CFP “Global Cities: A Literary Atlas of Nineteenth-Century Urban Cultures”

A Symposium at the Institute of English Studies, University of London
Hosted by the London Nineteenth-Century Seminar Series

Saturday 25th June 2011
Proposals Due: 5 May 2011

With Elleke Boehmer (Oxford), Isabel Hofmeyr (Witwatersrand) Andrew McCann (Dartmouth) and Jeremy Tambling (Manchester)

The nineteenth century was the century of the cosmopolitan city. In London, New York, Paris, Madrid, Kolkata, Cape Town, and Melbourne, urban cultures emerged in which inhabitants adopted the modes and mores of sophisticated city living. Shaped by global flows of capital, the bureaucracy of empires, the displacement of peoples, and a frenetic traffic in goods and print, cities were hubs in an international maelstrom that produced new ways of living, new social affiliations, and new forms of suffering. Traditionally, studies of one or other European metropolis have dominated Anglophone scholarship on nineteenth-century urban culture. But recent scholarship, not least by postcolonial critics and historians, has shifted this paradigm, showing that non-European cities were not simply distant outposts of imperial centres, but complex cultures in their own right, appropriating, adapting and resisting the metropolitan cultures of empires. The atlas of nineteenth-century urban cultures is more complex, more variegated, and more diverse than previously assumed.

This one-day symposium organised by the London Nineteenth-Century Studies Seminar proposes to explore non-European urban cultures, examining them as sites of exchange or encounter shaped by local histories and geographies, in addition to imperial ones. We are particularly interested in the role of print in the production of global urban cultures. As European publishers set up houses in far flung cities, and travellers brought books to new places, printed texts were one commodity among many that transformed city lives, and inserted city subjects into international networks of information, power and feeling. Yet print itself was subject to local factors, such as the existing networks of readers and writers, who read and wrote works in diverse genres, languages, and scripts. If European urban modernity is characterised by the cacophony of print that literally plastered the exterior walls of buildings, what is to be said of the more intense cacophony of print in a city of many and more diverse languages and cultures? How do we understand the diversity yet interconnectedness of urban cultures? We are interested in building a fuller picture of global urban cultures in the nineteenth century. We are interested in papers that deal with the particularities of urban culture, especially in relation to print, in any non-European city, or with the methodological and conceptual questions that this project raises.

If you are interested in offering a 20 minute paper on these topics please send a c.200 word abstract to or by 5th May 2011.



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