CFP--Concentric: Literary and Cultural Studies 37.1 bios

full name / name of organization: 
English department of National Taiwan Normal University

Deadline for Submissions: September 30, 2010

"Bios," a Greek word meaning "life or way of living," has been used by theorists since the late 20th century to designate "life" within various "post-" conditions: e.g. the poststructuralist, postmodernist, post-human and post-traumatic Michel Foucault defines "biopower" as "an explosion of numerous and diverse techniques for achieving the subjugations of bodies and the control of populations." Biopower then marks a drastic change in the means of control and governance. Rather than threatening individuals with punishment or death, biopower would manage entire society. Following but "reversing" Foucault, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri suggest that each individual could use "life" as a weapon with which to resist global capitalism. In another kind of dialogue with Foucault, Giorgio Agamben asserts that while our biological life is indeed entangled with our political life, in addition to the human state of "sovereignty" there is also the human state of "bare life."

Coming from a closely-related but slightly different angle, we also note that information technology has been increasingly pervading our life at every level, from the micro-biological-political to the macro-economic-political. Increasingly less face-to-face in our interpersonal communication and relationships, we now "live" in a world, a reality that is becoming ever more virtual and even disembodied. Mechanical gadgets such as iPods, iPhones, PDAs and cell phones have become extensions of our bodies/brains as rapid advances in biotechnology, biomedicine, bioengineering make the boundary between organism and "artificial life" ever more delicate. We now not only extend our bodies via cars and reassemble our bodies with transplanted organs: we also extend our minds/memories via electronic devices, and the technology for downloading/uploading between brain and computer is virtually on the horizon. Thus we may be becoming, or already be, "cyborgs" (Donna Haraway) or "posthuman (N. Katherine Hayles).

How then are we now to rethink human life in terms of our increasingly intimate relations with machines, perhaps even our posthumanity? How are we to evaluate our "prosthetic life"? How are we now to define, interpret, understand concepts of law and polis (government, nation-state), state power, capitalism and globalizaton, in relation to human—and also earthly plant and animal—life (bios, ecos)? What new and unforeseen power struggles, perhaps even conflicts between human and non-human, life and death, might now be coming into play? In this era of the new bios, and new ecos, must we establish a new bio-(eco-)ethics, construct a new bio-(eco-)subjectivity?

We must ask once again, as philosophers asked thousands of years ago, "What makes us live?" "What ensures our existence?" "What is it that we call human life?" Can we look at (our own human) life anew and write about it afresh? How may the traditional literary genres, and specifically those concerned with life-writing, the writing of memoirs, biographies, autobiographies, be changing in terms of their form and content and their media of expression? What is the significance of "life-writing" at this particular historical moment?

Concentric: Literary and Cultural Studies welcomes papers in the areas of literary, cultural and/or interdisciplinary studies on issues related to this special topic of "bios," and also welcomes papers on general topics.