[UPDATE] Uncertain Arrivals: Forms of Thought, Life, and Emergence

full name / name of organization: 
Wake Forest University/Department of English
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Conference date and location: September 24-25, 2010 at Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC. Extended submission deadline: July 5, 2010

An interdisciplinary national conference exploring the "creative" production that the current economic crisis might provoke. We welcome paper proposals from scholars and/or artists working in any discipline, field, or historical period.

Certainty is in crisis. Capitalism's claims to predictive success seem to have gone bust. While we might be tempted to see the current financial pandemic as a devastating if not a definitive event, capitalism has always been in crisis; indeed, the "creative destruction" of capitalism is typically regarded as its gleaming promise. Yet, scholars may have highlighted the terrifying consequences of uncertainty all too persuasively: from David Harvey's "simultaneous crisis formation" and Ulrich Beck's "worst imaginable accidents" to "total risk of catastrophe" (François Ewald). The response to indeterminacy has been to find even greater certainty: unpredictability is either imaginably worse than we suspected or decidedly the worst.

But the scale of mobility and vulnerability that characterizes capitalism nevertheless leaves in its wake new possibilities of knowing, being, and acting. In his recent analysis of the global financial crisis, Slavoj Źižek cites the radical contingency and uncertainty that both structures and drives twenty-first century market systems (and their inevitable meltdowns) as yet additional examples of the ways in which unpredictability defines (post)modern existence. In this way, Źižek offers the point of departure for this conference's speculations and investigations into the nature and function of uncertainty.

This conference will explore how writers, filmmakers, dramatists, artists working in all forms of media, philosophers, and critical and cultural theorists have responded to the prospect and reality of global epistemological, ontological, collective crises. Moreover, it will ask how the methodologies of textual and cultural criticism might offer new insights into our age of global uncertainties.

Questions we wish to address include: In what ways does contingency shape the arrival of future events? What "new" forms (aesthetic, economic, political, biological, zoological, cultural, or social) are simultaneous with the collapse of familiar forms? In what ways may we best theorize, understand, and represent the idea of indeterminacy? What are the cultural implications of living under conditions of uncertainty? How do we define statistical knowledge(s)? And what is the role of catastrophe and disaster in the matter of forms?

We welcome paper proposals from scholars and/or artists working in any discipline, field, or historical period on the following topics, such as:

*Probability/Statistical knowledge(s)
*À venir
*Numeracy/Counting and Recounting
*Game theory
*Emergence/Emergent Events

Keynote Speakers: Dr. Neil de Marchi, Professor of Economics at Duke University. Dr. De Marchi is an internationally renowned scholar who writes in the history of economic ideas and in the history and functioning of markets, in particular markets for art. He assists in editing History of Political Economy.

Dr. Herman Rappaport is Reynolds Professor of English in the Department of English at Wake Forest University. He has published critical works on a wide range of media: including the philosophical works of Derrida, Heidegger, Benjamin, and Blanchot, literary writers from Milton to Theodore Fontane, and visual artists including Marguerite Duras, Laurie Anderson, and Kara Walker. His work attends to and listens for the conversations among the literary, visual, poetic, and philosophical to mount a constructive theoretical dialogue among these fields.

This two-day conference will be held at Wake Forest University's Reynolda House & Gardens and Museum of American Art in conjunction with the museum's upcoming fall exhibition, entitled "Virtue, Vice, Wisdom, and Folly: The Moralizing Tradition in American Art," which will be an examination of capitalism and morality as demonstrated in genre art of the American nineteenth century (with a companion show of seventeenth-century Dutch prints that also will be interpreted in terms of market capitalism and its effect on middle-class mores).

Extended submission deadline: July, 5 2010

Taking the conference theme of new forms a step further, we invite participants to present their work in a colloquia format: presenters will pre-circulate their papers to other panel members and chairs. Our hope is to create a broader conversation among participants and audience members.

Please send 500-word abstracts, as a Word-file attachment to:
Andrew Burkett and Rekha Rosha
burketah@wfu.edu roshara@wfu.edu