Bodily Modernities: Comparing, Intersecting, Dismembering
Biannual Graduate Student Crossroads conference in Comparative Literature
University of Massachusetts Amherst
October 7-9 2016
Bodies and issues of corporeality are variously entangled with the concept of the modern. Conventional definitions of the modern age place its onset variously at the Christian Reformation, the European Enlightenment, or the Industrial Revolution. Conversely, across many disciplines, there have been various attempts to challenge the temporal and geographic scope of Eurocentric conceptions of modernity. We propose that epistemological, ontological, and aesthetic definitions of modernity foreground the importance of the body (in its many forms), while placing the corporeal in relation to larger social, cultural, and political frameworks which inscribe themselves on it. This intersection leads to a non-linear, global concept of the modern, not limited to the European teleology of progress. As an instance of such intersection, Ernst H. Kantorowicz’s idea of the king’s two bodies (1957), the natural body and the perpetual crown, has helped explain the structures of monarchy and sovereignty during the medieval period in Europe. By contrast, in Slavery and the Culture of Taste (2011), Simon Gikandi has foregrounded the division between body and spirit to explain the establishment of a specific discourse on taste and aesthetics in relation to slavery as constitutive of modernity. Lastly, Alexander Beecroft’s An Ecology of World Literature: From Antiquity to the Present Day (2015) points toward alternative and more inclusive comparative methods for discussing and expanding our understanding of literary canons and periodizations as bodies of works beyond Eurocentric disciplinary thought.
In this year’s edition of the Crossroads Conference at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, we seek to join this conversation and continue exploring the interconnections between concepts of the modern and modernity through an engagement with bodies and related questions of corporeality and embodiment. By investigating the multiple relations between bodies and modernity, we seek to understand and question the meanings of modern and modernity in different geographical and temporal coordinates both outside and within Europe, before and after the fifteenth century. Questions include but are not limited to:
How can bodies (individual, cultural, social, political, religious, textual) shed light on different and perhaps interrelated modernities? How do modernities shape and impact bodies, and how do bodies respond to modernities? How does Michel Foucault’s notion of biopower or Achille Mbembe’s concept of necropolitics enable us to talk about or challenge the category of the modern in its alternative definitions? In what ways can Slavoj Žižek’s and Kojin Karatani’s reflections on the relationship between late capitalism and the body inform our periodization of different modernities?
We invite papers that explore how bodies enable reconfigurations and pluralization of modernity and that employ literature and other media to trace such alternative models. We welcome papers situated in different areas and topics of research, including:
Gender, Sexuality, and Queer Studies
Race and ethnicity
Bodies and consumerism
Visual arts, body arts, and performance
Carnival and the carnivalesque
Body, violence, and war
Trauma and memory studies
Translation studies and the body
Mechanical and technological bodies
Politics and bodies
Questions of visibility and invisibility in relation to bodies (dominant/non-dominant)
Social movements as bodies
Movement of bodies through the colonial route (slave trade/ exiles/ intellectual internationalism)
Traveling and migrating bodies
Religion and theology as bodies
Comparative literature/World literature
Please submit an abstract of no more than 300 words to firstname.lastname@example.org by June 14th. Abstracts must include full name, contact information, institutional affiliation, and a short bio.
Participants will be notified of their acceptance by the beginning of July.