Appropriation and Its Discontents (ACLA 2018)

deadline for submissions: 
September 21, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
ACLA at UCLA, 3/29/18-4/01/18
contact email: 

A couple of years ago, when the conceptual poet Kenneth Goldsmith read “The Body of Michael Brown,” an appropriation of Brown’s autopsy report for a conference at Brown University, he unleashed a furious debate about the politics of speaking for another people’s pain or experience.  While some accused him of bad taste and pointed to the long, colonial history of white male artists using black bodies as fodder for their art, others defended the right of the artist to provoke and explore, and decried what they considered the essentialism behind condemnations of Goldsmith’s pieces.  Appropriation’s discontents are also evident in such recent controversies as the protests against the exhibit of Dana Schutz's "Open Casket" at the Whitney Biennial (and the subsequent calls to pull her show at Boston's ICA); the “appropriation prize” proposed by a white editor for Canada’s Write Magazine; in Roxanne Gay’s discomfort with such white-authored texts about the black experience as Ben Winters’s Underground Airlines; and even in the debates surrounding the de-colonizing of teaching and reading texts from other cultures.  Can we regard another people’s pain without falling into the trap of either what curator Tirdad Zolghadr has called poornography or a self-congratulatory sentimentalism? 
This seminar explores the politics, poetics and pedagogies of appropriation in an attempt to tease out the complexities of a middle ground between two equally facile positions: art is all about appropriation vs. appropriation is always problematic and inauthentic.  What are the limits of appropriation?  Why are some forms of appropriation more palatable than others?  Who has free reign to appropriate and who doesn’t?  How do we assess the work of authors of color writing in the voice of white characters? How do we, as educators, avoid the trap of touristic or exorcized readings as we appropriate the "other" perspective in order to "enlighten" our students about different experiences? 

We seek papers from a range of interdisciplinary perspectives. To submit papers, please visit the ACLA submission site: Questions? contact Andrea Opitz (Stonehill College), or Patricia Barbeito (RISD),