"Civilized Survivalism as Cultural Narrative in the 21st Century"

full name / name of organization: 
Garrett Jeter/College English Assn (allied organization to the MLA)
contact email: 

ISIS. Mass shootings. Refugee crises. Terrorism. Race riots. Illegal immigration. American and Western cultures are coping—or attempting to cope—with numerous social upheavals and disturbances as well as threats to social cohesion, safety, and security. Such things might invite or even use a great amount of brute force to resist and suppress these things, but there is less than could be. So we handle these things, at least to some extent, peacefully despite the threats they offer to individuals and the collective.

As a culture and civilization, we work—or try to demonstrate humanity and "civilized" conduct—through these issues with law, diplomacy, military advising instead of "boots on the ground," rhetoric and speech (although it does become inflammatory and strong, even harsh), political and economic responses, peaceful expressions of solidarity on social media, etc. These things either avoid war or stop short of war, but, conversely, reflect our basic desires and needs for safety and security, to survive individually and culturally. They are cultural responses to threats.

Survivalism as a concept is not confined to the image of the militia-man or –woman stockpiling weapons, food, and fuel in remote areas in preparation for a purportedly imminent catastrophe of social breakdown. The survival or survivalist instinct can be subtler and non-militaristic: the response of a culture through language, peaceful actions, social media, and law to resist and push back against threats to individual and collective security, cohesion, and peace.

This survivalist instinct has become a narrative or storyline, more, a cultural narrative in the West and the US, with which these entities must cope and which it is helping to write. This proposal looks at survivalism in our current culture as a concept AND as a "narrative" subtler than the image of the gun-toting militia-person anticipating breakdown of order.