Expense and Expendability - June 20-21, 2014

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Simon Fraser University English Graduate Conference

2014 Simon Fraser University English Graduate Conference – June 20-21, 2014

"Expense & Expendability"

Keynote: TBA

To me it would seem only a commercial exchange, in which each wished to be benefited at the expense of the other.
- Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility

After the financial crisis of 2008, we notice an increasing tendency in official political discourse to focus on the rebuilding of the middle class. This rhetorical focus effaces long-developing critiques of wealth distribution, social justice, and environmental conservation. With these critiques marginalized in mainstream politics, structures of inequality and exclusion become less visible even as they continue to function. The result, if we follow critics like David Harvey, is a kind of "trickle-up" economics, where policy produces the movement of capital upward to be concentrated in the hands of a few individuals, resulting in a situation where 83 individuals hold more wealth than the bottom 3 billion. In this scenario, those at the bottom become increasingly expendable. This impulse to not merely exclude but to actively dispose of is not new; Giorgio Agamben's concepts of homo sacer (or bare life) and the state of exception locate this tendency not only in our moment, but in earlier moments, seen earliest for him in Roman law. Thus, we see this repeated link between the production of value and the exploitation and exclusion of those at the bottom, whether those are the homeless, the mentally ill, the disabled, the racialized, etc.

In pairing these dual concepts of expense (having to do with value, monetary and otherwise) and expendability (having to with the material remainder of value production), we are looking for work that investigates the various ways that literature and culture produce and are produced by these uneven politics. Papers working across all historical periods, methodological approaches, and aesthetic conventions are encouraged.

We are looking for proposals for critical papers, creative presentations, and thematic panels. Creative proposals should include a sample of the performer's work, textual or otherwise. Panels should include abstracts for each individual paper as well as a short description of the panel itself. Abstracts should be approximately 250 words. Please send abstracts to expendableconference@gmail.com by March 31, 2014.

- Gendered division of labour
- Economic and social precarity across periods
- Canon formation
- The role of urban development
- Dispossession of Indigenous Territory
- Resource Extraction and Environmental Justice
- Citizenship, Immigration, and Rights Discourse
- Industrialization
- Security Politics and the Nation
- Publics, Counterpublics, and Being Outside the Public
- Staged (and Unstaged) Performance
- Historical Representations of Inequality
- Modes of Censorship
- Disability, Normativity, and the Body
- Economies of Violence and Sexuality
- Generosity and Community
- Depressions/recessions/collapses
- Displacement and dispossession
- Debt
- Minor Characters and Minor Texts