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Winter School Rome – Cities, Borders and Identities. Towards an Interdisciplinary Approach

Date: 18-26 November 2017
Venue: Royal Dutch Institute Rome (KNIR), Via Omero 12, 00197 Roma
Open to: RMa students and PhD candidates, as well as to early career researcher in the Humanities and Social Sciences, working on historical or contemporary urban contexts
Fee: See below
Credits: 6 ECTS
Administrative coordination: Milou van Hout, Enno Maessen, Tymen Peverelli (University of Amsterdam)
Deadline for applications: 15 May 2017
Maximum participants: 20

The ongoing refugee crisis, combined with the continuing aftershocks of the financial crisis of 2008 have seen the re-emergence of identity politics across Europe in a space that is increasingly divided in cultural, political, social and economic terms, and whose borders are increasingly contested. European border cities have historically been crucial sites within which processes of identity-making and contestation have been particularly visible. In this respect, one could think of cities located at European or state borders such as Nicosia, Trieste, Lviv and Maastricht. Yet also in cities like Rome, Istanbul, Dubrovnik, Paris or Belfast intense physical, cultural and social borders have for centuries been marking and transforming the urban landscape. Over the last three decades these as well as similar border cities and urban borderlands have become central to the study of identities from a range of different disciplines. This winter school takes the city of Rome as an explorative case study in its thematic focus on European border cities. We consider European border cities as paradigmatic urban contexts where identity questions are not only particularly salient, but where they also potentially lend themselves to novel conceptualizations of cultural difference and sameness.

By bringing together RMa students and early career PhD researchers from (Art) History, Cultural Studies, European Studies, Archeology, Anthropology and Human Geography, the winter school aims specifically to foster an interdisciplinary discussion of the changing cultures of urban border identities. Although individual participants are invited to apply the research questions to various European cases, locating this winter school in Rome offers an outstanding possibility for excursions and in situ analyses of a historically layered city. By observing and analyzing the urban landscape through the lens of the course themes and methodologies, the city of Rome itself functions as an essential tool in the winter school. We therefore welcome applications from PhD candidates and RMa students from the aforementioned (and related) disciplines, working in urban contexts, contemporary as well as historical.


Key questions and themes include, but are not limited to:

  • How do cultural actors and residents, as well as city planners and administrators in border cities engage in the processes of place-making and identity construction?
  • How are histories of border conflict and contact negotiated in concrete spaces and landscapes in the city? Can urban spaces provide sites for the negotiation of difference?
  • How can urban peripheries change over time, and how do people engage with them?
  • How can the processes of negotiation of urban identities hold lessons for wider national and European debates and challenges, such as the shifting of the contours of nationalism, cosmopolitanism and European integration?
  • How can varying approaches from both the humanities and the social sciences shed light on these questions?

Program (provisional)

  • Prof. Luiza Bialasiewicz (coordinator) – Geographies of border cities: Fascist Rome
  • Dr Chiara de Cesari – Urban heritagization and gentrification
  • Dr Lucinda Dirven – Hatra and Palmyra: Cultural diversity in Roman border cities
  • Lora Sariaslan – Artistic geographies at Rome’s urban waterfront
  • Dr Guido Snel – Urban literary borders
  • Prof. Harald Hendrix – On the edge of Rome’s peripheries: Pier Paolo Pasolini

Course information
This winter school is a joint initiative of the Royal Netherlands Institute in Rome (KNIR), the Huizinga Institute, ACCESS EUROPE, and the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Amsterdam.

6 ECTS, assigned upon completion of the final essay/paper presentation.


Teaching method
Seminars, workshops, site visits, presentations and essays.

Participants are requested to prepare an introductory ‘framing’ paper – related to the participant’s own research project or a selected topic that is part of this winter school’s focus. The paper should consist of 6.000 words, and will be introduced by the participant in a 10-minute presentation during the first day of the winter school. This paper will be elaborated upon during the week, taking into account the feedback from day 1 as well as the course material and a final draft assessed and discussed at the closing of the winter school.
Active participation during the sessions, workshops and other participants’ presentations is obligatory and will also be part of the assessment.

Course material
A number of book chapters and articles to be circulated in advance. 

The winter school is open to a maximum of 20 selected students at RMA or PhD-level, as well as to early career researchers in the Humanities and Social Sciences, working on historical or contemporary urban contexts.

The deadline for applications is 15 May 2017. Participants will be informed of the committee’s decision by 5 June 2017 latest. Applicants need to submit an application letter stating their motivation, a C.V.  and a one-page proposal of the project they plan to work on during the winter school (including discussion of literature). The selection process will be based on the candidate’s motivation, and it seeks a balance in backgrounds. Applications can be send to

Tuition and accommodation are free for selected participants belonging to Dutch universities. Travel costs and personal expenses, including meals, are not included. Participants from non-Dutch universities have the possibility to join the winter school but have to cover tuition fee, accommodation and travel costs themselves. The fee for participants of non-Dutch universities is €400 and covers tuition fee and accommodation. A limited number of reductions are available for students with limited funding, who are asked to add a motivation statement and budget overview to their application.

Facilities in Rome
All participants will be provided with accommodation at the Royal Netherlands Institute in Rome’s Villa Borghese Park. From there, it is only a short walk to the historical center of Rome. The KNIR accommodation consists of shared bedrooms and bathrooms, and includes a living and dining space, a large kitchen, washing machine and wireless internet. All residents have 24/7 access to the library and gardens of the Royal Netherlands Institute.

Further information
For more information, please contact Milou van Hout (