Report on the Conference “Varieties of Anxiety. A Global Perspective” at NYU

An International and Interdisciplinary Research Project

“Varieties of Anxiety. A Global Perspective”
New York University, December 10th and 11th, 2019

The lastest conference around the topic of anxiety took place in New York City on December 10th and 11th, 2019. Some of our project members from both sides of the Atlantic Ocean met at New York University to discuss the different ways anxiety manifests itself from a global perspective. Members were welcomed by Christian Martin (NYU/CAU Kiel), the main organizer of this event, in the Silverstein Lounge at Silver Center (NYU), followed by an opening speech by David Gill, Consul General of the Federal Republic of Germany in New York. The evening proceeded with its main event: in his keynote address, project co-founder Ulrich Hoinkes (CAU Kiel) gave an overview of the “states of anxiety we are in”, illustrated by a short clip of the 1976 movie Network which demonstrates how this phenomenon is not completely new. 

The following day, the conference moved to the Kimmel Center at NYU. The first panel was opened by Julie Mostov (NYU), who focused on anxieties derived from or caused by borders, and what possible solutions could minimize them. Closely related to this topic, Frank Stengel (CAU Kiel/Johns Hopkins) centered instead on how populism profits from states of anxiety in order to grow stronger, and he illustrated his speech with present-day examples. The panel was closed by Meike Hethey (Bremen), whose talk emphasized the pivotal role of education as a tool to deal with anxiety discourses. In the second panel, Joseph LeDoux (NYU) presented anxiety from a neurological perspective, comparing the brain functions of humans and other mammals. Afterward, John Torpey (CUNY Grad. Center) exposed how the fall of the Berlin wall 30 years ago still has an impact today on Germans who live in the former Eastern block. In the last talk before the lunch break, John P. Allegrante (Teachers College) looked at how anxiety, as a medical idiom, becomes a social and cultural concern, especially focusing on younger generations.

In the afternoon, Avraham Rot (Regensburg) gave us an innovative look at anxiety in relation to boredom, followed by an observation of the phenomenon of the gilets jaunes in France and violence from the perspective of literature by Karen Struve (CAU Kiel). Christian Martin closed the panel with an overview of individual anxieties and fears regarding climate change. Finally, the fourth and last panel, with Catalonia as the main focus, began with a look by Bàrbara Roviró (Bremen) at the discursive practices in the Catalan conflict since the 2017 referendum, while Mar Mañes-Bordes (CAU Kiel) focused instead on the evolution of discourses on language policy and a growing sense of anxiety in discourses that challenge the notion of identity. Some closing remarks and a very fruitful discussion by all participants took place before the end of the conference.

The Anxiety Culture Project team would like to thank Christian Martin and his team at NYU for the thorough organization of this conference, as well as all speakers for their engagement and for bringing new and compelling perspectives to the topic of anxiety culture. Last but not least, special thanks to NYU and the Center for European and Mediterranean Studies, and to the Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany in New York for their support.   

Visit the official website of the conference.
Click here to download the complete program.

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