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Creative & Artistic Encounters in the Western Mediterranean

Interdisciplinary Conference at the University of Aberdeen (5th – 7th September 2022)

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Creative & Artistic Encounters in the Western Mediterranean
Creative & Artistic Encounters in the Western Mediterranean

Date & Location

05 شتنبر 2022، 09:00 – 07 شتنبر 2022، 18:00

Sir Duncan Rice Library, University of Aberdeen, Bedford Rd, Aberdeen AB24 3AA

About the Event

*** Final Conference Programme is Available Here ***

This hybrid conference (in-person and online) examines the relationship between the arts, cultural encounter, politics and power across the societies that straddle the Western Mediterranean (including, but not restricted to, Algeria, France, Italy, Morocco, Portugal, Spain and Tunisia). Focusing on colonial and postcolonial periods (from the 19th century to the present day), the event explores how different artistic media (music, film, theatre, art, literature) have been instrumentalised by communities and institutions for diverse social and political ends. These may include colonial propaganda, identity formation (e.g., nationality, ethnicity, race, class, gender, sexuality), tourism, heritage preservation and cultural diplomacy.

The arts are often sidelined in scholarship on the region due to an emphasis on politics, economics and history. The conference's aim is to explore how the arts construct intercultural relations across communities and nations in this region. We are particularly interested in the multiple potential meanings of “encounter” from creative and artistic perspectives: practically, politically, culturally, philosophically. What sorts of encounters emerge and how are they conceptualised by artists, scholars, audiences? What are the cultural and political ramifications of these encounters? How does multilingualism (across the arts) break or reinforce political or cultural boundaries? What can the arts bring to wider scholarly debates around key topics such as history, empire, international relations and migration in the region?

Existing scholarship on artistic practice in the Western Mediterranean has tended towards isolated geographical case studies and methodological nationalism, with less consideration of the intersections across the different geographical and temporal spaces of the Western Mediterranean. Recent work has encouraged scholars to examine the transnational connections/networks and the links between contemporary geopolitical configurations and the legacies of colonial power and knowledge (e.g., Hannoum 2021; Stenner 2019; Talbayev 2017). A key focus of this event is to consider how the arts can help us disentangle the complex web of relations across the geopolitical borders that demarcate ‘Europe’ and ‘North Africa’, framed against trans-colonial histories and legacies of power.

The conference will consist of a range of paper presentations, art/photography/music exhibits, poetry readings and workshops, and film showings from a range of disciplinary and creative perspectives (e.g., anthropology, film studies, history, international relations, literature studies, musicology). We will be considering the following key questions

  • How are the arts utilised for projects of cultural diplomacy and nation branding, and what is their efficacy? How can we move beyond analyses of diplomacy at an institutional level and examine its repercussions for everyday artistic encounters at a ‘grassroots’ level?
  • How are the arts implicated in the politics of heritage? How do communities respond to the safeguarding or appropriation of tangible/intangible heritage?
  • What role do the arts play in cultural tourism and the ‘festivalization’ of culture across the Western Mediterranean?
  • How are the arts used to negotiate internal societal issues such as those faced by minorities, women, LGBTQ+ and other marginalised communities?
  • What stories of migration, conflict and racism can the arts tell us, especially in diasporic contexts?
  • What traces of colonial knowledge and power might we observe in international relations in the region?
  • How can the arts help us to problematise geopolitical spaces such as ‘the Maghreb’ and ‘the Mediterranean’ and the interactions between those spaces?

Conference Committee:

Vanessa Paloma Elbaz

Samuel Llano

Matthew Machin-Autenrieth (chair) 

Eric Petzoldt 

Steve Wilford 

A full programme for the event will be uploaded in August. For more information on the event, please contact


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