Keywords for Late Capitalism: Deadline 1 November

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ACLA Annual Meeting 2014 : 20-23 March
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Raymond Williams described his 1976 “Keywords” project as dealing with interdisciplinary terms that “bound together certain ways of seeing culture and society.” In the last forty years new economic formations have generated a new vocabulary: late capitalism, neoliberalism, precarity, vulnerability. These terms are increasingly important to cultural and literary studies: scholars of the contemporary moment employ this economic diction to articulate a crisis in current affective and political arrangements. This panel aims to define these new keywords in terms of their provenance and their effects as they migrate from economic to cultural criticism. This entails writing a history of recent literary studies: the turn to the economic legitimates continued discussion of the world as a unified field even after a rejection of totalizing aesthetic descriptors.

We invite papers that help clarify the relationship between this new vocabulary and the cultural arena. Neoliberalism is regularly located as the source of oppression for sexual and racial minorities, workers, and people with disabilities, even while this vocabulary has provided a framework for discussing the emergence of new sexed, classed, and embodied subjectivities. How does the appropriation of economic terminology illuminate or obscure cultural production? How do these keywords operate, or fail to operate, as critical shorthand? What do concepts related to industrial production have to do with the production of textual objects? Do these concepts demand new periodizations? Are there stylistic or generic conventions associated with literary production after Bretton Woods, the oil crisis, and the Berlin Wall?

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