Call for papers: International Conference Cultural perceptions of safety

On Thursday 21st and Friday 22nd of January 2021 the Humanities Department of the Open University of the Netherlands organizes the international conference ‘Cultural perceptions of safety’. The conference will be held in Utrecht, at the Academiegebouw, and is supported by the Huizinga Institute (Research Institute and Graduate School of Cultural History).

Questions of safety are at the foreground of many societal and spatial issues. Nowadays as well as in the past, the longing for safety is an important driving force for people and political and religious regimes. The pursuit of safety is often used to legitimize political action and social interventions. Therefore, it is important to reflect on how we define, experience and represent safety. In our modern day and age, according to statistics on crime, hunger, illness or death most parts of the world appear to be safer than ever before. However, the information age we live in brings us daily news of ecological catastrophes, drug crimes, epidemics, terrorism and trade wars, which influences our sense of safety significantly. Feelings of safety are thus connected to much more than measurable numbers alone. Changing experiences of safety over time are influenced by social, political, environmental and personal factors and need to be seen in a broader context to fully grasp its impact.

During this conference cultural perception of safety will be put at the foreground to focus on questions such as: When do feelings of safety and unsafety emerge? How is safety and unsafety portrayed and imagined in literary works, artworks, architecture and media? Do modern representations of safety and unsafety differ from those in earlier times? And how have safety practices been generated, implemented or used by people in policymaking and constructions of society?

The conference ‘Cultural perceptions of safety’ brings together scholars from various humanities disciplines in order to stimulate an interdisciplinary reflection on and contribute to our cultural understanding of the experience of safety and its larger societal impact.

The organisation welcomes abstracts for papers (20 minutes max. excluding discussion) focusing on modern and pre-modern cultural perceptions of safety. Contributions can address, but are by no means limited to the following themes:

  • Spatial dimensions of safety; How does the representation and expression of safety differ between cities and rural areas? How was and is the ideal safe space portrayed? How does the architecture or the city planning of spaces influence our feeling of safety?
  • Emotional dimensions of safety; How has the emotion of safety been perceived and portrayed over time? How are feelings of safety influenced by processes of in- and exclusion of specific social groups? How are feelings of safety and unsafety imagined and linked? How do different literary genres discuss (un)safety in relation to emotions? and How do art works perform (un)safety and how is this linked to affectivity?
  • Theoretical and ethical reflections on safety; What is safety? How has safety been defined? What is the role of safety in society? Which philosophical and religious roots have influenced our perceptions of safety?
  • Eco-anxiety and safety; How is the feeling of safety affected by the existential challenge of climate change? How does the phenomenon of eco-anxiety prevail in cultural expressions of safety? Is this form of anxiety a typical current societal discourse of safety or does it have its own history?
  • Politics of safety; What is the meaning and value of safety in politics? How have feelings of safety and unsafety been used in policy making? What are the differences in cultural perspectives on safety in western and non-western countries and on national, global and geo-political level?

See this website for more information.

If you have any questions, please contact Martje aan de Kerk via martje.aandekerk@ou.nl.

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