HomeSelf, Other and Elsewhere: Images and Imagination in the Port Cities of Atlantic and Mediterranean Europe(18th – 21st Centuries)

Self, Other and Elsewhere: Images and Imagination in the Port Cities of Atlantic and Mediterranean Europe(18th – 21st Centuries)

Soi, l’autre et l’ailleurs : images et imaginaires des villes portuaires de l’Europe atlantique et méditerranéenne (XVIIIe-XXIe siècle)

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Published on Monday, September 08, 2014 by Elsa Zotian

Summary

In these times when urban marketing is being applied to outline the identity of our cities with a view to promoting it more effectively, this international seminar proposes to reflect upon the representation systems of European port cities on the Atlantic and the Mediterranean from the 18th century through to the present day. The relationship between city and port – we will be addressing only sea ports here – is far from simple, depending on the types of activities (trade, industry, military, tourism, etc.) and from one period in time to another, with the relationships urban societies have with their port spaces and activities varying in intensity and in nature, especially as the long period of time considered here spans the phases of the development of maritime activity, its decline and, more recently, urban restructuring. In this respect, quaysides form the line along which city and port meet, and provide the most tangible illustration of these transformations. Over the years, how have urban societies represented their ports and the opening onto the world they provide? 

Announcement

Director: Françoise Taliano-des Garets, Professor of Contemporary History at Sciences Po Bordeaux, Centre for Social History of the 20th Century, Panthéon-Sorbonne Paris 1 University

Date: 11 and 12 May 2015

Languages: French and English

Organiser: Paris 1 University Centre of 20th Century Social History (CHS 20th Century), Sciences Po Bordeaux

In partnership with the Museum of Aquitaine, National Customs Museum, France

Argument

In these times when urban marketing is being applied to outline the identity of our cities with a view to promoting it more effectively, this international seminar proposes to reflect upon the representation systems of European port cities on the Atlantic and the Mediterranean from the 18th century through to the present day. The relationship between city and port – we will be addressing only sea ports here – is far from simple, depending on the types of activities (trade, industry, military, tourism, etc.) and from one period in time to another, with the relationships urban societies have with their port spaces and activities varying in intensity and in nature, especially as the long period of time considered here spans the phases of the development of maritime activity, its decline and, more recently, urban restructuring. In this respect, quaysides form the line along which city and port meet, and provide the most tangible illustration of these transformations. Over the years, how have urban societies represented their ports and the opening onto the world they provide? We intend to examine both material representations (Darstellung) and mental representations (Vorstellung), to reflect on images, symbols and the imagination. This study will encompass a variety of sources, taking account of developments in technical media: artistic and literary works, sources from political, administrative and economic authorities, oral and written sources, photography, radio, cinema, television and digital sources…

The port city is a city that is a gateway to the wider world, except in rare moments of crisis. The view it has of itself is therefore particularly influenced by the relationships it has with the outside, with other peoples and other worlds. It is also the object of external representations produced by those who do not live there, but simply pass through without staying or imagine it without visiting. The port city, subjected as it is to population flows, also has its view of those who arrive in or depart from its territory, and of the remote worlds with which it is in contact. This internal and external mental construct is of course fed by reality, but it also departs from it, as mental timescales do not always match those of the facts, and there are also unconscious processes at work. The latter may lead to a transformation of reality, whereby myths appear, to an eclipsing of reality or to things being forgotten. We will be examining these internal and external representations and comparing them over time and in space, no doubt revealing similarities and differences between port cities, and perhaps also some elements of urban identity.

I-The port city seen by itself and others

1-Seen by itself

Through a comparative and diachronic approach, the aim here will be to grasp the view port cities have of themselves, to see the past through the eyes of the men and women who experienced it, working on the material and mental representations they have left behind them in order to reconstruct their perception of reality. The work already achieved in economic and social history will provide indispensable foundations to guide this reflection and measure any gaps that might emerge between reality and representations. Did the cities have a positive or a negative image of their port activity, of the society that lived off it, of the landscapes and districts shaped by it? Quaysides have been diversely perceived, as have the trading, industrial or military districts linked directly to ports. The imagination of social groups and the presence of varied communities in these places marked by intermixing of populations and cosmopolitanism suggest that this should provide rich terrain for exploration. In addition to this, the city also shows itself to the outside world, identifies itself by emblems, symbols, publications, posters, films, logos and websites, etc. These choices emanate from its governing bodies and their history, too, is worth tracing.  Analysis of this dimension of the imagination over time should also draw our attention. How have port societies perceived their past and envisaged their future? This can be all the more interesting in that these cities have known periods of development, decline and restructuring. Their relationship with the past may be draped in myth, embellished or, on the contrary, may choose to block out events. Conversely, projection into the future implies conceiving economic, urban and cultural projects which may also reveal the representation systems of the times.

2-Seen by others

This inward-looking view must be completed by the outside view of port cities. Travellers and tourists have no doubt contributed greatly to building the identities of port cities, making them attractive or repellent. Travelogues, correspondence, literary works and iconography all bear their traces. The view the political powers (central government) and administrative authorities have of port cities may also provide enlightenment. This outside view and its focus may have influenced the views of the inhabitants of these port cities, either by their acceptance of it, or their rejection. The case of Marseille is particularly interesting in this respect.

II- Others and elsewhere seen by port cities

1-View of others

The analysis will also draw on a reflection on the view of “others”, of those who pass through the city more or less fleetingly, or may end up settling there: labourers, seafarers, merchants, soldiers, tourists, etc. Over the centuries, these cities have been through upheavals in their relations with others, notably driven by the slave trade for some of them, or by waves of migration. The vision of the slave trade has of course evolved, with the emphasis today on memory and repentance, and it may be useful to compare this process. Concerning migration, how have port cities seen and represented migrants? This may provide some key insights into their propensity for hospitality. Ports have not only been places for economic contacts, they have also been places of strategic importance and wars have also brought their share of mixing of populations. Have these stages also left their mark in representations?

2-Imaginary views of remote worlds

Port cities have also imagined how things are “elsewhere”. Such remote worlds may have filled them with fear or, on the contrary, attracted them, as pictorial or literary works may testify. The periods when trade was developing with certain regions of the globe are likely to have driven growth in artistic output and to have inspired artistic genres and fashions. Conversely, the decline and disappearance of certain maritime routes probably brought a decline in certain themes. The impact of upheavals such as the end of the triangle trade or decolonisation no doubt merit examination. For example, did certain representations dry up in the wake of these major turning points in history, and at what pace?  Finally, from colonisation through to today’s globalisation, have these links with the world always had a positive connotation? Are there facets that remain constant between cities on the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, or have they produced different visions?

By an interdisciplinary approach drawing on extremely varied sources, we hope to catch a glimpse of some of the specific facets of these cities, according to the times, the types of ports (commercial, industrial, military, etc.), their geographical positions on the Atlantic or Mediterranean and their countries. However, we may also be able to identify features that remain constant from one shore to another, and some key moments and turning points in the overall evolution of these representation systems. In order to avoid the succession of disconnected monographs, we welcome regional studies, as well as work that compares two or more cities, providing either a comprehensive or a more specific comparison.

Submission guidelines

Proposals for papers should be sent to the following addresses: b.barthelemy@sciencespobordeaux.fr and f.taliano@sciencespobordeaux.fr

by 12 October 2014.

They should include an abstract of no more than one page in length and a CV with a list of publications.

Travel expenses will not be refunded.

Scientific Committee

  • Martine Acerra, CRHIA
  • John Barzman, CIRTAI
  • Gilbert Buti, TELEMME
  • Dominique Jarrassé, Centre F.G. Pariset
  • Maryline Crivello, TELEMME
  • Annie Fourcaut, CHS 20th Century
  • Dominique Kalifa, CRHXIX
  • Claire Laux, LAM
  • Gérard Le Bouedec, CERHIO
  • Brigitte Marin, TELEMME
  • Bruno Marnot, CRHIA
  • Michel Pigenet, CHS 20th Century
  • Pascal Ory, CHS 20th Century
  • Antoine Roger, CED
  • Guy Saupin, CRHIA
  • Andy Smith, CED
  • Françoise Taliano-des Garets, CHS 20th Century, associated researcher at the CED

Places

  • Rez de chaussée du Musée national des douanes | Auditorium du Musée d'Aquitaine - Musée national des douanes, 1 quai de la douane | Musée d'Aquitaine Bordeaux
    Bordeaux, France (33)

Date(s)

  • Sunday, October 12, 2014

Keywords

  • histoire des représentations, villes portuaires, Atlantique, Méditerranée, histoire maritime, ports

Contact(s)

  • Françoise Taliano-des Garets
    courriel : f [dot] taliano [at] sciencespobordeaux [dot] fr

Information source

  • Françoise Taliano-des Garets
    courriel : f [dot] taliano [at] sciencespobordeaux [dot] fr

To cite this announcement

« Self, Other and Elsewhere: Images and Imagination in the Port Cities of Atlantic and Mediterranean Europe(18th – 21st Centuries) », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Monday, September 08, 2014, https://calenda.org/298767

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