Jutta Vinzent (M.A. Munich, Dr. Phil. Cologne, PhD Cambridge) is Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) for Modern and Contemporary Art at the University of Birmingham, UK.
Her interests focus on issues of exile, and postcolonialism with a particular emphasis on art practices, exhibition cultures, spatio-temporal issues, religion and self/identity formation related to avant-garde, modern and contemporary art in Germany, the UK and their colonies. In this context, Vinzent has become intrigued by the approaches of Entangled History and network theories.
Vinzent's project will explore the impact of Jewish internment in the British Empire on ritual life. As a consequence of the beginning of war, the British Empire decided to intern all Germans, including many Jewish refugees who escaped Nazi Germany in the years leading to the war, in the UK and her colonies because of fear of espionage. All Germans from the age of 16 were imprisoned for a short period and released because of public pressure. While women went home after their release, most men were enlisted in the British Army, in which they served alongside the British until the end of the war. These internment camps were not comparable with internment in France, where the camps were transit locations for death camps, but rather closer in nature to camps for PoW (prisoners-of-war). Internees did not have the freedom to leave, but were also not forced to work, resulting in a number of cultural outputs. Most of them were Jewish, so that one can speak of an enclave of German Jews.
The project’s central question is to what extent the internment camp was marked by religious agents, practices and spaces and to the other, to which extent religion characterised the agents, practices and site of internment, which will also help distinguish better the terms ‘religion’ (as cultural or spiritual Judaism, for example). Religion here is not understood as an institution or in terms of its belief system, but rather in terms of rituals. Conventionally, rituals have been considered as events and materialised in objects as the mediators of traditions and of stability (Bell, 1997). However, Rüpke has challenged this idea and suggested that rituals can also change, each time they are performed (Rüpke, 2003). To this extent, this project will focus on internment camps in the British Empire, as it attempted to regulate internment centrally from London for all colonies, offering therefore an administrative unity with a global outlook. The project will focus on three case studies, namely the UK, Kenya and India. While in the UK, refugees were among themselves, in Kenya refugees were interned together with PoWs from neighbouring Abyssinia, which was an Italian colony with many Catholic missionaries who were interned in the same camp as the German Jewish refugees. India is relevant because of the interaction with a number of religions, mirroring rather a diversity and spreading of religion. Camps in the UK were mainly located on the Isle of Man (with c. 55,000 Jews being interned), in Kenya in Kabete (on the outskirts of Nairobi), in Nairobi, the Highlands and in Gilgil (with 200-300 Jewish refugees) and in India internment camps were located in Mumbai, Calcutta and New Delhi (with about 500 to 700 Jewish refugees). These case studies will help bring forward a variety of aspects of the mutual relationship between religious life and internment.
Weiteres Forschungsprojekt: The individual and dividual in modern and contemporary fine art
My current project is concerned with the concepts of individuals and dividuals and their relationships to each other in the arts.
1. The impact of precarious times on the construction of personhood
In his recent prize-winning book Prekäres Wissen (2012) MWK Fellow Martin Mulsow explores the history of ideas in early modernity through precariousness, a new approach towards the understanding of scholarship in general, namely not through dominant narratives, but through ‘precarious’ ones. Inspired by Mulsow, this project will relate precariousness to the theoretical voyage that begins with the différance (Derrida, 1972) and the hybrid (Bhabha, 1994), continues with ‘passages’ (Benjamin, from 1927) and networks (White, 2008) to some-thing that includes a temporal element in the in-betweeness; ‘precarious’ is connected with the dominant, but, different from Foucault’s marginalisation, it also expresses a sense of change: something might have been dominant, but has, for whatever reason, become precarious; like-wise, the dominant can be actor and brand something as precarious, probably something that is considered dangerous; thus it becomes unsecured, unstable, perilious and fragile and possi-bly even ‘unbearably vulnerable’ (Butler, 2004). With such an understanding of precarious, this project explores exhibitions at commercial art galleries in Second World War London. It thus allows to examine the strategies of curators, gallery owners and artists to construct personhood at a time, when their main source of display was in turmoil.
2. Individual and dividual aspects and the religious/aesthetic
This project will contribute to the exploration of the distinction between concepts of the individual and dividual. Its focus is the role of art objects as dividual and/or individual and as mediating processes of constructing/becoming individuals or dividuals or aspects of each. The individual can be understood as a person who is indivisible, autonomous and rational (Bailecki and Deswani, 2015). Recently, individualisation as such has been the focus of much debate in religious studies (ed. Rüpke and Fuchs, 2015). The dividual has been described as partible (Duncan, 2014), permeable (Fowler, 2016), relational (Brücke, 2004) and ‘porous’ (Taylor, 2007), and has often been associated with pre-modern, non-western concepts of personhood (Strathern, 1988). In the domain of art, the most prominent writings on the dividual stem from the artist Paul Klee (1922) and the philosopher Gilles Deleuze (1986), who applied the term to paintings, respectively early cinema. Their discussion is dominated by the question of the nature of and relationship between dividual and individual. Moving on from the art object as dividual/individual, I will explore the understanding of personhood as in/dividual with regard to viewership. How do (art) objects provide a medium which produces resonances (Rosa, 2016; Bredekamp, 2010; Gell, 1999) that split the viewer-self and how can these divisions of the self be understood in light of the in/dividual? The focus will be on aesthetic/religious and bodily perception (the latter looks into Julia Kristeva’s ‘abject’), for which contemporary religious art forms an ideal case in point. As has been noted by a number of scholars (James Elkins and Aaron Rosen, 2015), religious themes are not only central to contemporary art, but also play with art and iconography in a sophisticated and complex manner that has led to a wide range of interpretations including iconoclasm and political and legal consequences. It is thus hoped that the exploration of such works in light of dividuals and individuals do not only provide insights into conceptions of the dividual and individual, but also a new perspective towards contemporary religious art.