WSQ: Engage

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Women's Studies Quarterly
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WSQ: Engage!
Guest Editors: David A. Gerstner & Cynthia Chris

“I must decline your invitation owing to a subsequent engagement.” — Oscar Wilde

“There is always something to do. There are hungry people to feed, naked people to clothe, sick people to comfort and make well. And while I don’t expect you to save the world I do not think it’s asking to much for you to love those with whom you sleep, share the happiness of those whom you call friend, engage those among you who are visionary and remove from your life those who offer you depression, despair and disrespect.”
— Nikki Giovanni

“We were engaged once though, weren't we?. . . But you were the one that called off the engagement, do ya remember? I'm still available.” — John “Scottie” Ferguson (James Stewart) to Midge Wood (Barbara Bel Geddes) in Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)

The declarative verb “engage” occupies cross-purposes. “To engage” spans innumerable social and cultural arenas: business, politics, sex, and other activities in which we engage. The word means, in some senses, to begin, to attract, to hire: she engaged me in conversation; the driver engaged the clutch. In other senses, the word indicates an invitation, a promise, a binding occupation: one engages by hiring, by engaging in a business, or in politics; one is betrothed to a beloved in the act of engagement. An engagement is entangling, drawing together participants in a cooperating unit (a workplace, a relationship, a contractual agreement) even as that entangling may be one of violent division: troops may engage in battle. Yet: engagement is more than co-presence, it is relational: at work or in love, one can simply go through the motions or one can engage with a vigor that is both actively corporeal and soulfully internalized. To engage encompasses processes of both setting in motion and sustaining a commitment, both to splice and to confront. To disengage, even, is to begin again in relation to some other being or entity; that is, to re-engage.

We are interested in the dynamic of all forms of engagement, and seek to explore its valence in explorations of the various kinds of engagements that gather individuals into pairings, partnerships, or groups, with particular attention given to the gendered stakes and sexual aspects involved in engagement. We are moved by discussions informed by feminist and queer theory that regard how one engages (explicitly or implicitly) in social alliances and political work. Consider for example, “The Tyranny of Structurelessness” by Jo Freeman (1972), “The Personal Is Political” by Carol Hanisch (1969), the anonymous manifesto “Queers Read This/I Hate Straights” (1990); Lauren Berlant and Michael Warner’s engagements of sexuality in the public sphere in “Sex in Public” (1998); Michael Worton’s theoretical engagement of erotic practices in “Cruising (Through) Encounters” (1998); and the engaging interrogation of pedagogy in “Teaching Shame” by Ellis Hanson (2009).

Such an inquiry—at once etymological, theoretical, and practical—is necessarily broad-based. But it allows us to ask: What does it mean to begin, to broach, to breach a public, political, or cultural sphere? How do the dynamics of academic disciplines, relational, social, and political engagements inform one another? How are our relationships to work, play, ideas, institutions, identities, bodies (our own and others’), defined by the degree to which we engage, through indifference, resistance, denial, hostility, advocacy, identification, fandom, or action? What deconstructive possibilities does the imperative—to engage—invite given its generous applications in contemporary culture?

We invite scholarly submissions—as well as poetry, prose, and visual essays—that approach engagement or the imperative, “to engage,” from a variety of methodological perspectives. Suggested topics to engage include, but are not limited to:

o The erotics of being engaged by technology: engaging avatars, engaging with machines; gendered gadgetry and digital fetishes;

o Engagement marketing: identity politics of evangelistic branding campaigns; the tactility of word-of-mouth branding;

o Academic engagements: feminist and queer pedagogy and interdisciplinarity; practices of engagement in sociology, anthropology and other disciplines;

o Getting engaged: marriage, monogamy, polyamoury, flirtation, seduction; trans-, genderqueer and refusing to engage gender binaries; public sex, sex work; coupling, uncoupling;

o Gendered practices in partisan polemics, flip-flopping, direct action, occupation, military engagement, civil disobedience, joining, supporting, standing by.

For academic work, please send articles by October 1, 2012 to the guest editors, Cynthia Chris and David Gerstner at Please send complete articles, not abstracts. Submission should not exceed 22 double spaced, 12 point font pages (including references) and should comply with the formatting guidelines at

Poetry submissions should be sent to WSQ's poetry editor, Kathleen Ossip, at by October 1, 2012. Please review previous issues of WSQ to see what type of submissions we prefer before submitting poems. Please note that poetry submissions may be held for six months or longer. Simultaneous submissions are acceptable if the poetry editor is notified immediately of acceptance elsewhere. We do not accept work that has been previously published. Please paste poetry submissions into the body of the e-mail along with all contact information.

Fiction, essay, and memoir submissions should be sent to WSQ's fiction/nonfiction editor, Nicole Cooley, at by October 1, 2012. Please review previous issues of WSQ to see what type of submissions we prefer before submitting prose. Please note that prose submissions may be held for six months or longer. Simultaneous submissions are acceptable if the prose editor is notified immediately of acceptance elsewhere. We do not accept work that has been previously published. Please provide all contact information in the body of the e-mail.

Art submissions should be sent to Margot Bouman at by October 1, 2012. After art is reviewed and accepted, accepted art must be sent to the journal's managing editor on a CD that includes all artwork of 300 DPI or greater, saved as 4.25 inches wide or larger. These files should be saved as individual JPEGS or TIFFS.

“Engage!” — Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Star Trek: The Next Generation

cfp categories: 
modernist studies