ACLA 2017 - The Politics of Form/The Form of Politics

deadline for submissions: 
September 23, 2016
full name / name of organization: 
ACLA 2017 Utrecht
contact email: 

Organizers: Rebecca Kosick ( and Bécquer Seguín (

In recent years, the formerly out-of-fashion concept of ‘form’ has seen something of a resurgence in literary and visual studies. New formalism, historical and new materialisms, digital humanities, and speculative realism are just a few of the numerous research areas that are reconsidering the function(s) of form. While today’s scholarship has distanced itself from the New Critical formalism of old, it remains urgent to find ways of thinking form without divorcing the aesthetic object from its relations to history, culture, and especially politics.

At the same time, form has exploded in everyday politics. From Black Lives Matter and Occupy Wall Street in the U.S. to the indignados in Spain, communal councils in Venezuela, and the homeless workers’ movement in Brazil, political mobilizations across the world have rethought the form of politics. Political scientists and political theorists, however, have been hesitant to study these movements in terms of form. For many studying politics, form’s definition is often limited to form of government, but non-state political forms can contribute new dimensions to our understanding of the term.

This seminar will take stock of the relationship between form and politics, in both directions. We seek papers that evaluate the political stakes of form and formalism as well as its inverse: the form of politics itself. How can literary, artistic, or other modes of aesthetic expression account for or constitute political forms? How can we distinguish political form from its content (i.e. right- and left-wing populism)? What new political forms have emerged? Why are certain forms of politics privileged and others rejected? In what ways can we politicize our formalist analyses?

We welcome proposals that respond to these and other questions that address form and politics. We are open to a broad range of disciplinary perspectives including, but not limited to, literary studies, history, cultural anthropology, art history, new media, political theory, and philosophy. We invite proposals from scholars working in any time period or geographical context. 

Possible topics include:

    • the politics of formalist analysis
    • the politics of formalist practice (poetic, artistic, etc.)
    • political forms (communes, general strikes, riots, etc.)
    • form as a condition of politics
    • reading the politics of form and matter
    • new media forms and political movements
    • politics and spatial form in art and literature
    • political forms in literature and art
    • literary and artistic forms in politics