MEDIATIONS ⇌ MEDITATIONS Brown University German Department Graduate Conference

deadline for submissions: 
February 15, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
Brown University

Date: April 10, 2020 to April 12, 2020

Location: Brown University, Providence, United States

Subject Fields: German History / Studies, Art, Art History & Visual Studies, Literature, Philosophy, Theatre & Performance History / Studies, Anthropology, Political Sciences, Modern Culture and Media Studies, Religious Studies, Contemplative Studies

Keynote Speaker: Eduardo Cadava (Princeton)




What is mediation? And what is meditation? Why put them together as ‘guiding concepts’ of a Graduate Student Conference in German Studies? And, why assign this obscure signifier of a certain bi-directionality in-between? How can the differences between meditations and mediations be determined (or mediated)? How do these concepts relate to each other? Are they even related at all?

Rather than looking for straightforward answers, this exploratory graduate student conference proposes to pause for a moment, to listen and examine carefully the equivocations that resonate within the title. For meditation, such images could, for instance, range from the action or practice of profound spiritual or religious reflection or contemplation; a variety of private devotional exercises consisting of the continuous application of the mind to the contemplation of a particular religious text, truth, mystery, or object. The aim of this mind/body practice is to achieve the eradication of rational or worldly mental activity. Another semantic layer of the word simply refers, quite contrary, to a reflective theoretical discourse, written or spoken. 

Mediation, on the other hand, may be apprehended as the agency or action of an intermediary; the state or fact of serving as an intervening agent, a means of action, or a medium of transmission; instrumentality, or possibly the division by two, into two equal parts, halving, or bisection.


We would like to invite you to explore the oscillating motion or reciprocating movement between “meditation” and “mediation” from various angles and perspectives. Closely linked with this proposed enterprise is our commitment to the concrete practice of academic/artistic collaboration. Through the diverse and varying lenses of literature, music, performance, film and media theory/practice, we will engage in new and productive ways of understanding and/or criticizing concepts of passivity and activity, of contemplation and communication, inwardness and exteriority, and of non-intentionality and instrumentality. 


The destabilization of the distinctiveness of categories like “meditation” vs. “mediation” calls into question traditional concepts of demarcations, and therefore the exclusionary and debarring logic of either-or. This makes it possible to think about alternative modes of instrumentality and intervention in and of literary texts, music, visual art or religious practices. We are interested in the implications this would have for questions of mediality, interpretation and translation. Is there a way to rethink mediality, or create a critical dictionary that questions the role language as a medium plays for given inquiries of difference. Our conference seeks to take the first steps in discussing the poetics of the “intimacy of difference” the title MEDIATIONS ⇌ MEDITATIONS seeks to evoke.


We would very much welcome papers that reflect on ways to rethink the forms and formulations of mediality from any perspective, pertaining to all time periods and disciplinary areas. Topics may be archival, conceptual, or comparative, addressing structure, anti-structure, and everything in-between. Examples include, but are not limited to: meditation as genre, meditation as a narration/narratology, the reception and conceptualization of Buddhism in German Literature around 1900, rethinking the political potentials of meditative practices, the politics of releasement, and the structural role of the (figure of the) center/middle/medium.


We invite submissions from graduate, doctoral, post-doctoral researchers and artists from all disciplines mentioned in the heading as well as artists. Your contributions could be a research paper, intervention, reading or (lecture) performance. Presentations should be no longer than 15 minutes in length. Please send a 250-word abstract as well as a short bio to by February 15, 2020. Acceptance confirmations will be sent out on or before February 20, 2020. 


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Conference organized by Mirjam Paninski, Michael Paninski, Jan Georg Tabor