Dock(ing); or, New Economies of Exchange

Banff Research in Culture 2013

Program dates: May 27, 2013 - June 14, 2013

Application deadline: January 15, 2013

Program Information

A dock is the place where the land meets the ocean, where goods arrive from abroad, and where foreigners step onto the surface of the country they are visiting. It is a liminal space of encounters and exchanges, both legal and illegal—a space of furious new activity that can upset the given order, just as often as it confirms it through the smooth operations of legal power and border control. The physical space of the sea wharf is only one of the ways in which “dock” names a necessary yet potentially dangerous threshold. A dock is also the space in a courtroom where prisoners are placed on trial, exposed to the full power of the law. And when used as a verb, “dock” names such varied practices as the punishment of workers by withholding payment for their labour, the removal of an animal’s tail to bend its body into shape in line with human demands and desires, and the connection of different bits of computer hardware to allow for the exchange of information. 

Banff Research in Culture (BRiC) 2013 is organized in partnership with the Liverpool Biennial. For the city of Liverpool, which has undergone a significant period of de-industrialization and de-population, the docks that line its waterfront constitute a reminder of a more prosperous moment in its development. They are also a site of potential urban re-development and re-imagining, with all the promise and hazards that such gentrification and rebuilding bring with them. BRiC 2013 seeks to bring together critical thinkers intent on exploring the politics played out on physical and metaphoric docks, as well as practices of docking in art, culture, design, critical theory, cultural studies, and urban development. The liminal spaces to which docks point include legal, national, physical and conceptual borders of all kinds—spaces and places where power is exerted over identities and collectivities, and so, too, sites where power is actively challenged with the aim of enabling new possibilities for a new century.

The collective interrogation of docks and docking that will take place during BRiC 2013 constitutes a starting point for understanding some of the major social, political and cultural challenges we face at the outset of this new century. Far from being an end in itself, a multifaceted, multidisciplinary investigation of docks promises to open new vantage points on long-standing problems. In the case of the city of Liverpool, for instance, this includes the very real trials involved in re-constituting genuine civic life in the wake of de-industrialization, the role played by art in this process, and the difficulties of creating new urban possibilities and opportunities that do not follow the problematic script of capitalist gentrification.

We look forward to receiving compelling and original project proposals from thinkers and creators working on a wide range of projects.


Above photo: Photograph of British seaplane tender HMS Pegasus, 1917, painted in dazzle camouflage. Surgeon Oscar Parkes (public domain), via Wikimedia Commons

All programs, faculty, dates, fees, and offers of financial assistance are subject to change. Program fee subject to applicable taxes. Non-refundable fees and deposits will be retained upon cancellation. Any other fees are refunded at the discretion of The Banff Centre.