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<nettime> International Walter Benjamin Conference

International Walter Benjamin Conference
Barcelona - Portbou

 A public conference will be held at the University of Barcelona in
September 2000 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the death of Walter
Benjamin - one of the most important philosophers, literary critics, and
theorists of culture and the media in the 20th century.

 The conference will focus on the current relevance of Benjamin's works and
attempt a re-evaluation of their significance against the background of
increasing globalisation. As Benjamin himself demonstrated, political
arguments alone are inadequate for addressing the rapid changes in modern
society, the revival of outworn myths, and sporadic outbreaks of
nationalist sentiment. In his works he demonstrated interrelationships
between philosophy, literature, film, architecture, technology, and social
developments; he focused on questions of language, myth, and truth, and
later in his career wrote major texts on film, photography, and the arts.
Moving freely across the borders of different disciplines, in his academic
and literary works Benjamin arrived at a vision of modernity which has lost
none of its relevance today. His "Angel of History" is not merely a
historical metaphor - it asks to be reinterpreted and given new meaning for
future generations. Benjamin's works have exerted continuing fascination on
generations of academics and intellectuals, from members of the Frankfurt
School of Social Research around Theodore W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer to
contemporary historians and philosophers dealing with theories of mass
communication and the media.

 Benjamin failed in his bid for freedom when the Nazis swept through
Western Europe.. He was twice detained in French internment camps before
deciding that as a German Jew it was best to leave Europe for the United
States. He crossed the Pyrenees only to learn at the border that he would
be sent back to the Vichy authorities with the prospect of arrest and
transfer to the camps. The night before that could happen Benjamin died at
the age of 48. Whether he committed suicide or died of a heart attack - as
documented in recently discovered official papers in Portbou's archive -
cannot be definitively determined.

 Benjamin's death in the small Catalonian town of Portbou on the
Franco-Spanish border (Sept. 26th, 1940) has come to symbolise the fate of
the countless millions who endured emigration and exile in 20th century

 It invites discussion of the ongoing calamities of nationalism and
borders, exile, ethnicities and negation of the individual.

 This conference is intended for both academics familiar with the life and
works of Walter Benjamin and artists, journalists, politicians, students,
and people from all spheres of public life with an interest in the deep
structures of contemporary society and culture.


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