Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Survival of the City - Symposium Abstracts and Biographies

Professor Shirin Rai

Travelling to work: the city as a site of depletion

Building on my work on depletion and social reproduction, this paper will explore how travelling to work adds a layer of depletion for women domestic workers. The lack of adequate public services, the crowded nature of buses and trains, the domestic labour that most women do before starting on their travels, all contribute to depletion – physical and mental – the performing marketised and non-marketised, paid and unpaid social reproductive work. The paper will thus focus on traversing the city for work and assess how the travels across space are often overlooked as moments of performative labour. Based on a project on working lives in Delhi and Kolkata, the idea is to develop a narrative data set of working lives and the challenges they face; to be able to analyse human stories of labour and depletion, of rewards and alienation, of what works and what doesn’t and cannot work in terms of personal strategies of survival as well as of thriving for those engaged in social reproductive work in the city.


Shirin Rai studied at the University of Delhi (India) and Cambridge University (UK) and joined the University of Warwick in 1989. She is Professor in the department of Politics and International Studies. Her latest works are The Grammar of Performance and Politics (eds., 2014, with Janelle Reinelt), Ceremony and Ritual in Parliament (ed., 2014) New Frontiers of Feminist Political Economy (eds., 2014, with Georgina Waylen).

Associate Professor Rashmi Varma

Peripheral Patna: Cultural Production in a Zone of Backwardness

My paper examines the case of Patna, a provincial capital in northern India and once an important centre of British rule and Indian nationalism, that is seen to have fallen upon bad times since the mid-1970s. Yet, in spite of staggering economic and social backwardness, Patna has a flourishing literary and cultural scene that typically operates in the underground, marginal and interstitial spaces of the city. The paper will examine the literary and cultural forms that have emerged from conditions of peripherality and backwardness in the city. As such, the paper will provide a reflection on the paradoxical parameters that we often use to assess aspects of urban life such as cosmopolitanism, technological development and economic growth.

picture.jpgDr. Rashmi Varma teaches postcolonial and world literary studies and feminist theory in the Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies at the University of Warwick. She is the author of The Postcolonial City and its Subjects: London, Nairobi, Bombay (2011) and of the forthcoming Modern Tribal: Representing Indigeneity in Postcolonial India. She is the founder-member of the editorial collective of the journal Feminist Dissent.

Associate Professor Joanne Garde-Hansen

Liquid Memories: A Proposal on Remembering City Rivers through Digital Media

The headlong stream is termed violent
But the riverbed hemming it in is
Termed violent by no one.

Berthold Brecht
First stanza ‘On Violence’ Poems 1913-1956 (p. 276)

Is water in a state of oblivion? Is it being remembered only for its violence or scarcity and forgotten for its everyday life-enhancing storytelling? Can it only be appreciated as contained (by territories and concrete)? Liquid memories speak back to the (violent) riverbed of hard facts (economic capitalism, power politics, environmental risk, urban development) and offer soft processes that work through the (patriarchal) past to produce trans/mobile modalities of un-contained flows of river stories. Water in oblivion (as the connection between remembering and forgetting says Marc Augé) is the necessary work state to understand river life narratives as self-realizing personal agency in a cultural policy of water. Here ‘[m]emories are like plants: there are those that need to be quickly eliminated in order to help the others burgeon, transform, flower’ (Augé 2004: 17). The liquid memories proposed in this paper, as constructed fictions of the river made from memories of flooding for example, will offer the possibility of new margins and develop new landscapes. The aim is to address new trans-cultural departures within cultural memory studies and memory policy. The latter have largely focused on (a) the territory of the nation state (collective memory); (b) on European history (the memory of Europe project) and (c) on the relationship (a) back to (b), which may be one of difficulty or unevenness for emerging economies.

To address the fluidity of memories of water that are mediated by increasingly globally connected people is to recognise the remembering and forgetting of the river in and under the city. Rivers flow into seas and oceans, water circulates globally. Yet, water inequalities, water crises and water politics are addressed within national public spheres as if water and the meanings it generates must be read against the social, cultural, religious, historical, political and economic schema of each nation state. What mechanisms can be produced for a trans-national/trans-setting sharing of stories of urban rivers? This paper draws upon AHRC, ESRC and NERC funded research in the UK on sustainable flood memories and drought narratives to ask questions about the future memories of City Rivers.

staff_photo_jgh.jpgJoanne Garde-Hansen is Associate Professor in Culture, Media and Communication, in the Centre for Cultural Policy Studies at the University of Warwick, UK. She directs the MA in Global Media and Communication. Her research and teaching focus upon two strands: media, memory, archives and heritage; and media, gender, emotion and ageing. She has published on (digital) media and memory, television archives and cultural heritage in a range of books and journal articles. Joanne was co-investigator on the ESRC funded Sustainable Flood Memories project and principal investigator of the British Academy funded Inheriting British Television Project. She is also co-investigator on the NERC funded DRY – Drought Risk and You Project. Joanne is currently working with colleagues in São Paulo and Belo Horizonte, Brazil, as well as Kings College London and University of the West of England on water, river, city, and mediated memory research proposals.

Associate Professor Louise Bourdua

Sustaining Venice in the Late Middle Ages

Rising water and building control remain foremost concerns for today’s Venetian administration. Sustainability, however, was at the forefront of past government as long ago as the middle ages. This paper will focus on the role of the Procurators of San Marco in sustaining Venice during the fourteenth century.


Dr Louise Bourdua is Reader and Head of the Department of History of Art at Warwick. Her publications have focused on the artistic patronage and iconography of religious orders and include The Franciscans and Artistic Patronage in the Veneto in the late middle Ages and Art and the Augustinian Order in Early Renaissance Italy. She is currently working on a book entitled “What Petrarch Saw. Art and Patronage in Fourteenth-Century Venice." She was Ailsa Mellon Bruce Senior Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art, Washington (2013/14), and Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Visiting Professor at The Harvard University Center for Renaissance Studies in Florence (2011).

Jane da Mosto

Round Table discussion Connecting Venice: Research and Reality

Today, more than ever, Venice is literally swamped by problems. Confusion reigns, amidst complex governance and institutional issues, because proposals that are put forward as solutions can actually cause further damage to the city.
Jane da Mosto, co-founder of the research-based, grass roots NGO We are here Venice, will explore how to address the fundamental issues challenging Venice through robust academic processes. This will provide researchers with the rare chance to access case-study material in a unique city where issues are so blatantly visible, and will benefit Venice through the objective analysis of scholarly research.
Venice provides a useful perspective in that it has a long history of inherent resilience but it can also act ‘the canary in the mine’ regarding the challenges of the 21st century such as adaptation to climate change, global mass tourism and socio-economic threats to livable cities.

Jane da Mosto read Zoology at Oxford and obtained an MSc from Imperial College before becoming a research fellow at the Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei (Milan). In Venice since 1995, she has worked on climate change at CNR-ISMAR and, as Scientific Advisor to the Venice in Peril Fund, co-authored The Science of Saving Venice (2004) and the Venice Report (2009) as part of an ongoing collaboration wit Cambridge University Coastal Research Unit. In 2010 she curated a section of the British Pavilion at the Architecture Biennale and was a consultant on water management for the OECD Territorial Review of Venice. Recently she has been trying to promote change more directly through initiatives like the “Venezia è Laguna” flag campaign and coordinating more than 30 associations under the umbrella “Forum Futuro Arsenale” to ensure that revitalisation of the compendium fuels sustainable economic development of the city as a whole by building on its cultural and historical integrity. “Vogliamo Venezia” is the latest action by Wahv that gives Venetian citizens a voice in addressing the torment of cruiseships.

Dr Nicholas Whybrow

High Tide, High Time: Alfredo Jaar’s 2013 Biennale Installation Venezia, Venezia

Alfred Jaar’s installation Venezia, Venezia for the Venice Biennale in 2013 presented an exact scale model replica of the Biennale’s Giardini galleries complex, a lush neighbourhood of national pavilions laid out neatly like foreign embassies in a formation that exudes early 20th century western colonialist power. Jaar’s Giardini model lies sunken in a large square pool of murky green Venetian canal water, so there is no initial hint of the Biennale complex, only a deceptive calm. After a while a clunking mechanism kicks in and the gardens slowly emerge. They remain for approximately half a minute before receding again, leaving behind but a few air bubbles floating on the surface. Jaar’s installation represents a critical reckoning with the Biennale as highly-influential, long-standing global art-world event, setting this in the context of both the future ecology of the city of Venice as a whole and a declining western civilisation.

whybrow_photo.jpgNicolas Whybrow is Reader and Head of School in the School of Theatre, Performance and Cultural Policy Studies at the University of Warwick, UK. His most recent books are Art and the City (2011) and the edited volume Performing Cities (2014), with chapter contributions on diverse global cities from an international line-up of artists and scholars. He is currently working on a monograph entitled Contemporary Art Biennials: the Work of Art in the Complex City.

Associate Professor Shaul Bassi

The Merchant in Venice, Shylock in the Ghetto

Two landmark anniversaries will coincide in 2016: the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death and the 500th anniversary of the foundation of the Jewish Ghetto of Venice, a place that provided the world with the concept of the 'ghetto', as well as the historical backdrop to Shakespeare’s controversial play. Both the Ghetto and The Merchant of Venice are global icons, two fundamentally ambivalent documents of Western civilization that have been used both as instruments of intolerance and catalysts for cultural exchange. I will discuss the project that will lead to the first performance of The Merchant of Venice in the Ghetto in history. Never before has the play been brought live to its ideal historical setting, making play and place resonate with each other.

shaul_pic.jpgShaul Bassi is Associate Professor of English Literature at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice. His recent publications include Shakespeare in Venice. Exploring the City with Shylock and Othello (with Alberto Toso Fei, 2007), Visions of Venice in Shakespeare (with Laura Tosi, Ashgate, 2011), Experiences of Freedom in Postcolonial Literatures and Cultures (with Annalisa Oboe, Routledge, 2011). Shakespeare's Italy and Italy's Shakespeare. Place, 'Race', and Politics is forthcoming in 2016 from Palgrave Macmillan. He is leading the international effort to produce the first performance of The Merchant of Venice in the Ghetto in 2016.

Professor Alison Ribeiro de Menezes

Landscapes After The Battle, Life Stories on the Edge: Entanglements of Memory and Crisis in Contemporary Spain

This paper considers the interweaving of two key issues in contemporary Spanish cultural studies: the legacies of civil war and dictatorship, and the fall out from the recent economic crisis. The landscapes left behind by the battles of Spain’s indignado or anti-auterity movement have witnessed the arrival of new Mayors in the Ayuntamientos of Madrid and Barcelona. Non-career politicans have been voted into office on a wave of radical protest that has not simply challenged the politics of austerity, but has gone so far as to suggest that Spain’s post-dictatorship political settlement is in crisis.

This can be traced on Madrid cityscape: the anti-auterity protests were most closely associated with occupation of Madrid’s main square, the Puerta del Sol. This same movement has backed calls to change street names recalling heroes of the civil war era, just as writers such as Isaac Rosa and Jéronimo López Mozo have ‘outed’ in their works the Ayuntamiento in Sol as the headquarters of the Franco Regime’s political police. However, novelist Rafael Chirbes’s works, which narrate the criss-crossing stories of everyday individuals caught up in wider political changes, are perhaps the most succinct expression of the entangments of the politics of memory and of economics that characterise Spanish urbanscapes today.


Alison Ribeiro de Menezes is Professor of Hispanic Studies at the University of Warwick. She has published widely on contemporary Spanish narrative, including the books Juan Goytisolo: The Author as Dissident (Tamesis, 2005), and A Companion to Carmen Martín Gaite, co-authored with Catherine O’Leary (Tamesis, 2008, paperback edition 2014). Her current research focuses on issues of cultural memory in the Hispanic and Lusophone worlds, and she has co-edited two volumes in this area: War and Memory in Contemporary Spain/Guerra y memoria en la España contemporánea with Roberta Quance and Anne Walsh (Verbum, 2009), and more recently Legacies of War and Dictatorship in Contemporary Portugal and Spain, with Catherine O’Leary (Peter Lang, 2011). Her latest monograph, Embodying Memory in Contemporary Spain (Palsgrave Macmillan) was published in 2014. Alison is currently co-editing a series of essays on The Future of Memory in Spain with Dr Stewart King of Monash University, and beginning a project on the transnational circulations of memory debates.

Professor Susan Bassnett

Translating Cities

Writers from many cultures have been variously fascinated, enchanted and appalled by the idea and the diverse realities of the city. Some have imagined ideal cities, others have created dystopian images of cities as cruel, brutal places. This paper looks at ways in which cities have been imagined, or rather, translated, when translation is understood in the broadest sense of the term as a process of intercultural reflection. Bassnett, one of the founders of the new discipline known as Translation Studies, focusses on cities as multilingual entities, where translation and negotiation between cultures is part of daily life.

SusanSusan Bassnett is a writer and scholar of comparative literature and translation studies. She served as Pro-Vice-Chancellor at the University of Warwick for ten years and taught in its Centre for Translation and Comparative Cultural Studies, which she founded in the 1980s. She was educated in several European countries, began her academic career in Italy, and continues to lecture in universities around the world. She sits on the board of several international funding bodies, including the Leverhulme Trust.

Author of over 20 books, her Translation Studies(4th edition, 2013), which first appeared in 1980, has remained in print ever since and has become an important international textbook in this field. Her Comparative Literature (1993) has also become internationally renowned and has been translated into several languages. Other books include works on Latin American literature , women’s theatre history, and poetry. Recent books are Translation in Global News (2008) written with Esperanca Bielsa, Reflections on Translation (2011) and Translation (2013) in the Routledge New Critical Idiom series. In addition to her scholarly works, Bassnett is a well-known journalist and also writes poetry. She is an elected Fellow of the Institute of Linguists and also of the Royal Society of Literature.

Professor Alexandre Quintanilha

Public understanding of Risk
Our understanding of risk involves the integration of a number of diferent components of knowledge. The three major components include: a) What is the status of current knowledge regarding a particular subject? b) Do we view the world we live in as either robust or fragile? c) To what extent do we trust those that provide us with answers to our questions? There are, of course many other factors, but I consider these as the most critical. Several examples will be presented that will illustrate how we deal with issues that require us to decide whether we should embrace risk, or not. I will attempt to show how all areas of knowledge contribute to our (mis)undesrtanding of risk.

alexBorn in 1945; completed high school in Lourenço Marques (Maputo) Mozambique.
Read physics/mathematics at Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, completing his Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics in 1972. Spent the next two decades in California at U.C. Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory as professor of cell physiology and biophysics and director of a Center for Environmental Studies. Moved to the University of Porto in the early 90’s as professor of biophysics at the Biomedical Faculty (ICBAS). Was, until 2010, director of both the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IBMC) and the Institute of Biomedical Engineering (INEB). He then chaired the committee responsible for implementing a newly formed consortium of the three major biomedical research institutions in Porto (I3S). He is a member of several international Academies, and over the years has chaired various committees at the ESF, the EC (Chair of Advisory Committee for Marie Curie Actions, Chair of ELSA and member of EURAB), the OECD and other national and international research organizations. He currently chairs the Council of Associate Laboratories (CLA) of the Ministry of Science, is President of the Ethics Committee for Clinical Research (CEIC) in Portugal and is a member of the National Council for Science and Technology. He was also a member of the Science and Technology Advisory Council of the President of the European Commission. He has published well over one hundred and thirty peer-reviewed scientific articles and six books and has always been involved in science policy. His interests continue in the area of biological oxidative stress and have included, more recently, risk perception and public understanding of knowledge.