Leverhulme International Network for Contemporary Studies (LINCS)

In its adjectival form ‘contemporary’ has been a part of ‘our’ institutions and cultural practices for over six decades, albeit with constantly evolving notions of how ‘contemporary’ qualifies its subjects and practices. It is, however, only in the last 10 years or so that ‘the contemporary’ has emerged both as a research term and in non-academic discourses. Why? What has this term created, facilitated and legitimised? In what social, institutional, political and geographical contexts? What next? Can there be a post-contemporary?

The question ‘What is the Contemporary?’ confronts researchers with three principal challenges: theories of ‘the contemporary’ are dispersed across disciplines and practices, and largely compartmentalised; ‘the contemporary’ exists beyond the academy and dominant discourses in a broad range of cultural practices and in the public imagination—conceptualisatioms arising from these require greater recognition; there has been a bias towards Western approaches to ‘the contemporary’. To try to address these issues LINCS has two key, related, aims:

  • To gather together and bring into dialogue currently dispersed theories and practices of the contemporary from a range of fields.
  • To lay the groundwork for a unified field of ‘Contemporary Studies’, thereby ensuring the continuity of the project and, we hope, promoting others like it.

To this end five events are being hosted by the LINCS partners: in St Andrews and Glasgow (2015 and 2018); Montréal (2016); Paris (2016); Delhi (2018). These events combine the ‘traditional’ academic conference or workshop format—involving writers and artists as well as academics—with public readings and performances from a range of practitioners. Postgraduate students from the five partner institutions will, where possible, be invited to work together alongside established speakers. Running parallel to these five events school pupils in Fife, Scotland, will contribute their own vision of ‘the contemporary’ in a series of projects.