CFP: Literature and Censorship (Deadline: September 30, 2015)

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Sanglap: Journal of Literary and Cultural Inquiry (Vol 2 Issue 2)

India is one of the few countries in the world to have a film censor board. And one of its recent casualties is a lesbian film significantly titled "Unfreedom." The current government has upped the ante by extending the ban culture of censorship from the aesthetic realm to the realm of everyday consumption with the ban on beef. The ban on Jafar Panahi, the Iranian filmmaker, continues and he continues to express himself in his art form in house arrest. The recent Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris has put the limelight back on censorship. Apart from the plethora of actual and virtual protests, the incident in which cartoonists were slaughtered for producing cartoons of prophet Mohammad has also initiated significant discursive battles between public intellectuals like the philosopher Jacques Rancière and the psychoanalyst Jacques-Alain Miller, or authors such as Salman Rushdie and Peter Carey, Michael Ondaatje, Teju Cole among others over the decision by the American organization PEN to honour the magazine. In our world where religious intolerance is growing by the minute beneath the mask of modern secularism, and imperial racism is on full throttle under the garb of the official policies of multiculturalism, it becomes ethically imperative to think through the changing politics of censorship.

Karl Marx in an insightful passage on "censorship" wrote, censorship does not prevent "arbitrariness," but makes it into a "law." And since censorship does not punish offenses but opinions, "it cannot be anything but a formula for the censor." Thus it is entrusted not with courts but with the police. (Emphasis in original; Marx and Engels, 1975, 11-14) Arbitrariness, law, police, and repression – these are not very unfamiliar terms in today's increasingly neo-liberal society. What the phenomenon of censorship further adds is an internalization of the external repressive. Consider Jacques Derrida's words in "Freud and the Scene of Writing" (1978): "The apparent exteriority of political censorship refers to an essential censorship which binds the writer to his own writing." In other words, censorship is not only external to the process of writing but writing itself entails censorship insofar as there is no writing without repression. The neo-liberal capitalism of today is based on a mirage of freedom in the name of parliamentary democracy and it would like to instil in its citizen subjects the illusion that there's no censorship whatsoever. It is only during the larger unfolding of the "events" such as Edward Snowden's "revelations," that we realize what a monitored and repressive system of life we are in. How do we fight this apparent lack of censorship today? Or rather, how do we settle a score between the apparent lack of censorship, the arbitrariness of law, and the sudden recognition of the repressive machineries of the State throttling free speech?

Similarly, there is the further issue of the connections between censorship and the global literary marketplace. If the fatwa against Salman Rushdie and the forced exile of the many Palestinian, Bangladeshi, Eastern European, and Sub-Saharan African writers in recent times are paradigmatic examples of literature's courage to push the limits of expressive freedom up against the institutional mechanism of censorship, there's no denying the cache of censorship as well when it comes to marketing these works. As we all know, a censored book sells even better as it increases the curiosity quotient. Joyce's novel Ulysses is a classic example. There are ethical paradoxes thronging this duelogue of literary expression and censorship. If one can see in this the survival of the literary work outliving censorship, one can also read into some cases a commercial if not populist strategy of inviting censorship. How do we complicate and if possible resolve these ironic points? If there is a market for censorship, how does literary expression respond to that market? How does censorship reflect the global and the local public values and the problematic rift between ethics and morality? How does it address questions of sub-cultures like sexual and religious minorities? In our times where all sexuality is reduced to "pornography," how do we view the efforts to aestheticize the pornographic culture? How is censorship imbricated in a complex network of power that mutates across domains of politics, religion and so on? We encourage contributions which think through these complexities by examining both the literary (understood in a broad aesthetic sense) texts and their social contexts and paratexts.

Contributors are welcome to consider the following topics without being limited to them:

Censorship and Free Speech
Pornography and Censorship
Censorship and Cinema in the Digital Age
Copyright and Censorship
Censorship and the Bio-political Machine
Censorship and the rise of Neo-Conservatism
Internet and Censorship
Religion and Censorship
Censorship in Social Media
Modern Democracy and Censorship
Censorship as Cache
Censorship and Surveillance
State and Censorship

Prospective papers addressing the issue should be sent to editors@sanglap-journal.in by September 30, 2015. The decisions will be communicated to the authors by November 30, 2015. The issue will be published in January, 2016. The papers should be between 4000 and 7000 words in length excluding notes and references, sent along with an abstract not exceeding 200 words and five or six keywords.

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