MISSED CONNECTIONS Penn Humanities Forum Graduate Conference 2/19/10

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Graduate Humanities Forum, University of Pennsylvania


The Graduate Humanities Forum of the University of Pennsylvania invites submissions for its 10th annual conference: "Missed Connections." The one-day interdisciplinary conference will take place on Friday, February 19th, 2010 at the Penn Humanities Forum in conjunction with its 2009-2010 topic: "Connections."

What might it mean to consider the ways in which connections are foreclosed, desires for union left unsatisfied, communications disrupted? A "missed connection" might be as intimate as a brush with a stranger or as literal as a dropped phone call or departing plane; it might be a forgotten or neglected history or genealogy. "Missed Connections" seeks to foreground failures or absences of connection across disciplines and methodologies. We hope for briefs against perfect transmission, network theory attuned to the gaps in coverage. We are also interested in fields of study that might come into focus for being "unconnected": the rural, the isolated (geographically and historically), the illegible, the strange/estranged.

Keynote Speaker: Laura Otis (Emory University)
Laura Otis began her career as a scientist, earning her B.S. in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry from Yale in 1983 and her M.A. in Neuroscience from the University of California at San Francisco in 1988. Before receiving her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Cornell University in 1991, she worked in labs for eight years. Since 1986, she has been studying and teaching about the ways that scientific and literary thinking coincide and foster each other's growth. In addition to academic books including Membranes: Metaphors of Invasion in Nineteenth-Century Literature, Science, and Politics (1999), Networking: Communicating with Bodies and Machines in the Nineteenth Century (2001), and Müller's Lab (2007), Otis has written four novels. In 2000, she was awarded a MacArthur fellowship for creativity.

Please apply to one of the following panels:

*"Can You Hear Me Now?"*

Though a modern-day cliché, "can you hear me now?" speaks to the perennial difficulty of connection and communication, the constant threat of bad connections and miscommunication. Taking the question in its broadest sense, this panel seeks to address the challenges of producing, conveying, receiving, and/or finding meaning in a world of geographical and cultural distances both small and large. What is at stake, besides the message itself, in our attempts to communicate? What and howdoes failure to communicate signify? Possible topics include static/noise, digital/material texts, legibility/illegibility, networks, strangers/intimates, publicity/anonymity, vernacular/standard forms, the phatic function, and translation.

*Corporal Boundaries and Un-bound Bodies*

This panel explores the making and unmaking of boundaries, and various kinds of crossings between them. We conceive of these boundaries broadly, as the borders of global politics, postcoloniality and travel; as the social categorizations and impermeable membranes shaping bodily materiality; and as affective connections and impasses. Does the spatial imagination generate possible connections that go unnoticed, or highlight problematic connections in zones of conflict?

*Coalitions and Their Failures*

This panel will seek to explore the concept of coalition alongside its productive failures. Under the rubric of coalition we might imagine assemblages, networks, various means of community and connectivity – not only in the political realm but also within academia, in information, and in technological, material and virtual fields. We aim to explore the connections between coalitions and narrative, historiography, anachronisms, and chrono-politics. At the juncture of perceived or real failures, revolutionary ideologies and counter-institutions can arise. What are the affective implications of coalition failures? Can there be a politics of disconnection? Of regret? Of singularity or isolation? How might we use such failures to imagine new alignments?

Please send 250-word paper proposals for one of these panels along with a 1-page CV via email to Rachael Nichols (nichols.rachael@gmail.com) by November 1, 2009.
(Notification by December 1, 2009.) For further information, please visit: http://www.phf.upenn.edu/09-10/ghf_cfp.shtml.