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CAPTIVITY AND CULPABILITY THE DISCIPLINING SUBJECT IN THE LITERARY AND CULTURAL IMAGINATION 

CAPTIVITY AND CULPABILITY
THE DISCIPLINING SUBJECT
IN THE LITERARY AND CULTURAL IMAGINATION
14-15 DECEMBER 2012
SENATE HOUSE, LONDON


Societies often have ambiguous and even conflicting attitudes towards state institutions that fulfil normalising, reformatory, punitive or disciplinary functions. This unease is frequently represented in an ambivalence or a hostility not only towards those disciplined or incarcerated but also, and perhaps paradoxically, towards the agents of those institutions, e.g. state incarcerators, the police, interrogators, soldiers, counterterrorist agents, or staff in mental hospitals. These figures tend to be conceptualised and represented in simplistic and often reductively negative terms. This demonisation reflects an unease towards institutions that are understood to be at once socially and politically necessary and saturated with threatening potential.

We invite papers that interrogate narrative negotiations of the tensions encountered by these figures and in these relationships; tensions between agency and victimhood, necessity and guilt, legitimate and abusive uses of power and violence. We may, for example, be overfamiliar with literary, filmic or popular cultural narratives of captivity that privilege the experience of incarceration or miscarriages of justice, in which the disciplining subject occupies a reified or stereotyped position; what representational potentials have remained underexplored in cultural or political discourses?

Themes for papers could include, but are not limited to, narrative representations of
Agency and victimhood
Heroism/duty
Ethical reflections on institutional and individual culpability
Stereotypes/prejudices (and their deconstruction)
Racial/ethnic/national inflections of ‘culpability’
Women and normative masculinities
Guilt, responsibility, deserved punitivity
‘Dirty work’
‘Clean’/non-scarring violence
Legitimacy and the abuse of power
State violence and its parameters
Torturers, torture and abuse; the representation of torturers
Trauma, testimony
Colonial and neocolonial disciplinary configurations
Authority, power, powerlessness
Theoretical conceptualisations of disciplinary agents

The conference is organised by Alex Adams (Newcastle University) and Cornelia Wächter (University of Paderborn, Bielefeld University) in cooperation with the Institute of English Studies (University of London) and the Human Rights Consortium (University of London). Please email 200-300 word abstracts for 20 minute papers to a.t.adams@newcastle.ac.uk and cornelia.waechter@uni-paderborn.de by Sunday, 19th August 2012.

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