Monday, 22 October 2012

Passing along a cool CFP: "The Work of Return"

Call for Papers:  The Work of Return

According to Stuart Hall and Bill Schwarz, crises of the social order occur “when the social formation can no longer be reproduced on the basis of the pre-existing system of social relations.” Yet, familiar tropes, frameworks, and narratives tend to reemerge in such moments of crisis. For example, the London riots of August 2011 prompted shocked commentators to revisit the figure of the feral child, a trope linking menacing youth, blackness, and the threat of invasion that has surfaced repeatedly in postwar Britain. Sometimes what returns is mutated out of all recognition, as when the British National Party, indulging in a perverse form of citation, mobilizes the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in support of its xenophobic and white supremacist platform, demanding for “indigenous” Britons the right to resist “colonization.”

What are the mechanisms of such returns? What might we make of them? And what might we make of our own scholarly investments in them? Following Foucault, thinkers across a range of disciplines have pursued vital genealogical work, a project that begins from the premise that earlier moments of emergence and use are encoded in discourses, ideologies, and cultural and political formations of all kinds. Take, for instance, the ongoing attempts to identify what Ian Baucom describes as “the exceptional/exemplary laboratories of modernity and paradigmatic spaces of encampment.” Where, for scholars like Baucom and Paul Gilroy, the Middle Passage is that originary site of emergence, others, like Jodi Byrd and Scott Morgensen, ask how “ideas of ‘Indianness’ have created conditions of possibility for U. S. empire to manifest its intent” (Byrd). 

This scholarship, in turn, raises questions about the work of genealogy. What conception of genealogy underpins the search for exceptional or exemplary sites of emergence? Conversely: if genealogy is the work scholars do to understand why modernity is the way it is, then in what sense can such formations be said to work genealogically? How might we build on Alys Weinbaum’s attention to the fleshiness of genealogy in her account of the ways in which the key intellectual and political projects of transatlantic modernity turn on “the reproducibility of racial formations”; or Sara Ahmed’s interest in the “politics of return” that makes the family into a “device” for “straightening” wayward bodies and desires? Consider, finally, the centrality of repetition and return to theories of resistance, survivance, and transformation. Judith Butler has posited the iterability of norms as that which renders their contestation possible, and Jacques Derrida and Avery Gordon locate specters—revenants—at the heart of projects oriented towards social justice. How might we formulate the relationship between these modalities of return and the violent repetitions outlined above? How does the exercise of mapping long histories of injustice—of excavating “numberless beginnings” (Foucault)—articulate with efforts to imagine and realize alternative worlds?     

For this edited collection, we invite submissions that inquire into the discourses, materialities, and methodologies of return. We are particularly interested in essays that take up some combination of the following sets of questions:  1) What is returned, and what work is accomplished by this return?2) How, precisely, does return work? What are the rhetorical, figural, imaginative, generic, ideological, institutional, bodily, economic, spatial, temporal, or material devices that instantiate return? How do bodies, figures, objects, movements, geographies, histories, and institutions transit through genealogies? How and why do particular bodies do the work of “fleshing out” the resonances that we discern between historical moments and across disparate political terrains? How do and should we respond to such returns?  3) What does it mean for cultural critics to do genealogical work? What’s at stake in our desire to identify repetitions, and what intellectual inheritances shape this desire?  We welcome submissions from across the range of humanities (inter)disciplines, and grounded in any historical or geopolitical context. Areas of inquiry may include, but are not limited to, the following:              
― repetition, (re)iteration, resonance, return            ― “difference and repetition” (Deleuze)            
― genealogy and genealogical instruments            
― relationships between imperialisms past, present and future            
― repressive formations of class, gender, race, sexuality, citizenship, ability, and religion as these repeat, generate, and articulate with one another over time            
― modular thinking and repertoires of protest: how do political movements learn from each other?  
― white victimhood as a citational practice            
― financial logics of investment and return            
― reproduction(s)            
― family likeness            
― recapitulation theory            
― mutations, clones, replicants, replicators, cyborgs, “skinjobs”― stereotypes, photographs, photocopies, carbon copies, mimeographs            
― the political life of metaphor: transfer, translation, displacement, substitution
― tropes, metaphors, figures, and frames            
― intellectual genealogies and inheritances            
― citation, revision, sampling, remixing, plagiarism            
― recycling, upcycling, downcycling            
― the return as textual genre (election returns, tax returns, etc.)         
― zombies, ghosts, and other forms of postmortem life― haunting, possession, spectrality            
― restoration, restorative justice
― “feeling backward” (Love)            
― reincarnation, time travel, rebirth, déjà vu            
― anachronism, atavism, degeneration
― Messianism and other anticipations of return
― returning home            
― the return of the repressed
― trauma, “rememory” (Morrison), postmemory            
― sequels, remakes, repeats, reboots                      
― re-election       

           Submission Procedure:1) Please send 300-500 word proposals to Nadine Attewell ( and Sarah Trimble ( by November 30 2012. Full essays will be due on May 15, 2013.2) Attach a short biographical note.3) Include “The Work of Return” in your subject line.

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