Call for papers Ambiance and Atmosphere in Translation

Call for papers

Ambiance and Atmosphere in Translation

February 25-27th, 2013, London

Many authors, from the second half of the nineteenth century onwards, have struggled to implement a sensitive approach to urban modernity. How to be attentive to changes in the urban world and the minute variations of the ordinary? From the aesthetic thought of Simmel to Goffman’s ecological approach, the philosophies of everydayness in anthropology, from Laplantine to Kracauer and White, to Wittgenstein, Bégout, and Rancière, work has described, translated and called into question the role of ambiance and atmosphere in the construction of urban life. Coalescing around notions of ambiance or atmosphere, notable research trajectories have interlaced disciplinary concerns within urban studies, cultural geography, sociology and architecture, especially in relation to interconnected concepts such as affect, place, aura, acoustics and ecology. Rarely, however, have these trajectories actually met or collided.

After ‘Ambience and Urban Practices’, and ‘Ambience and Criticism’, this third meeting of the Agence Nationale de la Recherche[1] funded project “Enigmas of contemporary urban mobility”, organized within the framework of the International Ambiances Network, will develop a conversation between ambiance, atmosphere and translation. But how to translate? If translation is understood as a practice of “linguistic hospitality” (Ricoeur, 2004), as an experience of transition and mediation (Wismann, 2012), what form might translation take? How might, in other words, the transition occur between the ‘daily’ word and the word of the ‘expert’, between that of the ‘living’ and that of the ‘foreign’? How to make shareable experiences beyond the singularity expressed in different languages and cultures? What media or combination of media could help us achieve this?

This proposed move is particularly important for more than the usual reasons. Because how can accounts sensitive to the urban emerge from attempts to translate ordinary sensory experience? Or formulated differently, how can the act of making clear and intelligible the experiences, feelings, sensations, of distinct research areas, help forward debates on urban atmospheres/ambiances? Finally, how might a work of translation put our convictions in crisis, to put to test our existing ways of thinking, our relationship to the urban environment, and the plurality of modes of the city-dweller? Amongst the many questions around translation, this seminar intends to practically explore how to “install”, “communicate”, “exhibit” or “express” ambiances and atmospheres.

 As part of this event, confirmed ‘Observers’ include: Kyran Joughin (University of the Arts, London), Derek McCormack (Oxford University), Jean-Paul Thibaud (Cresson, ENSAG, Grenoble).


Abstracts should be drafted in English and not exceed 300 words. Along with a title and 4-5 keywords, these should be sent to, and, by January 11th, 2013 at the latest.

Authors will be notified of the acceptance of their paper by January 21st, 2013 at the latest.

 A publication of articles stemming from the conference papers is envisaged, in English, under the shape of a book or a special issue of the new journal Ambiances.

 Organizers of the seminar: Peter Adey (Royal Holloway, University of London), Paul Simpson (Keele University), Damien Masson (Université de Cergy-Pontoise, Laboratoire MRTE, Chercheur associé au Cresson), Rachel Thomas (Chargée de recherche au CNRS, Directrice du Cresson, Coordinatrice de la recherche ANR MUSE)

Date of the seminar: February 25-27th, 2013, University of London, Senate House and 11 Bedford Square, Bloomsbury, London.

The conference is free, but participants will be responsible for their own accommodation, transport and evening meal.

 Language of the seminar: English

[1] Project number: ANR-10-ESVS-013-01. ANR research agency is mainly funding this seminar.