN2017, Prague, for inspiring presentations and discussions. My own presentation is part of broader research on urban futures, the relationship between imagined and actual cityworlds, and urban (future) crisis. Happy to have had the opportunity to develop ideas ao. with Laura Oulanne, David Rodriguez and Marco Caracciolo, with a view to develop a book project on (ao.) space and non-human presence in literary fiction.

Experiencing the weak house: Modernist interior descriptions beyond domesticity
Laura Oulanne (University of Helsinki)
Folding city: Environmental change, ontological instability, and urban crisis in 21st century literary fiction
Lieven Ameel (University of Tampere)
Aerial description and environmental imagination in narrative landscapes
David Rodriguez (Stony Brook University)

Abstract below:

Folding city: Environmental change, ontological instability, and urban crisis in 21st century literary fiction

This presentation will explore ontological instabil­ity in a range of contemporary New York novels. I am particularly interested in the implications of poten­tially apocalyptic undercurrents in the narrated space for an understanding of how fictional texts come to grips with complex environmental threats and non-human agency. The literary texts are Teju Cole’s Open City (2011), Jonathan Lethem’s Chronic City (2009), Ben Lerner’s 10:04 (2014) and Nathaniel Rich’s Odds Against Tomorrow (2013), novels that thematize palimpsestic layers of meaning in urban space, as well as ambiguous temporal structures, and that are informed in particu­lar by an interest in the impact of the future on the present. In these fictional texts, a sense of threat and ontological instability is realized in continuous refer­ences to unusual weather conditions (in all four novels), and, more specifically, in Chronic City, the appearance of a gigantic tiger rummaging underneath New York, and in the novels by Rich and Lerner, by the intimations of coming catastrophic flood. In terms of methodological framework and theoretical approaches, my presentation will draw on Gilles Deleuze’s concept (in his work on Leibniz) of the fold (Deleuze 1993), with reference also to Brian McHale’s “flickering effect” (1987) and Bertrand Westphal’s “heterotopic interference” (Westphal 2005: 101). The fold will be one key conceptualization with which to approach representations of urban space in crisis, enabling a connection – rather than a polariza­tion – between inner and outer, immaterial and mate­rial, possible and present.

Moving towards Possible Cities

Moving towards Possible Cities: Future Urban Waterfronts in Contemporary Fiction
Speaking at the Association for Literary Urban Studies conference (Im)Possible Cities about my current research: future urban waterfronts in contemporary fiction, and what literary texts of the waterfront can tell us about the future and about our possibilities to prepare for and act upon the future. From the abstract:
“In contemporary fictional texts describing the urban waterfront under threat, crossing urban borders is conditioned by competing pathways towards the future, which appears in early 21st century literature as a crucial conceptual and ontological border zone for understanding the present. Moving into this border zone thus also entails becoming aware of questions of agency and moral responsibility, as is exemplified by the trajectory of the protagonist in Odds Against Tomorrow, who moves from the question “What was possible? What should we be afraid of?” (Rich 2013: 7) to asking: what would be “the right thing to do” (Rich 2013: 161)?”