Trauma and Mourning in a Time of Insecurity

deadline for submissions: 
July 31, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
University of California, Riverside - English Department

Call for Papers

“Trauma and Mourning in a Time of Insecurity”

(Dis)junctions 2017

Department of English Graduate Conference

University of California, Riverside

Dates: October 19 - 20, 2017

Keynote Speakers: Dr. Trinh T. Minh-ha and Dr. David Eng


What does it mean to mourn? Why do we mourn the loss of some, but not others? Who are these “others,” and why do we not mourn “them”? For how many can each of us mourn?

The graduate students of University of California, Riverside’s Department of English invite proposals for the annual (Dis)junctions Graduate Conference. Whereas a junction is a place of intersection, the term disjunction refers to a condition of being disjoined, separated, disconnected, or disunited. The (Dis)junctions conference explores such moments and spaces of intersection and rupture in literary and cultural studies. This year’s conference explores how trauma and insecurity—perceived, represented, and/or experienced—influence our mourning practices.

The current political climate is co-constitutive with the notions of security, safety, and protection in the American imaginary. This security state is sanctioned by the practice of an ongoing mourning, not only for the tactically homogenized “victims” of 9/11, but also those of subsequent events, demanding a process of continuous and differential mourning. As a result, the surveillance state, war on terrorism, and militarized police force have become the accepted underpinnings of US “security.” In the financial sector, Wall Street “securities” undergird America’s neoliberal economic imperialism. We become further implicated in the U.S. apparatus of “security” by our failure or unwillingness to mourn certain subjects whose lives are framed as ungrievable. As our forms of mourning are thus conditioned by the cultural hegemony of the neoliberal state, such mourning becomes raced, gendered, and nationalized.

This conference invites us to consider how we might cultivate resistance to hegemonic narratives of trauma, mourning, and security. While traditional trauma studies have viewed psychic wounds as an individual, permanent, and pathological state of being, non-Western configurations of trauma posit it as a collective experience, and one that holds possibilities for recuperation and redress. How can initiating a movement away from the Western optics of trauma offer different systems through which we can consider forms of brutality and wounding and our responses to them? How can mourning affect action and change in our apparatus of “security”? Can we put into praxis what Viet Thanh Nguyen calls a “just memory,” one that “constantly tries to recall what might be forgotten, accidentally or deliberately, through self-serving interests, the debilitating effects of trauma, or the distraction offered by excessively remembering something else, such as the heroism of the nation’s soldiers”? If we can begin to disjoin mourning and security, we might (re)learn how to express grief in this current politically fraught climate of suspicion and prejudice, while acknowledging how this “current” milieu is a continuation of decades of U.S. imperialism and promotes Western-centered thinking. We might consider whether mourning is even a useful category for thinking about non-Western responses to imperialism. Is it helpful to invoke “trauma” with relation to populations dealing with torture, sudden death by drone and air assaults, and the structural violence of poverty and exploitation, or does such an invocation blur the important distinctions between highly different experiences of the security state?

We welcome proposals that engage these questions and extend these conversations, either as formal papers or as creative interpretations of our theme. Presentations incorporating the conference theme may come from disciplines such as trauma studies, surveillance studies, critical refugee studies, gender and queer theory, space, dimensionality, network theory, media theory, and/or affect theory, and can engage with any historical period. We invite papers addressing topics from the following list:

  • Mourning; mourning practices; non-Western or folk beliefs about death, burial, trauma or mourning; the media’s influence on mourning practices; mourning and memory
  • Trauma; trauma theory; postcolonial/transnational paradigms of trauma; trauma and memory; ‘trigger’ words and ‘safe’ spaces; vicarious trauma; memorializing traumatic events
  • Security; safe spaces; surveillance; the creation and manipulation of fear; non-Western paradigms of safety and security; American exceptionalism; terrorism as the new “axis of evil”; interrogations of the inclusion-exclusion binary; legal status; issues of migration; transnational approaches to security
  • Resistance; the climate of mourning among activists following Trump’s election; the relationship between mourning and resistance, and mourning and mobilization;
  • Networks; mathematical and literary networks; networks of interactions among people and in literature; networks as oppressive and hegemonic systems; networks as means to organize and resist; assemblages; potentials and limitations of current trends in “transnational” literary and cultural studies as means to network between nations
  • Intersectionality; intersections of race, gender, and class; intersections that reinforce hegemonic systems of oppression, racism, sexism, and discrimination; how and when different oppressions intersect; the ways in which institutions of higher education adequately or inadequately addresses the challenges of intersectionality; assemblage theory

Please submit proposals for 15-minute presentations to Proposals must include an abstract of 300 words and a biography of 50 words.

Abstracts Due: July 31st, 2017        Tentative Conference Dates: October 19th - 20th, 2017