Conference Contribution Details
Mandatory Fields
Hofmann, Gert
Heterotopia. Literatures Dis-placed
International Workshop
University College Cork
Conference Organising Committee Chairperson
Optional Fields

Michel Foucault, in exploring the ‘spatiality’ of modern cultural awareness, was the first to establish the concept of “heterotopia” as concept of an exceptional cultural significance. Tracing “other spaces” and reclusive niches, screening warped and fractured spatial structures, visiting lost homes and “nowhere”-lands he discovered threshold sites of an altered cultural cosmos.[1]

Hans-Georg Gadamer, on the other hand, described language as an act of signification that always implies “meaning” which aims “beyond” or “aside” the message, meaning that can never be articulated in physical signs.[2] “Inner word” and asserted word are both uttered by the same mouth, but in different tongues; they are trapped in an aporetic relationship which seems to be intrinsic to language in general. This aporia can be painful, but its alterations are also the inexhaustible source of language’s genuine creativity and livelihood. Writing, then, understood as the actual taking place of meaning, must be seen, at the same time, as an act of displacement, of lost meaning.

Both the signifying power of sites of displacement and the displacement of the taking place of meaning in acts of writing are fundamentally linked.[3] The intellectual valour which results from both the spatial and scriptural dynamics of displacement has since had a defining impact on the literary and cultural discourse. It has highlighted, e.g., phenomena of compromised identity in postcolonial and migration contexts as well as impulses of deferral and transference in processes of cultural representation as such. Topics could include:

1)       Literature that negotiates "displaced" as a fundamental human experience: in situations of exile, exclusion and seclusion, isolation and exposedness, derangement and incompatibility, transposition and transference, in spaces of marked liminality, border zones and nowhere-lands, at places of internment and imprisonment, ghettoisation and homelessness.

2)       Literatures and theories which associate the experience of displacement with the act of writing as such.

3)       (E)migration and (post-)colonial literature.

4)       (Pre-)colonial literature that imagines the ‘alien’ within the ‘proper’, as an object of purity, desire, abjection or abhorrence.

[1] Michel Foucault. Of Other Spaces (1967)

[2] Hans-Georg Gadamer, “Grenzen der Sprache”, in: Evolution und Sprache. Über Entstehung und Wesen der Sprache (1985), 89-99, 99.

[3] Cf. Reinhold Görling, Heterotopia. Lektüren einer interkulturellen Literaturwissenschaft (1997)

German Department, UCC; School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, UCC; DAAD