CFP: [General] Surfaces of Inscription: Embodiment in City and Text

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Domenic Beneventi

Surfaces of Inscription: Embodiment in City and Text

Richard Sennett has suggested that throughout its history, western
civilization “has had persistent trouble in honouring the dignity of the
body and diversity in human bodies” (15). This is particularly true in
urban spaces, where diverse types of bodies come into contact, intermingle,
and disperse. The bodily freedoms of the industrialized city have given way
to a body rendered passive through the technologies of speed; the mobile,
contemporary body traverses vast stretches of urban and suburban
conglomerations without having to actively engage with that space.
Consequently, the risk of “feeling something or someone as alien” (Sennett)
and the aversion toward physical and moral “contamination” demands urban
designs which increasingly disengage privileged bodies from the urban
environment while marginalizing others.

If the body has served as a model for specific forms of urban design and
spatial practice throughout history, it has also served as a symbol of
social and political collectivities and of the nation. While the discourses
of colonialism and nation-building are invariably modelled on the male
European body, this “master image of the body” cannot be contained, for it
is undermined by the reality that “each human body is physically
idiosyncratic” (Sennett). Consequently, those bodies which correspond to
this idealized model are construed as proper, privileged bodies, while
others are understood as abject, transgressive, and potentially polluting
bodies which must be expelled or rendered docile through various
technologies of surveillance, marginalization, and control.

This panel invites papers that discuss representations of “scandalous
bodies” in the Canadian and/or American city within a comparative and
inter-disciplinary perspective. Whether in terms of "race," ethnicity,
class, gender, ableness, or sexual orientation, the body is a “surface of
inscription” (Grosz), and the ways in which certain bodies are represented
or symbolically situated in urban space reveals that such errant bodies are
perceived as a threat to the proper collective body. Topics may include
discussions of the body in relation to ghettoization, moral panic, urban
violence, homelessness, border spaces, surveillance, constructions of
gender in public space, and “queer space.” As pliable flesh,” Grosz
suggests, “the body becomes a text, a system of signs to be deciphered,
read, and read into.” Please send 250 word conference proposals by
September 20th to

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Received on Sat Sep 01 2007 - 13:19:28 EDT