"Attachment" - UC Irvine Comparative Literature Graduate Conference, March 13 & 14, 2014.

full name / name of organization: 
Comparative Literature, University of California, Irvine.


What do we feel when we realize we are attached to something? Attachment is usually considered as existing under the surface of relation, as its residual effect. Attachment can be assumed by our relations, but we also feel it persisting beyond the relations themselves; attachment remains in expired categories and expired experiences. With this conference, we want to think about attachment as a residual effect and in expiry, yes, but rather than thinking attachment solely as beneath or beyond relation, can we think of it in conditions of non-relation, where relation has lapsed or has never properly existed? Our focus is on things experienced as non-relational, where attachment is considered as mutual imbrication without access to its own outside, due to lack of reciprocity or incapacity for relation; to account for experiences, such as ecological catastrophe, that don't need to be recognized as relational in order to exist.

Non-relational attachment might already be the stuff upon which relation is built. If relation were fully relatable would it still be a relation? Would it not just be identity? Can being attentive to non-relational attachment help us think about ways of relating that don't assume identification? How might we think of attachment at the limits of sociality, such as in Black Optimism, Afro-Pessimism, Trans-theory, or Subaltern Studies? Under what conditions is non-relational attachment felt as a crisis—or felt at all?

How can we think about attachment outside the terms of intention or coercion? We are interested in attachments that are not fully chosen, raising the problem of how to detach, including from potentially unconscious parts of oneself. We would like to think detachment not as the opposite of attachment, but as a movement within it. Can we think of attaching in a way that makes detaching easier—or allows us to better live with the impossibility of detaching, without denying it via repression, displacement, disavowal? Can it be thought in terms other than desire? Can we think about mitigating the inevitability of repression in terms of living beside. Not beyond, or beneath, but beside.

Under this frame we want to consider attachments within our approaches themselves. In what way are we attached to our assumptions? In what way do we rely upon both past-relation (as recuperation) and future-relation (as possibility) in order to attach to things that were relatable, and may be again? How can we think about a loss of relation that is not recuperable, lamentable or promising, but which remains as an attachment nonetheless? Can we attach to the after of expectation, without being hopeful or superstitious, without fantasy-attachment? Or is that itself a fantasy, and as such, the worst kind of attachment because the only kind? Difficult, and painful, because it's being—that it could be—demands us to consider that it could be otherwise. Yet we want to find ourselves somewhere other than the end of relation or the triumph of impossibility—that'd only be if we always read relation itself as possibility.

If hypostatization of the subject-object relation establishes the function of the constitutive subject in conceptualization, how do we avoid structural hypostatization, itself an attachment to control and therapeutics? What happens if we dwell or get stuck in this middle layer of attachment, rather than passing-over, where attachment is not a moment in structural explanation, but evidence of an embedded social relation? Can we shift to a focus on things that aren't relatable? And if we can't, what keeps getting brought back in, is ineliminable, to our language, approaches, feelings?

We hope to begin discussion on the expiry of certain forms of relation and the objects that have been used to think them with. What would non-relational positionality look like, and what new objects might appear from such an approach? We are concerned then not to redefine the objects of attachment but the category of attachment itself. If we are not recognized how are we seen? If there is no reciprocation how do we respond? If the experience can't be fed back into the situation that produced it how do we locate ourselves?

Keynote Panel:
We are happy to say that Anne-Lise Francois (Comparative Literature, UC Berkeley) will be involved in a keynote panel on one of the evenings.

Our intention is to have something between a conference and a set of mini-seminars. We ask participants interested in engaging  to apply in small groups and propose a panel/workshop topic with a framing introduction (10 min) and to supply a set of core texts (with excerpts limited to 30pp total, or equivalent in non-type form). We welcome engagement by way of any medium: art, literary, and filmic analyses, theory, scholarship in the social sciences and non-academic work. The hope is to find out what other graduate students are thinking about and working on, but at an earlier stage, using this as a springboard for genuine and potentially ongoing discussion, rather than providing a forum to showcase work presented as self-sufficient if not fully developed.hment.uci2014@gmail.com. The deadline for submission is January 12, 2014.

Please send a short proposal including panel topic, indication of framing introduction, some guiding questions, and provisional text/material ideas to:

The deadline for submission is January 12, 2014.