CFP: Theft and Stealing in Southern Literature (10/15/05; SSSL, 3/30/06-4/2/06)

full name / name of organization: 
Melanie Benson
contact email: 


The Society for the Study of Southern Literature (SSSL) has announced
as the topic for its 2006 conference (March 30-April 2, 2006,
Birmingham, AL) "Labor, Literature, and the U.S. South." I am
seeking abstracts for a proposed panel on "Theft and Stealing in
Southern Literature."

As recent, nationally broadcast images from the devastated Gulf Coast
region have reminded us, privation coupled with natural/national
disaster often drives people to commit otherwise "immoral" acts like
looting. To what extent can stealing be understood as a natural
reaction to conditions of desperation, need, loss, or destitution
(whether by the Hand of God or the (Under)Hand of American
Government)? Can such acts represent gestures of retribution,
attempts to "get back" what has been unfairly taken or withheld (as
in chattel slavery or contemporary capitalism)? How are such acts
constituted, compelled, and judged in southern contexts, both
contemporary and historical? Why (for instance) were black
southerners recently cast by the media as greedy pilferers while
their white counterparts were assumed to be "finding" goods they
desperately needed and deserved? How has southern literature
attempted to represent, theorize, and challenge the ideologies of
"wanting" and "stealing," "desire" and "gratification," "loss" and "theft"?

This panel seeks to explore the many instances, motivations, and
implications of theft in southern literature. Interdisciplinary
approaches are encouraged, as are papers that engage the particular
labor, racial, and domestic histories that give rise to ideas about
and/or acts of theft in the South. Possible topics/approaches may
include (but are not limited to):

--slavery as theft
--slaves who steal; slaves who are stolen/steal themselves out of slavery
--sharecropping/tenant-farming; exploitation of labor
--industry; mass production; the worker's soul; alienation
--dishonest bookkeeping; predatory lending (past and present)
--export economy; economic colonialism/global dependency
--domestic servitude/marriage as theft of woman's identity
--rape/sexual violation
--false accusations of rape; lynchings
--instances of larceny in southern literature, film, or visual arts
--southern penal system; crimes and justifications
--urban poverty and desperation; the ghetto
--looting and rioting
--cultural appropriation (black musical forms; minstrel shows)
--theft of Native American lands; Indian Removal; gaming industry and casinos
--motor vehicle theft (a category in which the South leads the nation)
--buying/stealing votes during Reconstruction; election-stealing and
poll taxes in 2005

Send 250-300 word abstracts (as Microsoft Word attachments) to
Melanie Benson at <> by October 15,
2005. Electronic submissions are strongly preferred, but hard copies
can also be mailed to:
Melanie Benson
Penn State Worthington Scranton
Box 47
120 Ridge View Drive
Dunmore, PA 18512

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Received on Wed Sep 21 2005 - 11:41:17 EDT