VIRTUAL HISTORIES 2/18/2011 (deadline 10/14/2010)

full name / name of organization: 
Penn Graduate Humanities Forum

Graduate Humanities Forum |
Penn Humanities Forum |
University of Pennsylvania

SUBMIT proposals (250 words maximum) and one-page CV by e-mail attachment to Scott Enderle (

The Graduate Humanities Forum of the University of Pennsylvania invites submissions for its 11th annual conference: "Virtual Histories." The one-day interdisciplinary conference will take place on Friday, February 18th, 2011 at the Penn Humanities Forum in conjunction with its 2010-2011 topic: "Virtuality."

Ours is, as the commonplace would have it, an age of information. Viewed as part of the old-fashioned scheme of Stone, Bronze, and Iron, our age seems rarefied indeed: hard yet malleable, iron is apt to be shaped by our will, but information is infinitely more so. Poised to escape into pure ideality, we may find it easy to forget that the virtual also has a history.

"Virtual Histories" foregrounds the historical matrix in which our information technologies are embedded, seeking traces of the virtual in the rituals and dreams of the past, while at the same time considering the history of virtuality as one not yet enacted.

We invite submissions from a wide range of disciplines exploring points of continuity and rupture between past, present, and future virtualities. How do the other worlds of religious doctrine overlap with the other world of Second Life? What is the long history of icons, scripts, and avatars? To what degree are instant wire transfers more virtual than the bills of sale and credit, bank notes, or paper money of earlier centuries? What is the phenomenology of a bank run? What are the ramifications of virtual experience for the empiricism of Locke, Berkeley, and Hume? What is the material history of the
virtual? How have constructs of gender and race virtualized bodies, and what are the ethics of bodily escape and transcendence among Platonic users of sites such as

At the same time as we seek to historicize the virtual, we invite contributions that limn possibilities not yet realized, exploring the potential of distant reading and text mining, and considering prospects that continue to emerge for politics, social interaction, and art, not only in visual, but also in auditory and even tactile forms. What new subjectivities and experiences might the virtual make available, perhaps even as it calls into question the stability of
those concepts?

Other topics for proposals might include the following:

-The demarcation of the virtual.
-The material bases of virtual superstructures.
-"New" media of past eras and virtual appropriations of "old" media.
-Grammars and ideologies of the virtual.
-Imagined communities and virtual nations.
-Intellectual Property and virtual appropriation.
-Mimesis, simulation, and sensory prosthetics.

Conference Keynote: LISA NAKAMURA (Illinois, Urbana-Champaign)
Lisa Nakamura is the author or coeditor of four books, including _Digitizing Race: Visual Cultures of the Internet_ (University of Minnesota Press, 2007) and _Race After the Internet_ (with Peter Chow-White, Routledge, forthcoming 2011). She is currently working on a new monograph tentatively entitled Workers Without Bodies: Towards a Theory of Race and Digital Labor in Virtual Worlds. Nakamura is the Director of the Asian American Studies Program, Professor in the Institute of Communication Research and Media Studies Program, and Professor of Asian American Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where she teaches courses on Asian Americans and media as well as introductory and advanced courses on new media criticism, history, and theory.

Proposals should be no longer than 250 words, and should be submitted along with a one-page CV by email attachment to Scott Enderle ( The deadline for proposals is Thursday, October 14th, 2010.