EASA, 2010: EASA2010: Crisis and imagination

Maynooth, 24/08/2010 – 27/08/2010


The imagination in times and spaces of crisis: day and night dreaming as forms of creative invention

Location JHT9
Date and Start Time 27 Aug, 2010 at 11:30


Iain Edgar (Durham University) email
Adriënne Heijnen (Århus University) email
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Long Abstract

The imagination in day and night dreaming holds and often generates critical change in times of personal and collective crisis. This well of potentialities so emblematic of human inventiveness has held very different ontological statuses within and between cultures. In the west typically it is the doorway to the unconscious, a term redolent of imprecision and ignorance. Dreaming, then, is conceived as an activity of an isolated mind, while creativity is viewed as the outcome of individual genius or psychic and social disintegration. In contrast, in shamanic and many religious cultures the imagination is variously the portal to the spirit world, the worlds of myth and ancestors even to the heavens and hells of the Abrahamic religions, as in the Sufi concept of the Alam al-Mithal. But, whatever their ontological status and social consequences, night and day dreaming constitute a universe where alternative connections between places, persons and times are revealed and generated.

This workshop intends to explore where anthropology has reached with respect to the self evident power of imaginative contents in times of crisis and changing human identities, whether individual or collective. We invite papers that, based on empirical study, address the complex relationship between imagination and enactment, as well as the constraints and supportive elements that direct this relation. We also welcome papers with a methodological objective, reflecting on the problematics of studying the imagination outside of the only case study available, the imagining agent themselves!

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.


Dream encounters in Muslim Bosnia: imagination, divination, revelation and malcontent modernities

Author: David Henig (University of Kent)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper analyses relationships between dreaming, imagination, meaning and agency in Muslim Bosnia. In this paper I introduce three ethnographic-cum-dream nuggets concerning levels of imagination, divination and revelation. These interrelated ethnographic-cum-dream micro-case-studies are used in order to consider malcontent modernities in contemporary Muslim Bosnian society. In so doing, the paper seeks to examine the capacity and power of an imagination to transfigure dreams creatively into comprehensive and persuasive narratives that help to cope with and overcome the maladaptive forces of modernities. Hence, I explore the ways dreams and imaginations intersect and how a creative power of imagination might be a persuasive force to action.

Emerging awareness: the relation and intertwinement between imagination-of-bridging and the imagination-of-becoming

Author: Radharani Pernarcic (Faculty of Arts UL Ljubljana)  email
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Long Abstract

The paper is based on applied anthropological and practical work for the dance-theatre project, made in 2009 by the same author. It firstly articulates the distinction between imagination which mostly serves bridging (surmounting) the reality lived (day dreaming) and the imagination as a direct path towards becoming the imagined (embodiment). These two are always closely connected, but may lead into different sorts of enactment though. The author will show how "day dreaming" helps surmounting as well the crisis as the "normality" by keeping one alert and vitally sensitive due to option-practicing. On the other hand, the embodied imagination is more "cruel", as its content and the pertinent action form a totality which allows almost no fractions between the image and the doing/being. By analyzing and comparing these kinds of imagination (practiced by the two inner characters and responsible actresses) their distinction, intertwinement and role in life is made evident.

House of dreams: imagining medieval masculinity at a living history site in crises-time Latvia

Author: Triinu Mets (NomadIT)  email
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Long Abstract

In Poetics of Space (1969), Bachelard talks of building a "dream house" that allows one to daydream in peace. The material aspects are constitutive of the daydream itself - the surfaces, the space, but also the humans who "dreamed it" represent both the source of daydreams and their daily enactment. Dreams, just as their material representations, are often based on cultural gendered imaginaries - a house of dreams can convey feminine "home-making" or masculine "house built by him". I conducted field-work at a living history site in Latvia where historical re-enactment has stopped being a hobby and become a lifestyle choice, a daydream of adventurous masculinities contesting the troubled bread-winner masculinities in the time of crises. In my paper, I will look at how the gendered agency of daydreamers is used in turning dreams into a tangible reality in the form of material objects, space and bodies.

Take me to a place outside: a study into the bodily and imaginative aspects of imprisonment

Author: Martha-Cecilia Dietrich (University of Berne)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper discusses the outcomes of a collaborative media project conducted in 2009 among eight female offenders in a UK Prison.

Prisons are specific types of habitual environments where people's perceptual horizons, embodied sensorial experiences and social relations undergo radical transformations. These circumstances, as I argue, find their fundamental expression through an expansion of the imaginary. Based on methods of Applied Theatre and the collaborative use of media, this project aimed to explore the very complex relationship between the physical and the imagined.

The presentation will start with the 6-minute film "Take Me To A Place Outside", which brings together the inmate's creative work and the examination of the imaginary. Relating the outcomes to broader methodological questions, I will address the challenges of studying and representing imagination through the collaborative use of audio-visual media, the different possibilities and limitations inherent to them and its wider significance for an Anthropology of Imagination.

Animating dreams and memories

Author: Michaela Schäuble (University of Berne )  email
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Long Abstract

I am interested in the ways in which invisible but socially relevant realms such as the imagination, memories, reveries and dreams can best be accessed and visualised in anthropological research. In this context, I propose to take a closer look at the genre of animation and graphic novels, at artistic devices and deliberate alienation effects, at ways of looking and re-presenting that the writer W.G. Sebald (2003) refers to as a "synoptic and artificial view", that are conveyed by imaginative creation and that are inevitably subject to an inexpungeable uncertainty. These, I consider, have the potential to unveil and articulate inner states of mind that reach beyond a historicist realism.

In my paper I will focus on recent examples of animated accounts in which critical historical events are narrated from affected people's individual perspectives and perceptions - including imaginative contents. Ari Folman, the author of Waltz with Bashir (2008), for instance, justifies his decision to animate his film as follows: "There was no other way to do it, to show memories, hallucinations, dreams. War is like a really bad acid trip, and this was the only way to show that."

My paper aims at considering what chances animation techniques might hold for generating new kinds of anthropological knowledge.

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.