Going "Viral":Contested Cartographies of Illness, Ideology, and Identity Politics (ACLA, U Toronto, 4/4-4/7/13;deadline 11/1/12
American Comparative Literature Association 2013 Conference
University of Toronto
April 4-7, 2013
Deadline for abstracts: Nov 1, 2012
"An idea is like a virus. Resilient… contagious," proclaims the protagonist of Christopher Nolan's film, Inception. While deployment of the virus as a metaphor for ideological contamination is not new, this reference to contagion is remarkable because it illustrates what Priscilla Wald notes in Contagious, namely that, "the circulation of microbes materializes the transmission of ideas." In Discourse on Colonialism Aimé Césaire compares colonialism to bacteria, describing the former as "a gangrene… center of infection." Inception, Wald, and Césaire, among others, recognize a relationship between the spread of ideas and the biology of communicable disease. How can we push this conversation between the spread of illness, ideology, and identity politics further?
Taking as its starting point the notion of "going viral," this seminar explores contagion—literal and metaphorical—as a socio-political concept that provides a more complete picture of the interconnectedness of our world than the one produced by Global Positioning Systems, virtual check-ins, and Network theory. Among the questions this seminar explores: How can GPS help us rethink the way we map routes of cultural, ideological, and biological transmission? What is the role of epidemiological mapping in determining the possibilities and limits of GPS in our increasingly globalized world? How can we look beyond the fields of science and technology and, instead, towards literary, cultural, and media studies to address the question of global health? Moreover, what are the consequences when ideas, identity politics, and ideology escape the grasp of its creators—only to reproduce at the global level?
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