CFP: ACLA 2013 Seminar, Contested Cartographies of Consent

full name / name of organization: 
Keja Valens, Salem State University and Jordana Greenblatt, Justus Liebig Universitat Giessen
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This is a call for papers for the annual American Comparative Literature Conference which will be held in Toronto, Canada, April 4 - 7, 2013. The abstracts need to be submitted by November 15, 2012 on the ACLA website, specifying that is is for the Contested Cartographies of Consent Seminar, at <>.

Contested Cartographies of Consent
Consent is a protean construct in literary, cultural, legal, medical, and social discourses. Although we tend to assume that we understand it on the level common sense as that which differentiates desired from unwanted interactions, consent is a dynamically shifting construct that serves to position bodies and desires in various kinds of cultural intelligibility. For Kant, consent delineates ethical interaction. The social contract places consent as the decisive act of citizenship even as the social construction of consent operates to produce contested cartographies of desire, mapping certain desires as incompatible with the acceptable social subject. For example, in rejecting the appeal of the defendants in the Spanner case, in which a group of gay male sadomasochists were successfully prosecuted for assault (against the objections of their willing sexual partners), Lord Templeman of the British House of Lords famously wrote: "Pleasure derived from the infliction of pain is an evil thing. Cruelty is uncivilized." However, progressive political projects have been no less inclined to map and to regulate the borders of acceptable desire than the state. While sadomasochism has historically been a particularly contested issue within feminist discourse, multiple political projects deploy concepts of false consciousness that serve equally to construct limits to what one can consent to and who can grant consent that end up excluding certain subjects from "civilization." Consent risks collapsing, or extending into one another, the private and the public and, as Elaine Scarry, notes, the active and the passive. In this seminar, we particularly seek projects that theorize consent, in all its dramatic malleability, as a social, legal, cultural, and/or literary construct that serves actively to produce and to reinforce borders between categories of social activity and of acceptable and unacceptable desires and social subjects. We are particularly interested in the ways in which it is used to map and regulate sexual desire, gender relationships, global positions, and literary interactions (Joan Didion claims, in "Why I Write," "that setting words on paper is the tactic of a secret bully, an invasion, an imposition of the writers sensibility on the readers most private space"). Areas of focus might include: Contested sexualities (sadomasochism, sex work, pornography, etc); Relations between and across imperial and postcolonial positions; Literature and the consent of the reader; Intersections between legal and cultural constructions of consent; Censorship; Feminism and consent; Childhood sexuality and the age of consent.