by Alexa Altmann
The cross-sectional department Gender and Media Studies for the South Asian Region held an international young researchers’ conference “Reworking Space, Re-Narrating Belonging: Transregional Perspectives on Contemporary Media, Gender and Visibility Practices” on February 8th and 9th at the Institute for Asian and African Studies, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. The event was conceptualised and organised by Alexa Altmann and sought to involve young researchers, working on innovative projects regarding the reconceptualisation of spaces and modes of belonging, in an engaging dialogue across institutions and disciplines.
13 PhD candidate and post-doctoral panellists from 10 international institutions, amongst others, the University of Illinois, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Utrecht University and Northwestern University, presented and discussed their research projects, which revolved around intertwined mediations and remediations of practices of space, belonging and gender by a multitude of emerging transregional actors.
They addressed contemporary contestations and negotiations of situatedness and ascription in complex and transforming realities shaped by, among other things, violent conflict, voluntary and forced mobilities and immobilities, emerging visibilities, translocal interconnectedness, urbanisation, and social aspirations and inequalities.
Professor Marwan M. Kraidy, Founding Director of the Center for Advanced Research in Global Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania, delivered the conference’s keynote address titled “Igniting the Caliphate: How ‘Islamic State’ Uses Fire to Articulate Space, Belonging and Gender” and chaired the event’s first panel on translocal networks, self-making and new modes of situatedness and relatedness.
The second panel examined practices of spatial reworking through re-narration, performance and reframing and was chaired by Max Arne Kramer, a PhD graduate of the cross-sectional department Gender and Media Studies for the South Asian Region. While the final panel, chaired by Nadja-Christina Schneider, Professor in Gender and Media Studies for the South Asian Region at IAAW, centralised gendered spaces and new urban (im)mobilities and visibilities.
The heterogeneity and vibrant transregional diversity of the presented research projects enriched the thought-provoking discussions on theorizing spaces and modes of belonging in contemporary practices of mediation and its methodological challenges and opportunities.
Exemplary for this thematic range were, for instance, Salma Siddique’s (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin) presentation “You Are My Love Charger: Media Technology and the Dera Sacha Sauda Community, Alexa Altmann’s talk “Desert (Be)Longings: Space Bending and Identity Play in Contemporary Israeli Pop Culture or Paul Michael Leonardo Atienza’s (University of Illinois) research “Waiting for the Promise: Visibilizing Zones of Desire through Digital Media in Contemporary Gay Manila”.
Students of the Q-Team seminar taught by Dhanya Fee Kirchhof presented their findings in mediaethnographic fieldwork projects during the lunch break.
The conference concluded with a participant-roundtable in which imminent and future networking strategies were planed and discussed. The network is particularly interested in organising international follow-up events and engaging in trans-institutional co-teaching.
The event stood out on account of the participants’ and the audience’s committed intensive and critical discussions and involved exchange.
The strong interest and attendance of IAAW students additionally speaks for the importance of strengthening the visibility of young, emergent scholars.