Active Calls for Papers

Western Theory’s Chinese Transformation

The academic discourse of literary theory and criticism in China today has undergone a significant transformation. This special issue is not only a regional issue about Chinese literary theories but also a global issue since it takes China as a “question” imminent in Western literary theories, as well as an outcome of the collision, contention, symbiosis, and co-construction between Western and Chinese literary theories.

From the late 19th century to the present, Chinese literary theory has drawn on Euro-American models, especially from Russian, French, German, and English sources. It began with the “Total Westernization” of the early 20th century to the “Sinicization of Marxism” of the mid-20th century till now. And as China’s reform era of the last four decades shifted from the Soviet model to open up broadly to the West, the predominant Russian-German influence in Chinese academic discourse gradually gave in to French post-structuralist and post-modernist discourses, appropriated largely through American academics. Chinese discourse about literary theory today looks more like what Liu Kang calls a coalescence of Russian-German discourses with Chinese inflection on the one hand and Chinese variations of Postism (poststructuralism-postmodernism-postcolonialism) on the other. Such a clumsy and somewhat awkward designation, however, speaks volumes of the complex current conditions in Chinese academic discourse of literary theory and criticism.

This special issue calls for papers that address the transformation of Chinese literary theory within the context of China in the world in at least two aspects: First, when Chinese academics adopt and appropriate Western literary theory, what are the specific socio-historical conditions that impact such Chinese receptions/appropriations? To what extent are Western theoretical discourses themselves impacted and “Sinicized” by Chinese circumstances and conditions? These conditions include significant political events, generational changes, and debates between Chinese and Western scholars over issues such as postcolonialism, affect theory, etc. Second, what are Western scholars’ responses and self-reflections on how Western theory has conceptualized and appropriated China question(s) in their theoretical production? Has any “Chinese turn” occurred, such as in the French Left’s invention of Maoism or in post-modernist fascination with classical Chinese aesthetic thought? Above all, how are the Chinese question(s) being problematized and theorized by Western theorists/critics? It is imperative to rethink these issues in our efforts to understand the dynamic interactions in both Chinese and Western literary theory and criticism today. We welcome contributions in these areas and aspects with a shared commitment to broadening our critical vision and promoting rigorous intellectual conversations as a means of secular intervention while refusing to submit ourselves to any exclusionary dogmatism. Hopefully, it will be possible to reposition and relocate Chinese literary theories on the map of global literary theory. Also, it is possible for the global literary theory to “deterritorialize” once again, which would spark new possibilities of literary theories through the disintegration of old borders among territories.

We invite original contributions with abstracts of 250 words, a 100-word bio, and five keywords by January 31th, 2023, and full articles of 5000-8000 words by May 30th, 2023.

Please get in touch with the special issue editors, Dr. Jun Zeng and Dr. Liu Kang, with abstracts and questions. Email address: [zjuncyu@163.com].

Special Issue: Comparative Approaches to the Prison Literatures of the Middle East, North Africa, and their Diasporas

Anne-Marie McManus, Forum Transregionale Studien, Berlin, Germany
Brahim El Guabli, Williams College, MA, USA

It is rare that a transnational field of literary inquiry brings together survivors, professional writers, activists, translators, and scholars as prison literature does. This special issue of CLC Web invites contributions that explore the implicit comparative dimensions of prison literature as a genre and as literary-political praxis. On one hand, prison literature frequently situates its narratives vis-à-vis standards of justice and human rights that are both abstract and tangibly, although unevenly, enforced across the world. Although prison literature has long existed, its forceful emergence since the late twentieth century results from the convergence of human rights activisms both local and global in scope. These considerations open the genre to questions of circulation and translation (El Guabli 2020), and feminist agency (Slyomovics, 2005; Hachad, 2019). Moreover, comparison has taken on new meaning in the past decade, which has seen the migration of survivors and cultural actors into exile. Europe has become a core context for navigating memories of the Arab Uprisings – both their promises of change and traumatic experiences of mass incarceration, disappearance, and torture. With court cases ongoing in Germany against Syrian jailers, prison memoirs have entered media discussions of evidence and “universal” justice and become invaluable sources of knowledge about state violence. This special issue invites scholars to explore the comparative and translational dynamics of prison literature in these new diasporic contexts: in relation to the prison memory of new host nations, across generations of diasporic communities, and/or in contact with other diasporic groups.

On the other hand, prison narratives suggest modes of comparison within their poetics and prose, frequently through references to, even translations of, other prison literatures and contexts. These instances of drawing connections may suggest the formation of living archives, where prison literature passes down knowledge and experience to today’s revolutionaries (Sayed, 2012). They may also craft transnational, transregional, or global imaginaries of solidarity through the experience of incarceration – and its writing. Middle Eastern and Maghrebi prison literatures confirm that modern incarceration and prisons have been central to both authoritarianism and revolt in the region, and have given rise to distinctive, frequently transnational literary practices of memory and dissent. In today’s diaspora, activists and authors compare regional experiences and systems of incarceration to other global sites to make them legible within new host communities. While tracking such practices, how might scholarly readings of prison literature maintain critical vigilance to the genre’s reception, guarding against prison literature’s uptake as a spectacle of distant suffering (Rodríguez 2002)?

This interdisciplinary special issue of CLC Web invites scholars, survivors, writers, activists, and/or translators to center – in method, imagination, and/or political urgency – comparative narrations, geographies, politics, and histories of imprisonment in the Middle East and North Africa. The special issue encourages discussions of global solidarities and/for Middle Eastern carcerality, theories of South/South or South/North solidarities, and translations of carceral concepts across language and context. As an upsurge in prison literatures from the region since 2011 has attested, carcerality is enmeshed in broader social and political formations of neoliberal capitalism, interstate rendition programs, and authoritarianism. Therefore, novel attempts to understand political detention and imprisonment in light of the global prison abolitionist movement, prison pedagogies, and banishment and exile are also welcome.

We invite original contributions with abstracts of 250 words, a 100 word bio, and 5 keywords by December 31st, 2021; and full articles of 5000-8000 words, or critical reviews of 3000 words, by June 30th 2022.

Please contact special issue editors Dr. Anne-Marie McManus [mcan@trafo-berlin.de] and Dr. Brahim el Guabli [be2@williams.edu] with abstracts and questions.

Past Calls for Papers

CLCWeb Call for Papers: Humor, the Absurd, and the Abject in Middle Eastern and North African Cultural Production

From the films of Elia Suleiman to the cartoons of Ali Ferzat, humor and the absurd have long permeated the landscape of literary and cultural production across the Middle East and North Africa. Writers, artists, and intellectuals have employed an aesthetics of humor in a myriad of forms- from lampooning caricatures and songs, to a cinema of the absurd and satirical theater. While some of the recent scholarship in Middle East humor studies has focused on the role of humor and satire in the Arab uprisings and other mass protest movements as well as the lampooning of contemporary Islamist extremists as forms of resistance, this special issue will focus on new scholarship on the relationships between humor, the absurd, and the abject in works of literature, music, and visual culture.

Our aim is to bring together scholars who are focusing on 20th and 21st cultural production in the region and who are working on one or more of the following questions: How and why do particular forms of literature, music, and visual culture articulate the imbrication between the humorous and the tragic through the figure of abject or by evoking tropes of abjection? In what ways do specific cultural producers mediate the tension between the abject and the absurd to comment on history and specific historical events? How can such commentaries be read both within and beyond frames of resistance, subversion, and the carnivalesque for those who are, in Kundera’s words "far from power?” How and to what effect do artists employ an aesthetics of humor? To what extent do such aesthetics perform a conservative function that merely reinforces, normalizes, or becomes complicit with the status quo? How and why do particular forms of humor and the absurd reflect on the distribution of power in a given society, and how are distributions of power embedded within the structure of the humorous? How are satirical forms evoked to articulate a vision of a dystopian present against a utopian future or vice versa? To what extent, if at all, does humor, following Bergson, provide a corrective vision and restore a sense of humanity and a capacity to feel in the face of a dystopian present? How and why do performances of the risible reflect, in Burke’s terms, the “forensic complexity” and ambivalence of comedy by refusing to represent the finality and coherence of particular events, and how do they subject political life to complex interrogations?

We invite original contributions that explore these and related questions for a special edition on humor, the absurd, and the abject in all forms of modern and contemporary Middle Eastern cultural production. Please send abstracts of no longer than 250 words, a 100 word biography, and 5 keywords by April 30th, 2021. Full articles of 5,000-8,000 words or critical reviews of 3,000 words will be due by October 1, 2021.

Please contact special issue editors Dr. Yasmine Ramadan (yasmine-ramadan@uiowa.edu) and Dr. R. Shareah Taleghani (rtaleghani@qc.cuny.edu) for abstracts and/or questions.

CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture (1999-) is a peer-reviewed, full-text, and open-access journal that publishes new scholarship in theory and criticism, comparative literature, and cultural studies.

What Does the Algorithm Want? Psychoanalysis and the Critique of Digital Platforms

This special issue of CLCWeb asks: “What does the algorithm want?” Contributions are invited from scholars working in the area of psychoanalysis and digital/online media.

What does psychoanalytic criticism offer us as a practice for critically interrogating digital and online media?

Who among us does not already know about the critique of digital platforms? We hear all the time about big tech, big data, platform capitalism, communicative capitalism, surveillance capitalism, control society, and so forth. The Edward Snowden leaks about the PRISM program in 2013 provided evidence for what we all already secretly believed: that our online interactions and communications are all the time being monitored and collected by mega corporations and the government. The Cambridge Analytica scandal, revealed by whistle blower, Christopher Wylie, in 2018 taught us even more about the ways platforms manipulate users’ views of the world and the ways this impacts our actions and behaviours, our ethics and our politics.

Now, during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, it seems to be the case, increasingly, that possibilities for escaping our attachments to digital platforms are shrinking, all the while, tech billionaires, like Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg are getting richer and richer, while our addictions to social technologies may be making us increasingly anxious.

Some choose to retreat from more public presentations of self and selfhood into the safe position of mere “lurking.” Others more self-consciously manage their online reputations, a component of identity construction in the neoliberal age of human capital and the entrepreneur-of-the-self. Still others may be dragged into the muddy waters of the online culture wars because, after all, there’s always someone who is wrong on the internet, as one popular cartoon once suggested.

But, perhaps, the strangest aspect to all of this is the fact that many of us already know very well the ways that platforms operate, what they do, and whose interests they serve; but nevertheless, we continue to act as if this were not the case. While some of this may be explained by, or attributed to the ubiquity of platforms in our everyday lives, materially, it is still worth asking how platforms relate to the subjectivizations of culture and our society ideologically. How do platforms and algorithms play with and feed off of our enjoyment and our desires, our fantasies, and our drives?

Contributions are invited that apply psychoanalytic criticism to the analysis of online and digital platforms, not limited to social media apps and websites, such as Facebook, Twitter, or TikTok. Contributors may also choose to write about retail platforms, like Amazon; Internet of Things apps, like Uber or Skip the Dishes; or other comparable platforms and apps. Contributors may also consider writing about the back end of platforms, focusing on programming and algorithm design; or even attempt to connect the front end of the interface with the business and political economic dimensions of the social technologies and platforms industries, including a focus on international political rivalries and forms of cyberwarfare. Yet another possibility would be for contributors to assess the possibilities for interpellating users towards radical identities on both the Left and the Right, the role of memes in the culture war, and how platforms activate political actions.

We invite original contributions in response to this theme with abstracts of 250 words, a 100 word bio note, and 5 keywords due by March 15th, 2021.

Authors with selected abstracts will be notified by April 15th, 2021, and invited to submit full manuscripts of approximately 5000-6000 words, critical reviews of 3000 words, or book reviews of 1000 words, for consideration for inclusion in the special issue due by November 1st, 2021, with an expected publication date around September 2022.

For more information, inquires, or to submit an abstract for review, please contact special issue editor, Matthew Flisfeder, by email at m.flisfeder@uwinnipeg.ca. Use the subject heading, “CLC Platform Psychoanalysis.”

Periodizing the Present: The 2020s, the Longue Durée, & Contemporary Culture

The current moment is one of renewed calls for social justice in the context of the Black Lives Matter movement, the uneven impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, a global inability to combat climate change, increasingly repressive border regimes, the risk of authoritarianism and far-right populism, alongside the deepening of higher education debt, and the diminishment of reproductive capacity (affordable housing and education, access to healthcare, and the environment) for future generations. However, analyses that focus on the immediacy or specificity of these crises often omit their structural and historical preconditions in the capitalist world-system, and the wider context of seemingly unending accumulation and its intensification of inequality, resource exhaustion, and ecological toxification.

This special issue takes as a starting point the idea that the 2020s are a useful position from which to theorize current global socio-political turmoil, environmental crises, and epidemiological fissures through an analysis of (in Raymond Williams’ lexicon), emerging, dominant, and residual cultural forms. A transnational and comparative approach testifies to renewed political energy at multiple sites of struggle. These include anti-authoritarian protests in Hong Kong; resistance to police repression in France, Nigeria, and the United States; the transnational movement for Black lives and creative responses by the Black diaspora in North America, the Carribean, Europe, and Africa; decolonising the university protests in South Africa and the UK; the battle for reproductive rights in India, Europe, and Argentina; for queer and trans rights globally; violence against environmental activists and indigenous protestors in Central America, South East Asia, and Canada; and planetary climate justice protests.

Recent research in materialist cultural studies deploy comparative and transnational approaches, paired with conceptual longue durée analyses of how the problems of the present are bound up with intersecting economic crises. In this spirit, the proposed issue will highlight Marxist perspectives, queer and feminist materialisms, social reproduction theory, and eco-materialist, world-ecological and/or world-systemic perspectives (see Lazarus 2011; Beckman 2012; Brouillette, Nilges and Sauri eds 2017; Deckard and Shapiro 2019). In particular such work emphasises the productive tension between periodic and/or periodizing frameworks. While it is important to capture emerging cultural forms, apparent novelty must nonetheless be situated within older trends e.g. recurring capitalist crises of overaccumulation, the colonial and recent exhaustion of commodity frontiers, and the historical adaptation of coercive technologies of surveillance and labour reorganisation.

This special issue builds on this work in seeking to theorise the current moment via analyses of new and/or reactivated genres and cultural forms such as Black horror, Afrofuturism, speculative realism, instagram or short poetry, speculative short stories, climate change fiction, crossover Young Adult fictions, graphic novels, apocalyptic fiction and film, pandemic narratives, political cinema, essay films, immersive performance, digital photography, and new media; and in work that seeks to foreground marginalised subjectivities and experiences via resistive expressions of sexuality, gender, race, and/or class. Of interest is how these cultural forms deploy transhistorical and structural imaginaries, alongside culture’s imaginative capacity to limn more socially just, emancipatory, and/ or utopian futures and alternatives to capitalism.

We invite original contributions in response to this theme with abstracts of 250 words, a 100 word bionote, and 5 keywords due by February 28th; and full articles of 5000-6000 words, or critical reviews of 3000 words, due by September 1st 2021.

Contributors are invited to address older cultural forms or readings that are newly relevant, or to focus on emerging artistic forms, including any cultural forms or discourses, such as novels, poetry, prose, film, and performance or visual art. Transnational and transhistorical approaches are strongly encouraged.

Please contact special issue editors Dr Treasa De Loughry [treasa.deloughry@ucd.ie] and Dr Brittany Murray [bmurra13@utk.edu] with abstracts and/ or questions.

CLCWeb Call for Papers: A Return to the Bad Old Times

To understand the forces that shape the present, the old adage that capitalism is a constantly revolutionizing force still holds true. Indeed, one of the most arresting results of this process is the ways in which the new sometimes unexpectedly manifests itself as a return to the old, apparently repeating that which was thought to have been transcended historically.

At the basis of this experience seems to be a political rebirth of authoritarianism and dictatorial regimes all over the globe, liberal democracy no longer constituting an end of history. Some versions of unapologetic old colonial attitudes find their place again within this non-democratic horizon. On the economic front, this appears in the abandonment of development projects in favor of ruthless competition over the graces of international capital investment. De-industrialization in this context means not a transcending of industrialization toward something better, but rather its loss toward something worse—not unlike pre-industrial capitalism in many respects. In foreign policy, loyalty to the American world order—or to its old rivals—suddenly reemerges, abandoning all newer attempts to build regional alternatives to older power blocs. In literature and the arts, a clear decline of public investment in culture and education marks the present moment. Culture and education are thus de-institutionalized, becoming “free” from the collective project of national development, only to reproduce an older arrangement, in which they are directly controlled by the rich. New “courts,” or spheres of influence emerge for this kind of elitist culture, ones whose borders are much more clearly demarcated by class.

How are we to understand this reemergence of things once believed to be overcome? What newness hides behind these apparent returns or repetitions? How are these regressive processes different in different countries and cultures (e.g., Brazil, Hungary, Italy, India, Philippines, US)? And, what can this variety tell us about the dynamics underlying them all? How can one relate these many returns to a single process, namely, the global development of capitalism? And, perhaps most importantly, what can political, cultural, and artistic responses tell us about such apparent reemergence of older social phenomena? This issue of CLCWeb welcomes full-length essays and shorter review essays and reviews dealing with such questions and similar ones.

Special issue editors: Fabio Akcelrud Durão and Fernando Urueta

Deadline for submissions: 1 April 2020

CLCWeb Call for Papers: After Neoliberalism

Everyone hates neoliberalism. This was not always the case: not too long ago, the hegemonic consensus demanded that we recognize economic neoliberalism and the political form of liberal democracy as the happy end of history, despite counter-hegemonic analyses from Marxist critics such as Giovanni Arrighi or David Harvey. Now, their critiques may be more relevant than ever; but the surrounding cultural and political force field has changed in the last decade: even the old proponents of liberal democracy now admit that our economic system has gone awry.

One could therefore ask whether the critique of our neoliberal present still opens up the way to a radically different future. The widespread dissatisfaction could perhaps be taken as an indication that Western neoliberalism is already on the wane. This special issue seeks contributions that explore the relation between capital, time, and culture, by tracing the ruptures and gaps in the neoliberal “eternal present,” and through exploring the multiple temporalities that emerge in its cracks. Contributions may focus on privileged sites of capitalist activity, including non-Western variants of contemporary capitalism, such as those of China and Turkey. Equally welcome are contributions addressing geographical and social spaces that capitalism has left behind or rendered futureless (as related to themes such as surplus population, precarity, uneven development, indebtedness and credit, and others).

Taking into account neoliberalism’s crises, what kind of possible futures are already visible in the cracks of the crumbling neoliberal order? How do specific cultural objects stage antagonisms between different temporalities, and how are these related to their social context? What historical imaginaries have become thinkable (or unthinkable) through the flourishing of the critique of neoliberalism? How do novels, films, art, and other cultural forms participate, consciously or unconsciously, in imagining new social forms, be these utopian, socialist, or other ones? How are the crises of contemporary capitalism and its future registered in cultures other than those of Western Europe and North America? What new ways of imagining time are emerging on the brink of capitalism’s collapse, or its reconstitution? And finally, how is conscious resistance related to artistic effort that seeks to articulate a non-capitalist social horizon? To what prescriptions should artistic activism adhere, if any?

We seek contributions that engage theoretical, philosophical, and artistic work from all parts of the world, from the 20th and 21st centuries.

Those interested in contributing to this special issue, please submit a 200-300 word abstract and a short bio to clcweb@purdue.edu, with the subject line “After Neoliberalism” by February 20, 2019. Authors with selected abstracts will be invited to submit full manuscripts for consideration for inclusion in the special issue.