Call for papers: The Crypt(ic) – Institute for Comparative Literature and Society – Columbia University – Annual Graduate Student Conference – March 29, 2014
Keynote speaker: To be confirmed
“The distortion of a text resembles a murder: the difficulty is not in perpetrating the deed, but in getting rid of its traces.”
—Sigmund Freud, Moses and Monotheism
The architectural crypt is the site of sacred relics situated outside of the space of religious practice. It is the foundation that is permanently hidden from view, its animating sanctity alien to the rituals of worship that it legitimates. Exegesis begins with a death that is the crypt of writing. For Freud, this distortion of text is both a transformation and a displacement: the transformation of lived memory into a documentary apparatus and its displacement to a site of repetition and reproduction. What escapes the “bottleneck of the signifier” is rendered spectral – a ghostly presence haunting the regimes of meaning.
The Crypt(ic) proposes to explore the spaces rendered obscure by regimes of signification, yet constitutive of both the content and the delimitation of meaning. The social and political articulate this relationship. For Marx, there is no value without surplus and no labor without estrangement; the obscure precedes and delineates its normative condition. The categories of (non-surplus) value and (unalienated) labor are the particular, perhaps illusory, conditions of a cryptic generality. Likewise, the political as the contestation of power is obscured from politics as the instantiation of power. A mind trained in the globalized humanities towards reading the (social) text of the past and of our own time can try to break the code that conceals the crypt(ic) from plain view, perhaps putting it in a position where it itself encrypts again: the question remains how to wrestle with this double bind in an ever-unfinished attempt to change its course, to put it to work.
We welcome papers that explore obscurity, estrangement, concealment, and displacement across the humanities and the social sciences. To consider conditions in which the hidden precedes the particular necessarily disrupts disciplinary boundaries. Papers might consider the constitution of “the other” within the construction of normativity; practices of the archive or of digitalization within the humanities; alienation and estrangement in political, economic, and social theory; the uncanny, the occult, and the monstrous in art and literature; subalternity as conditioned by the history of (post)coloniality and globality; the (in)visibility of the race, class, and (heteronormative) gender lines; repression, abreaction, and parapraxis in psychoanalytic theory; or the role of chaos or the abyss in metaphysics and epistemology. We likewise welcome discussion of the hidden or obscure in contemporary theory such as, but not limited to, Rancière’s Dissensus, Castoriadis and Lefort’s notions of the political, Derrida’s Parergon, Deleuze’s Body without Organs, or recent reassessments of Fanon and Beauvoir.
Please send an abstract of no more than 300 words to firstname.lastname@example.org by January 15, 2014.