Frugal Honesty - July 8 - 9, 2016
Keynote: Madeleine Thien, author of Simple Recipes (2001), Certainty (2006), and Dogs at the Perimeter (2011)
"I would check that podium for like a raw onion or some no-more-tears . . . It's not really believable" - Andrea Tantaros, Fox News host, commenting on President Obama tearing up while announcing an executive order to curb gun violence and expand background checks in January 2016
"I actually think he was sincere. I'll probably go down about five points in the polls by saying that, but I think he was sincere" - Donald Trump, on those same tears
Hamlet's Polonius, the archetypal two-faced politician, advises his son, "[T]o thine own self be true / And it must follow . . . Thou canst not then be false to any man." George Burns, several centuries later and repeating popular wisdom, writes, "Sincerity is key. If you can fake that, you've got it made." Polonius is far from a reliable vessel for Shakespeare's authentic judgement of the matter and Burns, insulated from both the demands and possibility of total honesty, as are all 'professional' comics, is in no better position to convey his own. Expressed, perhaps, in both cases is a sincere cynicism about chasm between equally inaccessible truths of the self and the world, and the subject suspend in it. Within the context of the looming United States presidential election, and on the heels of the recent Canadian election, engaging with honesty, sincerity, and authenticity becomes imperative: we welcome papers that address the circulation and reception of such desires, rhetoric, and performances.
We ask for a further troubling of the ambiguous and historically determined relationship between the objective authenticity of the "real" world and the performed congruence between the sincere subject's self-presentation and its inner self. The play between the inalienable and unknowable truth of the self and the outer expression of that truth would animate discussions about theology, faith, creativity, democratic representation, individual responsibility, irony, and national interest in work by countless artists and philosophers, including Chaucer, Molière, Machiavelli, John Adams, Byron, Baudelaire, Schlegel, Nietzsche, and Wilde.
The 20th and 21st Century would see a revitalization of these concerns in the discourse and rhetoric generated by the rise of ethnic nationalism, two world wars, the freedom struggles of former colonies, fights for civil rights by disenfranchised peoples, espionage and mass surveillance by states and corporations, the development of advertising and broadcasting media, the mass production of objects and social formations, the authenticity of the analysand's desires and traumas, the increased permeability of national borders, and the deregulation and opening up of global labour and resource markets. Like Julia Kristeva, whose cosmopolitanism places her "against origins and starting from them," this conference invites you to explore the profoundly political desire for authenticity and the authentic life, as articulated by Romantic poets, as embraced by the dandy, as wished for by phenomenologists and existentialists, as eschewed by psychoanalysts, as demonstrated by political candidates, and as mass-replicated by advertisers and mass media. Confronted with both the desire for authentic knowledge and sincere expression and perhaps their impossibility, in a variety of contexts, we find ourselves asking:
- Donald Trump's appeal may or may not be a consequence of such concerns, contingent on his apparent ability to speak "truth" to power, to be "brutally honest" about the causes of powerlessness, but is this not the appeal of all successful political candidates? What is our desire to elect them to political power?
- What do we imagine are the conditions of interpersonal and political transparency?
- What is the authenticity of the class, gender, and racial identities we enact and are attributed to by others? What is the sincerity of queering and transgression?
- How do trust and goodwill develop (and then how do they fail) between friends, familiars, strangers, and nation states?
- What forms of legitimation and delegitimation empower the settler state?
- How does neoliberalism prefigure authenticity and sincerity, and what of the hyperflexible subject capable of demonstrating and required to demonstrate both? What emotional labour is then expected in and out of the workplace?
- Holden Caulfield hates phonies, but do we? Should we? What is the desire to replace postmodern uncertainty, the kind of irony that undermines all certainties? What then are the ethics of nostalgia and of utopia?
- Can we take back what we have said or unwittingly expressed? If all identity is performed, what is the duration of such performance?
- How much honesty is too much? What are the limit conditions of honest expression in various contexts? How are they determined?
Fred Moten and Stefano Harney remind us "the compulsion to tell us how you feel is the compulsion of labor, not citizenship, exploitation not domination, and it is whiteness." This conference invites participants to reflect on the enduring hold authenticity and sincerity have on our collective psyches. In that spirit, we ask for your honesty. Submissions may include, but are not limited to discussions of:
- Cultural appropriation
- Rhetorical sincerity
- Ideological purity
- Identity and individuation
- Inclusivity and exclusion
- Art and artifice
- Simulation and simulacra
- Political honesty
- Citizenship and migration
- Theatricality and viewership
- Machinic authenticity
- Realism and neo-realism
- Archival representation
- Media and cultural memory
- Erasure and trauma
- Academic and para-academic rigour
- Disciplinary authority
- Dissent and protest
Please submit proposals for conference length papers to firstname.lastname@example.org. Individual paper proposals should include the proposed title, a 150 word abstract, contact and biographical information, and institutional affiliation.
Please submit proposals for panels of related conference length papers to email@example.com. Panel proposals should include the proposed panel title, a 200 word abstract, and the names and contact information of the presenters.
Deadline for submissions is May 20, 2016.