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The Northern Star Symposium 2024: Mending

The Northern Star Symposium 2024: Mending
The Northern Star Symposium is a three-day academic gathering in Bodø. The goal of this symposium is to have a place to discuss topics and questions that are not among the mainstream of conferences and journals.

The Northern Star Symposium is a three-day academic gathering in Bodø, a Norwegian city just north of the Arctic Circle. The goal of this symposium is to have a place to discuss topics and questions that are not among the mainstream of conferences and journals, a place to test out new ideas and listen to fresh voices in academia. The keynote speakers will not have presented elsewhere, and the participants are there to satisfy their curiosity and their interest, foster new directions of research and exploration, and engage in debate and the exchange of knowledge. The symposium is organised annually, and it has a limited number of attendants.

The Northern Star Symposium is organised by the Journalism research group within the Faculty of Social Sciences, Nord University, Bodø.

Call for presentations:

A more sustainable future is one where we consume less and mend more. This mending can be very literal, the mending of clothes, of fences and of local environments, but it can also be used about mending relationships, friendships, communities and systems.

Mending is an act of repairing what is broken, but it can also be about making something new from the disintegrating parts of the past. In small ways we can mend a challenged ecosystem by planting flowers and creating composts, to reuse scraps to nurture and maintain the biodiversity, we can use the resources of nature, picking berries and fishing from remote, unused lakes, collecting garbage and clearing beaches, to connect sustainably with our environments, or just connecting with the humans around us, being part of bringing a community together rather than breaking it apart. We can care for our own clothes and those of the family, rather than supporting a lifestyle of rampant consumption, and we can use old computers and support older software, or look at strategies for designing games for older hardware, finding ways to make technology serve for longer, breaking the cycle of planned obsolescence. Sharing knowledge about techniques, skills and resources that can give individuals agency and self-sufficiency is part of this step towards the ability to better care for our small part of the world.

Around us, the world appears to be falling apart. Armed conflicts are in progress on all continents, and North America, which appears to be at peace, has seen more than 20 000 people killed in gun violence in 2023 in the US. The climate fails, natural resources that have been stable for generations shift, and our society disintegrates. As small people in a big world, it is hard to see what can be done. This symposium is an attempt to look towards something more constructive and beautiful, towards mending within our reach.

We can, and must, keep mending the broken trust between humans. In Norway, the reconciliation report is trying to mend the relations between the indigenous population of the north and the other groups inhabiting and native to the same and bordering areas. In Poland there is extensive work in progress to protect and conserve the Jewish heritage that keeps being uncovered in the cities. Mending can be both a personal choice, an institutional strategy and a political choice on the global arena.

We ask how we can use our resources both in social or private settings, but also through media, social media, games and qualitative and quantitative methods to mend and preserve, rather than to consume, exchange or break. How can we make choices, at the micro-, meso- and macro level that aims are preserving, repairing and reusing, rather than letting everything fall apart? How can we turn towards mending?

We invite contributions on subjects including, but not exclusively, to bridging gaps, darning fabrics, bringing people together, mending the divide between humans and animals, the cohesive whole, new assemblages, Kintsugie, garbage, manure, composting, rebuilding, holistic thinking, repairing, patching, reusing, healing, maker spaces.

Format:

We invite abstracts of up to 500 words (not including literature lists), for the following formats: Paper, work in progress, reflection.

  • Reflections: This is a flight of fancy, a description of potential ideas and connections that the concept mending fosters
  • Paper abstract: This is a summary of a relevant research project you have done, and which you would like to present to the others
  • Work in progress: This is work you would like feedback on
  • We also invite more formats: experiences, performance, experimentation and roleplay
  • Feedback: You will get a commenter, and be asked to provide feedback on the work of another person

Deadline:

  • Early deadline 10th March. We start accepting from this date.
  • First date of decisions: 13th of March.
  • Late deadline 10th April.
  • Submit by email to Northern.Star.Symposium@gmail.com

Selection process:

Submissions are not anonymously reviewed. Program decisions will be made by the program committee:

  • Torill Elvira Mortensen
  • Tomasz Majkowski
  • Egil Trasti Rogstad
  • Matilda Ståhl
  • Kristian A. Bjørkelo

Keynote speakers

Dr. Outi Kaarina Laiti

Dr. Outi Kaarina Laiti is a Saami game researcher and designer. Currently, she is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Helsinki Indigenous studies, where she delves into the intersection of education, computer science, and Saami culture in video games and programming. With a primary focus on developing Saami game developers, Laiti has also promoted elderly eSports by coaching a Counter-Strike team. In 2020, she was recognized as one of gamesindustry.biz's 100 Game Changers for her efforts to make the industry more accessible to marginalized groups. Over the past decade, Laiti has been actively involved in planning game-related projects and organizing game development events in the Saami homeland, Sápmi. She is also a driving force behind Saami Game Jams, co-creating and shaping these collaborative events that foster Indigenous innovation and cultural representation in gaming.

Abstract proposal for the talk:
A Decade of Developing Saami Game Developers: From Local Stories to Global Recognition

Globally, Indigenous games continue their growth as Indigenous developers create games that tell their own stories, showcase their cultures, and challenge stereotypes. Play and games are a solid part of Indigenous histories and thus a cultural trait. Rapidly advancing video game technology is a game changer: the spread of the internet has had a significant impact on society, and Indigenous communities in Westernized countries are no exception. This presents new challenges for Indigenous communities, especially in defining the use of the new tools digitalization offers.

Today, the Nordic gaming industry can be described as an economic powerhouse of the North. However, the Saami people have very little representation in the field of games. If we all have the same possibilities in the prosperous North, what creates this digital divide, and who, if any, needs to fill the gap?

In this talk, Outi Laiti approaches these themes through her ten-year career in enhancing Saami game development. By exploring the ups, downs, and side-steps of her research journey, she defines empowerment in new media platforms as achieved through developing Saami game developers, and speculates on the future of Saami game design.

Kinga Siewior, PhD

Kinga Siewior, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology of Literature and Cultural Studies at the Faculty of Polish Studies at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, where she teaches cultural studies. Member of the Research Center for Memory Cultures at Jagiellonian University, where she is a PI of the international research project ‘Potential Histories of Central Europe’. Her interests include Polish culture of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in the perspective of memory studies and cultural theories of emotion. Fellow of the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education (2020-2023) and the The Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna (2023/24). Author of two books, editor and author of dozens of articles on the history of Polish culture. She is currently working on an individual project "Making of Emotional Socialism. Poetics and Politics of Feelings in Postwar Poland (1944-1989)".

Abstract proposal for the talk:
Thinking the Better Now through Mending of Memory (Studies)

In my talk, I would like to reflect on what mending has in common with memory studies and popular and vernacular culture studies. Today, memory studies is a well-established sub-discipline of cultural studies, hence my talk will focus not so much on its reconstruction as on pointing out some of its limitations and pitfalls and new concepts that aim to address such limitations and pitfalls. In the first order of my presentation, therefore, I will look at the idea of reparative humanities and the concept of potentializing history. The latter was proposed by Ariella Azoulay in her book Potential History: Unlearning Imperialism (2019). Using Israeli-Palestinian history as an example, Azoulay shows how to rethink ways of understanding history and re-using it to shape contemporary identities and policies, as well as how to unlearn established ways of thinking about the past. This critical practice is based on reconstructing the history of unrealized possibilities, practices and social phenomena that have been abandoned or forgotten. Azoulay advocates archival work - the discovery of ephemeral, usually civil and bottom-up initiatives and phenomena, in order to correct prevailing visions of the past with threads that show solidarity or empathy, and thus repair our present collective conditions.

In the second part of my talk, I would like to propose a more practical reflection, that is, to indicate where to look for such (potentializng) histories and how to investigate them. I will therefore look at the phenomenon of mending in Polish culture in the 1980s, namely during the time of the decline of communism, which was marked by the Martial Law and massive economic collapse. I will be interested in the various dimensions of mending, primarily vernacular reparation and manufacturing, examples of which I find in popular culture texts (music videos, film sets, etc.), in underground art, as well as in various popular ‘lifestyle’ magazines and handbooks. I shall prove that from a present-day perspective, firstly, these ephemeral and hauntological, sometimes funny and sometimes ‘failure’ (Halberstam 2011) imagery could have emancipatory potential. At this point my guide will become Sara Ahmed and her concept of ‘queer use’ (Uses of the Uses, 2019). Secondly, such examples provide a way to reinterpret this period in terms of ruination (Stoler 2008) as the main ‘structure of feeling’ of Polish society (Williams 1953). In the conclusion of my talk, in turn, I will reflect on what positive and ‘better’ this kind of vernacular manufacturing and reparations as well as the supposedly negative category of ruination can contribute both to the thinking of our current times and to the memory studies.

Calendar

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PhD Defence: Charles Patrick Lavin

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