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Summer Institute Cologne 2016

In Situ


The Latin term in situ means to be in the original place. Additionally, it means to be in position and, by extension, refers to a normative, rightful, historical, or naturalized location or condition. Knowing that something is unaltered implies awareness of conditions and criteria for alterability and what would constitute mobility, displacement, and change that come about through contact, recombination, contamination, or even representation. Whether considering the contrast between natural sound and its capture, transnational sharing of media, shifting and expanding categories of social and cultural identity, or the performative vocabularies that refer to place, [sic!] 2016 will explore contemporary and historical, local and global instantiations of in situ through many perspectives.



Seminar I [Queer Becomings and Unnatural Intimacies]

Nick Davis (Northwestern University), Christiane König (University of Cologne)

This course will explore new horizons for intimacy that have been opened up by reproductive technologies, digital platforms, and genetic engineering, as each of these has been taken up in scholarship, journalism, theory, and popular art, with an emphasis on 21st-century cinema. Through their various channels of cultural implementation and dissemination, figures like the clone, the cyborg, the alien, the domesticated robot, and the computer-coded lover undermine old dichotomies that traditionally organized people, desiring relations, and material ontologies, such as nature/culture, real/artificial, male/female, hetero/homo, human/nonhuman, and organic/inorganic. This movement of erosion not only affects the categories of individuality, subjectivity, sexuality, and the body but also the concepts of familial affiliations and kinship whereby linear time, history, futurity, and even space must be reconceptualized. In these unstable contexts, even previous structures for expanding intimacy – relating, for example, to adoption, surrogacy, or companion animals – take on new practical and theoretical valences. Transgressing traditional forms of kinship, romance, and family, these relationships do not derive from genetics, blood, biology, or matrimony. Instead, they 'come to life' in situ as processes through which shifting notions of gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, culture, religion, among other categories of difference, must be endlessly renegotiated. Films discussed in this seminar will include Chappie, Code 46, District 9, Her, The Lobster, and Under the Skin.


Seminar II [Sound Studies]

Frank Hentschel (University of Cologne), Jacob Smith (Northwestern University)

Sound and music have long been understood as phenomena best understood in terms of time. Common statements include claims that sound exists only when it is "going out of existence," or that we cannot freeze a sound in the way we can freeze an image, or that sound is inherently concerned with movement. In aesthetics, this tendency is expressed in arguments that contrast music and poetry as temporal arts with painting and sculpture as spatial arts. However, the emergence of Sound Studies in the past decade has inspired scholars to question such assumptions, and the result has been what one writer described as "a veritable avalanche of scholarship devoted to the interconnections between sound and space." This is not only an aesthetic question. Rather, the relationship between historical, geographical, and social places and sound needs to be discussed. This seminar will attend to the roar of that avalanche through an engagement with a series of written and sounded texts that prompt discussion about the relationship between sounds and spaces. The participants will be asked to contribute presentations on related topics (details to be announced later).

We invite participants with interests relating to the study of sound culture, in particular topics such as: 

  • theoretical and artistic investigations of sound and space; the relationships between social milieu and sound
  • soundscapes, understood as both a physical environment and a way of perceiving that environment
  • the role of sound in architectural design; environmental sound, i.e. muzak, music in supermarket and warehouse
  • the sites and situations of sonic performances; music and its concert ven-ues: opera houses, concert halls, clubs, etc.
  • the use of location recording and sound design in media texts to indicate space, place, and environment
  • the creation of virtual spaces in the production of sound media texts (for example, stereo, multi-channel mixing, surround sound systems, etc.)
  • the theory and practice of field recording and/or place-based sound art
  • sonic mobility in relation to technologies such as portable MP3 players and logistical devices (GPS, etc.)
  • the voice as a site of performance for identity; in particular, place-based identity (as in regional accents, dialects, and linguistic code-switching)
  • the global circulation of sounds and/or musical styles; dialectics of local sound and globalization; exoticism and localism in opera and film music; the role of sound and music in acts of war
  • the role of sound in the experience of urban space and the perception of technological infrastructure


Seminar III [Theatre Historiography]

Tracy C. Davis (Northwestern University), Peter W. Marx (University of Cologne)

Theatre can be a site, it can happen at sites, it can travel to sites, and it can represent sites. It can aspire to universal significance yet, as a performance transpires, it is constituted of the people and place where it transpires. This year, the theatre historiography seminar will explore situatedness in relation to locality and localism as well as theatre's claims to overcome this ontology by transporting spectators to other places, times, and sensibilities. We welcome applications from scholars interested in topics such as the following:

  • What are the performative vocabularies of location (how is sitedness stipulated by design, acting, and spoken language)?
  • Are performative claims to authenticity interdependent with site?
  • How does a performance continuum (from art theatre to everyday life) impact ways we theorize reconstructions of place (e.g. open air museums such as Skansen), tourism (e.g. the Grand Tour and its legacy), and theatre buildings as valued heritage? In such cases, how are site and repertoire interconnected?
  • When and how to theatres become important stops for travellers’ in situ tourism?
  • What genres of display and performance have evolved in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries out of site-specific practices such as world’s fairs, public art, neighborhood reclamation, and nature appreciation?
  • How does theatre/performance function as a tool to mark specific sites and to give them a specific/new meaning (such as Boston’s Freedom Trail, Hellfire Pass on the Thai-Burmese Railway, or other pilgrimage sites)?


Seminar IV [Urbanism and Hip Hop]

Sandra Kurfürst (University of Cologne), Ivy Wilson (Northwestern University)

As a cultural formation, Hip Hop is frequently characterized by its relationship to location, perhaps none more so than by the ideologem of the city as an urban landscape. From provisional sites of makeshift dance floors to the Outsider Art of public graffiti murals, Hip Hop culture has reshaped the built environments, and thus redefined the meanings, of space in the modern city. Inasmuch as Hip Hop is often situated in particular social specificities – commonly delineated racially as "black" or provincially as "urban," for example – Hip Hop, given the transnational flows of contemporary culture, is continually being resituated in new environments and recontextualized by new practitioners.

In the seminar we will approach Hip Hop as a way of living in the city and making sense of the city. Through a sharing of common codes such as rhetorical idioms, sartorial aesthetics, music, body movements, Hip Hop promises measures of autonomy and individuality, on the one hand, as well as opportunities to be situated in a groups or collectivities, on the other hand. We will look at these practices by focusing on North American, German, and Asian cities.

We welcome applications from scholars interested in topics such as the following:

  • How Hip Hop, as an art form with practices that are both protean and dynamic, is localized and situated
  • How Hip Hop aesthetics are adopted and integrated into new environments
  • How "performative vocabularies" enable communal belonging and other forms of sociality
  • How the migratory flows of Hip Hop have reframed the transnational constellations of global cities



[sic!] 2016 was kindly supported by


Santander Universities

Gesellschaft der Freunde und Förderer der Theaterwissenschaftlichen Sammlung e.V.