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

14-15 DECEMBER 2012
SENATE HOUSE, LONDON

This conference aims to interrogate literary, filmic, popular cultural and artistic representations of the agents of those institutions, specifically in terms of guilt and culpability. Why, for example, can we observe a tendency to hold at a cautious distance the disciplining subject whilst accepting (or even celebrating) the institutions they represent as socially and politically necessary? Why, when the actions of such agents become extreme, transgressive or criminal, is there a tendency to pathologise such actions in terms of individual perversity – as the actions of ‘bad apples’ – and thereby transfer culpability from the institution to the individual subject, rather than explaining such actions in systemic, structural or institutional terms?

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?

Our temporal focus is mainly on the 20th and 21st Centuries, but we do not exclude proposals for papers on earlier periods. 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
and
* 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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From Society of Legal Scholars
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