Utrecht Forum for Memory Studies


5 October 2023
17:15 - 19:00
Kromme Nieuwegracht 80, 1.06

Lecture – Cultural Analysis as Memory Work and Reportage: A Case Study in Unexceptional Environmental Activism

This event is organized by the Utrecht Forum for Memory Studies and the Utrecht Network for Environmental Humanities


In the footsteps of Michel Foucault, cultural analysis has branded itself as a ‘history of the present’. In this talk, Joost de Bloois argues that such a ‘history of the present’ can take the form of ‘scholarly reportage’ (Andrew Ross), or ‘reportage’ tout court. As Jim McGuigan claims: ‘there remains ‘a curiously unexamined relation between cultural analysis and cultural journalism’.‘Reportage’ implies a certain form of research and writing, generated by a sense of urgency, of participating in the contemporary. To conceive of cultural analysis as reportage is perhaps to do justice to and emphasise the continued relevance of the dual heritage of cultural analysis situated in-between the humanities (literary studies in particular) and the social sciences (cultural sociology and ethnography), between close reading and field work. Reportage can constitute a valuable alternative to the inward turn in cultural analysis, understood as a retreat into academic concerns of method and as retreat into a politics unmoored from the everyday. To report means to take the analysis back into the unfinished business of the everyday and the contemporary, as a means of critically participating in social, cultural and political affairs, however – seemingly – mundane. As a case in point, we will take a closer look at the longstanding, and decidedly unspectacular, resistance against a planned landfill in the Swiss town of Grüningen, in particular through the lens of what Emily Apter calls ‘unexceptional politics’. 


Joost de Bloois is assistant professor in the department of Literary & Cultural Analysis, University of Amsterdam and a researcher at the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis. His recent publications include Politics of Withdrawal (with Pepita Hesselberth). He also made a first attempt at ‘scholarly reportage’ in his book on the student occupation of the University of Amsterdam in 2015, In de naam van het Maagdenhuis.