Impasse (January 3, 2012, UC Irvine Comparative Literature, March 2, 2012)

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Ryan Ku
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The graduate students of the Department of Comparative Literature at the University of California, Irvine, invite submissions for its annual conference:


University of California, Irvine
Friday, March 2, 2012
Humanities Gateway 1030


Keynote Speaker: Professor Homay King, Bryn Mawr College

In a climate of seemingly insurmountable economic indebtedness, a poisonous and ineffectual politics, and overburdened and disillusioned citizen-subjects prone to nostalgia, novelty, and hope, this conference seeks to further conversation about the state of things. If attempts to move forward or away from the established order are either openly blocked, compromised, or prove to be anachronistic repetitions – rendering them impotent, if not short-circuiting the expectation of and the desire for substantive change – might we perhaps reflect on this condition of impasse: this state of being stuck, trapped, unable?

When and why do we find ourselves in an "impassive" position – politically, economically, intellectually? Or rather, when and why do we feel that we are in an impasse – socially, and in relation to our own subjecthood? Could it be that this feeling has not only to do with the solutions offered, but also with the ways in which questions about our past, current, and future problems – Should we raise taxes? If you're in debt, shouldn't you pay for it? Are you a Democrat or a Republican? Are you a poststructuralist or a Marxist? The sciences or the humanities? – are posed? What is displaced in this mode of posing questions, and does this displacement necessarily lead us back to where we began? If we are indeed continuing to "go back" to the same place, or if we feel unable to move in time, why is this the case? What, for that matter, constitutes an impasse? What kinds of metaphors do we use to construe impasse, and why? What kinds of temporalities are conjured by the notion of impasse, and what kinds of temporalities can it conjure? Can "impassivity" be viably read as an antidote to the violence of the very progressivism that would appear to have produced it? How might we think queerly about the problematic of impasse? How do our notions of what is complicit and what is revolutionary contribute to the impasse, and might they be queered such that they work otherwise?

We are primarily interested in papers that reflect on impasse, or on some aspect thereof, through literary analysis; film, cultural, and performance studies; and critical theory and philosophy.

More specific topics include but are not limited to:

-- Quagmires, traps, responsibilities, obligations, the bonds and positionalities they forge and their temporalities
-- Blockage, stalemate, deadlock, binary logic, the double-bind
-- Constitutive contradiction, difference and repetition
-- Politics and psychoanalysis of lack, materialism of excess
-- Politics, literature, and/or cultures of despair, cynicism, fear; the post- condition
-- Disillusionment and vulnerability, nostalgia and novelty
-- Denial in the face of the uncontrollable and the inevitable
-- The compromise, the promise
-- Futurity and reproduction
-- Resistance, defiance, rebellion, revolution
-- Limit experiences, the death drive
-- Ecology against capitalism, life against property
-- The "body-politic," the psychic and the social
-- The humanities and the economy, the humanities and politics, the intellectual and the material, "theory" and "practice"

Keynote Bio: Homay King is Associate Professor in the Department of History of Art at Bryn Mawr College, where she also directs the Program in Film Studies and the Center for Visual Culture. Her book Lost in Translation: Orientalism, Cinema, and the Enigmatic Signifier was published by Duke University Press in 2010. Her essays on film, photography, and contemporary art have appeared in Afterall, Camera Obscura, Discourse, Film Quarterly, The Quarterly Review of Film and Video, Qui Parle, and a few edited volumes. She is a member of the Camera Obscura editorial collective, and is currently working on a book about virtuality.

We welcome abstracts of 250-300 words, to be submitted to no later than January 3, 2012. Presentations are to be 20 minutes in length. Please include your name, email address, departmental affiliation, institution, and phone number with your abstract. Please note that we will not be able to provide funding or lodging for any participants. For additional information on "Impasse," please visit