Modalities of being against: a symposium at the XII ABRALIC Conference (03/14-04/15; 07/18-07/22)

full name / name of organization: 
contact email: 


Fabio Akcelrud Durao (Literary Theory, Unicamp)
Rachel Price (Spanish-Portuguese, Princeton)
Paulo Moreira (Spanish-Portuguese, Yale)

It is extremely hard to think of any critical discourse or artistic practice without the figure of the antagonist. As a narrative category, however, antagonism has undergone numerous changes and acquired myriad particular contours in specific periods and social spaces. If in pre-modern times dissent in art had to disguise itself in elusive details and accommodate strong formal and generic conventions, it was with decadence, modernism and the vanguards that being against first coalesced into an explicit goal and a somewhat coherent mode of being. The eloquent forms of modernist antagonism marked artistic and cultural articulations in the Western world from its centers to its margins with different emphases that reflected different perspectives on more or less the same set of attitudes. Since the public scandals and virulent controversies of the second half of the 19th century, successive waves of Modernisms thrived on all forms of antagonism in its increasingly conflicting relationship with public reception and the world at large. However, towards the end of the 20th century, sterile forms of protest marked by despair seemed to be the prevailing tone of the last radical vanguards in their desperate or cynical response to the surprising capacity of capitalism not only to digest and accommodate modernist antagonisms but to turn them into profitable commodities. Moreover, towards the end of the 20th century a violent conservative backlash to more open forms of democracy often adopted the form and discourse of modernist antagonisms against the status quo, a language of protest and change that had previously been mostly identified with revolutionary action – hence a baffling oxymoron such as the US "conservative revolution" became commonplace and formerly known as progressive forces were seen as reactionary to changes.

In the 21st century, it seems, when the doxa of multiplicity, heterogeneity and the like have acquired the status of second nature to the cultural field, contrariness has become again more diffuse, albeit (or precisely because of it) no less crucial. Hence the urgent need to ponder on the genealogy of modern antagonism in order to think up new modalities of being against in contemporary conditions.

Contraversy; au rebours, a contracorriente, a contrapelo: figures working against – a double move that depends simultaneously on opposing and leaning upon – characterize not only the historical avant-gardes but also many of the current entrenchments of reaction. How does one genre press or work against another? Is there something we can call the geopolitics of being against? Whither dissent? How did certain figures manage to position themselves against/beyond long established dichotomies such as "political engagement" vs. "art for art's sake," "oral" vs. "written," "erudite" vs. "popular," "national" vs. "foreign" or "localism" vs. "cosmopolitanism"? What is the relation between opposition and production? How can one oppose with signs in an age of semiotic overproduction? What happens to negation when contents become ever more irrelevant? What about class struggle, one of the most prevalent modes of antagonism in the 19th and 20th century? Has it been definitely supplanted or simply modified by the fall of communist utopias? These are just some of the many questions that come to mind when one thinks about being against. This symposium is an attempt to meditate on a phenomenon that is much more intense the more it is passed over.

There is no restriction of nationality, period or genre. We encourage abstracts dealing with any aspect of being against in literature, art, criticism, theory or culture studies in general, where antagonism fulfills a prominent role. Areas of research may include, but by no means would be restricted to:

– being against and the university
– the antagonist as protagonist
– being against in modernism
– being against in Latin America
– the languages of being against
– being against in theory
– the geopolitics of acceptance
– psychoanalytical repression of being against
– historicism of contrariness
– culture industry and opposition
– fiction and conflict
– modernity of being against
– against genius, for appropriation
– antagonism after ideology
– antagonisms from within

Registration must be made through the ABRALIC site at: