[UPDATE] deadline for proposals is Dec. 1st -- The uses of teaching and researching foreign cultures in today's universities

full name / name of organization: 
Mathieu Bonzom / Université d'Orléans (France)

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REMINDER: the deadline to send proposals for this conference at the University of Orléans (France) is Monday, December 1st.
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The Call For Papers below is also available in French and Spanish on the website of our research group, Rémélice:
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The uses of teaching and researching foreign cultures in today's universities: what seems to be the problem?

International conference, June 11-13, 2015, University of Orléans, France.

This conference will focus on the relations between teaching and research in foreign language and culture studies in today's academic context. research on and transmission of foreign cultures in the present academic context . It will be an opportunity to reflect collectively on the aims, the status and the impact of current teaching and research programs dealing with foreign cultures, in the face of deep transformations of the academic world and beyond, which have been among the subjects of debates on the "crisis" of the humanities and their future.

The idea of a crisis of the humanities is hardly new. Yet the debate has been rekindled in the last few years, in France as well as in many countries within the linguistic areas we study, not least as a result of the restructuring of university systems, which has often been hardest on the humanities. In such a context, new constraints have appeared; not only the (sometimes drastic) limitation of human and financial resources, but also the redefinition of our academic activities, and of our control over them.

The showcase of « excellence » programs (the exception?) bears as little hope of a true revival of the humanities as the fulfillment of short-term labor market needs (the rule?). However, leaving those limited options behind is proving as difficult as it is necessary in the current situation. Between the retreat into embracing uselessness as a principle, and the voids created by budget cuts, can the humanities still claim any non-market value?

While Stanley Fish might not disavow the concept of uselessness, Martha Nussbaum seeks to re-establish the relations between the humanities and civic life, calling for the (re)invention of teaching "for freedom and democracy", rather than "for profit" (Not For Profit, Princeton University Press, 2010). In a similar vein, Michael Byram envisions "intercultural citizenship" as an outcome of teaching and research in the field of foreign languages. These proposals also lead us to consider the ethical dimension of teaching – an activity never limited to, yet never altogether devoid of such a dimension (Fernando Gil Villa et al., « La dimensión ética de la actividad educativa », Bordon. Revista de pedagogia, vol. 43 n°3, 1991). For Yves Citton, instead of looking for a place within a "knowledge economy", the humanities should strive for the redeployment of "cultures of interpretation", devoid of any "productive" design, and nonetheless useful, in a globalized world of colossal data flows and changing intercultural relations (L'Avenir des humanités, La Découverte, 2010). Attempts to consolidate the foundations and the place of the humanities in society often originate where various academic disciplines meet: environmental humanities take the inextricability of the human and the environmental as a premise to analyze intercultural relations through space and time (Ursula Heise, Sense of Place and Sense of Planet, Oxford University Press, 2008); while Vincent Jouve's approach to literary studies employs a theoretical framework that draws simultaneously on aesthetics, history and anthropology (Pourquoi étudier la Littérature ?, Armand Colin, 2010); Montserrat Cots Vicente holds the humanities to be bearers of "a common culture", while highlighting the importance of the issue of the canonical corpus(es) of such a culture (« Crisis de las humanidades, crisis del canon », Mil Seiscientos Dieciséis, Anuario 2006).

The title of this call for papers is intentionally provocative: we wish to generate a critical discussion of "the usefulness in today's universities" of research and teaching concerned with foreign cultures, each participant starting from his or her own experiences and analyses. By putting the very notion of usefulness up for debate, within the realm of foreign cultures in particular (and in relation to the humanities in general), we hope to avoid validating any pre-established definition of usefulness, or indeed embracing claims of uselessness.

The question of usefulness brings us to another question that is its implicit corollary: useful or useless... to what end(s)? Contributions to this discussion, in relation to the study and transmission of foreign cultures, may draw freely on the following questions and topics:

- Teaching languages, teaching cultural knowledge; to know-how and/or to know: should/can there be a separation between knowledge and skills?
- Openness to the world, exoticism, abstract universalism...: interculturality in light of power relations.
- Hierarchies, canons, and subjectivities, in intercultural relations, and in their study.
- Cultural mediation: from a static conception of cultural transmission, to a true intercultural practice?
- How does academic research factor into the teaching of foreign cultures?
- Teaching foreign languages and cultures in universities: can we do without teacher-researchers?
- What authentic interdisciplinary perspectives, what university in the strongest sense, can we invent in times of academic hyper-specialization?
- What are the research orientations in the field of foreign cultures? How are they evolving and why?
- Foreign cultures, theoretical and practical learning and training, and the job market: how can we deal with the real issues and the groundless accusations?
- "Civilization(s)", nations, areas, center and margin, learned/popular/commercial cultures, sub- and counter-cultures, traditional and new forms...: what notion of culture, from what perspectives, to what teaching and/or research ends?

Proposals (in English, French or Spanish) should be sent by Monday, December 1st (2014) to the following addresses:
mathieu.bonzom@univ-orleans.fr and claire.decobert@univ-orleans.fr

Proposals should include: the title and an abstract of your paper (250-300 words), and a short bio.

Conference organizers:
Mathieu Bonzom, Claire Decobert, Karin Fischer, Tom Pughe, and the members of the Rémélice research group (Université d'Orléans).