Bloomsbury C21 Conference 2016: Writing and Insecurity

full name / name of organization: 
C21 Writings, University of Brighton

Writing and Insecurity: Writing the Twenty-first Century

Organised in partnership with Bloomsbury Publishing


Confirmed Keynotes:
Dr. Arne De Boever (California Institute of the Arts) and Dr. Katy Shaw (Leeds Beckett)

In the impasse induced by crisis, being treads water; mainly, it does not drown. Even those whom you would think of as defeated are living beings figuring out how to stay attached to life from within it, and to protect what optimism they have for that, at least.
Lauren Berlant Cruel Optimism

Following Lauren Berlant we can see the contemporary period as an era of affective precariousness. Long-standing cultural and political anxieties have accelerated beyond control to form what she describes as 'crisis ordinariness'. Many of the crises of the twenty-first century have been crises in security. The Millennial 'War on Terror', the conflict in Ukraine, or the legacies of the Arab Spring, have all undermined the security of the state. The collapse of the banking sector, and the associated currency crises, has dented trust in the market as well as in the forms of money itself. What is more, the social contracts of the post-war era, with their attendant mythologies of social mobility and well-being, have been usurped by entrenched regimes of competition and flexibility. Increasingly dire warnings about the earth's environment have cast even the security of the species into doubt. As these certainties of modernity retreat, the experience of insecurity has come to define the age as one of anxiety and doubt.

Writing in the twenty-first century continues to respond to these events in a wide variety of ways. Drama, poetry and the novel have all attempted to appraise ecological threat, the risk of violence, and the fragility of the state and its institutions. Experiments with form, narrative and genre have been successful in giving expression to the ontology of insecurity as it is felt. Writing has been able to interrogate, mimic and critique the textual manifestations of security itself. Where the formal institutions of power express themselves as texts, such as banknotes, or signage, or as documents, writing has been able to respond with different kinds of critical repetition. Criticism and critical theory have also responded to contemporary insecurity by asking questions about the role of criticism and about its conventional methods of analysis.

Call for Papers (deadline 5 December 2015)

We would welcome proposals (c300 words) for papers, or panels, that consider how contemporary writing, in all of its forms, engages with the idea of insecurity. Among other things, these might consider:

Anxiety and disquiet | Ethics | Community and family | Pessimism | Debt | Neoliberalism and crisis | Ecological disaster | Failed States | Precarity | Risk | Surveillance and securitization | The aesthetics of encryption | The threats of terror

DEADLINE: email your proposal and short bio to by 5 December 2015