It’s a collaboration unlike any other – three talented researchers who are bringing together specialists from varied sectors and fields of study, uniting them all in transnational cultural analysis.
It all began in 2005, when Sarah Casteel, Ming Tiampo and Catherine Khordoc decided to form the Centre for Transnational Cultural Analysis. The trio were all assistant professors then at Carleton and had diverse backgrounds: Casteel was a professor in the Department of English, Khordoc in the Department of French and Tiampo in the Department of Art History.
“It emerged out of our friendship when we all arrived at Carleton in 2003,” says Tiampo. “We discovered that we had really important overlaps in our research interests and also very similar concerns about our own disciplines.”
Since then, the Centre has flourished. Its main focus is to organize conferences and seminars and build networks for researchers.
“We help enable communication between projects and let others know what their colleagues are working on because it’s not always obvious even in your own institution whose research is in potentially in dialogue with your own,” says Tiampo. “We also try to reach out to researchers in other parts of the world – for example, we have a relationship with the Berlin Institute for Cultural Inquiry and the Université de Pau et des pays de l’Adour, in the south of France.”
“The Centre brings attention to the ways in which transnationalism and globalization are not just economic or political phenomena or related to questions of policy, but also involve culture in very fundamental ways,” adds Casteel. “Our Centre highlights how in a globalized, transnational context, people construct their identities through a variety of forms of cultural expression, including literature, music, art, and religion.”
Casteel, Tiampo, and Khordoc are also able to contribute to the Centre in a unique way because of their varied personal interests and research: Casteel’s first book, published with the University of Virginia Press, was about landscape in the literatures of the Americas, and her second book is about Jewishness in Caribbean literature. Tiampo has just published a book on the Gutai group of Japan with the University of Chicago Press and is working on an exhibition with the Guggenheim Museum in New York. Khordoc’s book on the Tower of Babel myth in contemporary francophone literature will be published this spring by the University of Ottawa Press.
Some of the Centre’s projects so far include keynote lectures, a conference on multiculturalism and Canadian art and a workshop on Sephardic Jewish studies. The Centre is funded by the Office of the Vice-President, the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, and ICI Berlin.
“The conferences we organize generate a lot of interest and are well-attended by students and professors,” says Khordoc. “For the last couple of years, we have also organized seminar series, in conjunction with the Institute for Comparative Studies in Literature, Art and Culture. We often co-sponsor events with other organizations at Carleton as well.”
“For example, we co-sponsored the workshop ‘Sephardic Literary Studies and Comparative Methodologies in Iberia and the Americas,’” adds Casteel. “It took place at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York City in November 2011 and brought together a really exciting group of scholars from across the U.S. It was a great chance to bring exposure for our Centre and for Carleton.”
Over the years, the Centre has evolved from a small “organized research unit” housed within the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences to a Carleton University Research Centre. Its network of research associates has grown as well, as has its national and international exposure.
“By changing things on the level of research, we change the way we teach, the way people think about disciplines, and the way they approach their own projects – outside of university and after they graduate,” explains Tiampo. “The center provides an intellectual home to people throughout campus, across the country, and around the world working on transnational issues, and gives us all a space for dialogue. It’s a wonderful and productive meeting of minds.”