CFP: [Cultural-Historical] Translating Testimonies of the Body (11/1/08, ACLA 2009)

full name / name of organization: 
Martina Jauch
contact email:

We invite proposals for the ACLA seminar "Translating Testimonies of the
Body" for the annual conference of the American Comparative Literature
Association, which will take place at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA
on March 26-29, 2009.

Seminar Description:

>From what sources do minorities derive their power? In what ways does the
utilization of their bodies as both a phenomenological and physical
presence aid minorities in this endeavor or work to their disadvantage?
Veena Das and Stanley Cavell’s 2007 study on violence and language
defines the task of historiography as breaking the silences that announce
the zones of taboo. Their thesis further proposes that critical
investigation of narratives of violence needs to involve the retelling of
subordinate stories of language, pain, and bodies. While such
anthropological writings have previously articulated the importance of a
global inquiry into body politics, this panel will focus on fiction from
diverse eras and regions to form a comparative study of how cultural
politics define, appropriate, and transform bodies in local narratives to
the benefit or harm of minorities.
James Booth’s Communities of Memory outlines that witnessing functions
as “a carrier of a past whose actions are bound up with ethics, identity,
and justice.” The body as imaginary signifier and material reality can
help us translate stereotypes into individual performances of history and
futurity. Contrary to a desire to transcend history by honoring lost
objects and subjectivities, the body can become a powerful presence that
provides the impetus to re-form one’s identity and overcome one’s failure
to articulate past events. This panel aims to investigate the body’s
inherent potential to ‘narrate’ its own suffering, its
instrumentalization as a political or communal tool, and its ability to
combat intra-cultural and inter-cultural fear and violence.

You might consider the following questions in your presentation:

- How are bodies of minorities “recognized” (Charles Taylor, Nancy
Fraser, etc.) as an other, as symbols, or sites of trauma?
- What role does language play in the identification of the body as
witness? Are there identifiable ‘scripts of marginality’?
- What are the implications of treatments of the body for coping with
melancholia, trauma, sacrifice, or victimhood?
- How are body witnesses affected by democratic politics, historically
shared memory and suffering, or notions of terror within the cultural
status quo?
- What are the trials and challenges of studying local bodies in the
field of comparative literature?
- Do these narratives display transhistorical features of studying the
body as sites of testimony? What role does the genre of narration or the
historical era play?
- How do “minor literatures” recognize victimized bodies? Do they rely on
certain patterns of response or create new avenues of identification?

Please submit your 250-word proposal on the conference webpage
( by November 1, 2009 and select the appropriate
seminar title.

If you have any questions, please send an email to

Martina Jauch
Department of Comparative Literature
Purdue University
West Lafayette, IN

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Received on Sat Oct 04 2008 - 15:42:02 EDT

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