Translating Precarity- ACLA, 4-7 April 2013- University of Toronto

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Walt Hunter and Anne-Lise François

Although recent criticism in literary studies has focused on the everyday and the ordinary, this seminar instead maps out a place for the precarious. The term precarity has been heard more and more frequently in political philosophy, economics, anthropology, and critical theory. Current discussions of precarity are shaped by the work of Paulo Virno, who describes it as "the chronic instability of forms of life," and by Judith Butler, who conceives of precarity as a shared vulnerability on the basis of which we might found a tentative community. The French philosopher Guillaume le Blanc refers to precarity as the unraveling of the socially-constructed self, the "unmaking" of making. He asks, "if precarity tends to disqualify ordinary lives, utterly destroying their creative capacities, could we not seek the elements that would reanimate these capacities by analyzing the counter-use of the voices of precarious lives?"

This panel examines how literature and critical theory "translate" the voices of precarious life, carrying them across the borders between the visible and the invisible, the audible and the inaudible, the normal and the pathological. How is precarious life positioned in relation to ordinary life and to bare life? How does the migration of the precarious individual to and from the margins of society alter the coordinates of social space? Papers might also consider various tropes and affects of precarity; figures of the collective, the multitude, and the common(s) in fiction, poetry, drama, or film; the ethics of vulnerability and the politics of care; poverty and representation.

Please direct questions to Walt Hunter at and Anne-Lise François at Abstracts may be submitted via the ACLA website: