Nomenclature - University of Maryland - March 5-6, 2010
Keynote Speakers: Kavita
Daiya (George Washington University) and Tita Chico (University of Maryland)
The Graduate English Organization
of the University of Maryland's Department of English invites students
at Washington, D.C. area universities to submit abstracts for our third
annual interdisciplinary graduate conference. "Nomenclature" seeks
to interrogate the causes, conventions, and consequences of the human
impulse to name, label, and categorize.
The practice of naming and
labeling influences, for better or worse, how we formulate identities
and regulate taxonomies. According to the Judeo-Christian tradition,
marking difference among groups dates back to Adam's God-given power
and responsibility to name and classify "every living creature"
(Gen. 2:19). The early modern period saw the naming of an entire
land mass—the New World—and Shakespeare himself has given us that
time-worn question, "What's in a name?" More recently, the
remapping of national boundaries following decolonization has called
into question the strict demarcation of peoples and places.
What we choose to name an individual,
group, or phenomenon constitutes our own identities in relationship
to people and things outside of ourselves. But what we choose
not to call someone or something is equally significant. At
Harvard University, for instance, the administration's official policy
mandates that "cutbacks" be referred to as "the reallocation of
funds." Here, at the University of Maryland, statements insist
that budget problems are being addressed through "furloughs" rather
than "pay cuts." While we might characterize these policies as careful
and prudent advertising, the phenomenon of re-naming for the sake of
palatability is not new to our time. In literature departments, scholars
regularly reconsider how we refer to certain fields of study.
For example, the term "post-colonialism" has given way to "oceanic"
and "hemispheric" studies in order to more accurately capture the
reciprocal relationships among countries and people.
Heidegger suggests that language
is "the house of being," that humans require language to "dwell"
and "create." More obliquely, Lao-tsu reminds us that "the
name that can be named is not the eternal Name." If we cannot
escape the inclination to name, is it possible to operate within academia
and the world at large with endless possibilities for taxonomy?
Must common terms for discussion be reached? How have our taxonomies
been re-oriented by the recognition of categories as artificial and
accidental rather than innate and essential?
The conference committee invites
proposals for fifteen-minute papers addressing the conference theme
from a broad range of disciplines and theoretical backgrounds. Presentations
of creative work are also welcome. Panel submissions (3-4 participants)
are highly encouraged. Please limit abstracts for fifteen-minute
papers to 300 words for individual abstracts and 500 words for panel
abstracts. Full papers may accompany abstracts. Please include three
keywords at the end of the abstract to assist panel formation.