The contemporary world is characterised among other things by a greater spatial integration and the consequences flowing from this phenomenon. In fact one could argue that much of our contemporary preoccupations are with problems and conflicts related to space - the manner in which it is produced, organised, controlled, inhabited, eroded, displaced. Spatial issues, as for instance mass migration, megacities, environmental degradation, border conflicts and geopolitics, influence significantly our lived experience as well as our mental conceptions. Outer space and cyberspace are additional spatial dimensions that fuel our perceptions of the present. Spatial transformations also mark the processes connecting the past to the present, the rural habitat to the urban milieu, the landscape to the cityscape, the periphery to the centre, the erstwhile colony to the 'third world' country / tourist attraction / war zone. Can then the study of spatial configurations, real or imagined, help us to understand the dynamics of the present?
Space is understood here not merely as place but as place inhabited and animated by a network of social relations and practices. In this sense the focus is not on space as a physical entity with quantitative properties but on topological space that draws attention to its qualitative properties, its constitutive elements, connections and convergences, continuities and discontinuities, which therefore also incorporates the dimension of time, of change and of history. Central to such a notion of space has also to be the critical engagement with the spatial notions that inform colonial and imperialist discourses of the past and the present.
How is space in this sense, more specifically social space in the contemporary world, envisioned? How is it constructed in the so-called spatial disciplines, such as geography, and how in those with more temporal concerns, such as history? What forms does it take in the imagined spaces in literary texts, in works of art, in theatre and cinema? What are the poetics and politics of such spatial configurations?
The conference aims to bring together interdisciplinary and comparative perspectives on space as lived experience and imagined projections in literature, the arts, and film as well as in the social sciences. It wishes to explore whether and in what way such perspectives contribute to our understanding of the contemporary world.