Webinar - distance by Marie Kolkenbrock

Webinar: ‘Hedgehog Humanities: On the Ethics and Cultural Politics of Distance’

Date & timeThursday, 22 October 5:00pm - 6:00pm
CostFree of charge
Booking closing date Thursday, 22 October 10:00am
Event type Webinar

Online booking has now closed. Please email alumnioffice@trinhall.cam.ac.uk for late booking enquiries.

Join us for the second Trinity Hall webinar featuring Trinity Hall alumna and Branco Weiss Fellow in the Department of German at Kings College London, Dr Marie Kolkenbrock (2010). Marie will be joined by Trinity Hall Fellow and University Lecturer in Modern German Studies, Dr Leila Mukhida who will lead the Q&A.

The webinar will take place at 5pm (BST) on Thursday 22 October and will last approximately 30 minutes with an opportunity for Q&A at the end. There is no charge to attend however booking is required. The webinar will be hosted using Zoom.


‘Hedgehog Humanities: On the Ethics & Cultural Politics of Distance’ by Dr Marie Kolkenbrock (2010)


Through the current pandemic, Marie’s project on the cultural history of ‘distance’ has gained a new and rather uncomfortable urgency. The project’s leading goal is to examine the following question: what function does the concept of distance have in the twentieth and twenty-first century responses to the fundamental question of how to live together? The pandemic throws into sharp relief how spatial, social, and emotional conceptions of distance intersect and how these intersections inform our ‘ethics of cohabitation’ (Judith Butler). In the current crisis, we have experienced first-hand how a lack of conceptual clarity regarding distance has profound implications. Early injunctions to ‘social distance’ were eventually replaced with the awareness that it would be more precise to speak of physical distancing, and that excessive interpersonal distance may lead to wide-spread mental health problems that could arguably be as harmful as the virus itself. The talk will introduce the key hypotheses of Marie’s project and give an account of the concept of ‘distance’ in twentieth century and contemporary political ethics, showing that ‘distance’ is not a neutral concept but functions as a shifting metaphor in different ideological contexts. As we now are forced to cultivate several new forms of distancing practices, it may be worth taking a look at some examples from the cultural theory and history of distance in order to reflect on their potential impact on our sense of “togetherness” in private relationships, within our societies, and across nation states.


Marie Kolkenbrock is a Branco Weiss Fellow in the Department of German at KCL and a Trinity Hall Alumna (PhD 2014). Originally a scholar of Viennese Modernism, she has recently started to branch out into the fields of comparative literature, cultural theory and intellectual history, and is currently working on a cultural history of the concept ‘distance’ in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Her first monograph Stereotype and Destiny in Arthur Schnitzler’s Prose was published with Bloomsbury in 2018. She also is the co-editor of the forthcoming Special Issue of German Life & Letters: ‘Primary Rejections: On the Politics and Poetics of Refusal’, which is due to come out in January 2021.

How to register

Online booking has now closed.

By email: Contact alumnioffice@trinhall.cam.ac.uk with your name and how you are affiliated with the College. If you are an alumnus/alumna of the College, please include your matriculation year.

Please register no later than 5pm (BST) on Wednesday 21 October.

You will receive the joining instructions by 3.30pm (BST) on Thursday 22 October which will include the link to Zoom. If you have not received the link by this date and time, please check your spam box before contacting alumnioffice@trinhall.cam.ac.uk.


If you have any queries, please contact Emma Grieveson on alumnioffice@trinhall.cam.ac.uk or call +44 (0)1223 332550.