"Doing Theory": theory@buffalo 20

deadline for submissions: 
February 1, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
Comparative Literature Department at SUNY Buffalo
contact email: 

In recent years, the value of critical theory has been questioned by various thinkers for reasons that may seem contradictory. On the one hand, it has been subject to criticism for its excess, for being redundant in the face of actual facts. On the other, it has been seen as lacking, impoverishing the object of analysis by forcing upon it a limiting framework. In response to this, humanities scholars have sought out new analytic tools, for example in the fields of neuroscience, cognitive science, and biology. This 20th anniversary issue of theory@buffalo speaks to this “existential crisis” being experienced in the humanities. Is it time to move on from theory and cultivate other ways of thinking? Or is it time to rethink the way we do theory and clarify its importance as a mode of engaging with the world—one that is just as indispensable as the scientific?

What is theory good for? In her analysis of critical theory, Eve Sedgwick argues that it tends to assume a predominantly suspicious or “paranoid” attitude toward its object of investigation while it can also take other forms, among which is “reparative reading”—a position that allows for ambiguity and a coming-to-terms with an imperfect world. It is with a sense that “whatever else we know, we know there isn’t time to bullshit” that Sedgwick asks what knowledge does. In this issue of theory@buffalo, we ask: What does theory do? What can we do with it? We want to explore the significance of academic work in a broader context and explore the ways theory offers and could offer for engaging with the world. How does/could theory facilitate transnational solidarity or coalition work? Perhaps, one mode of conceptualizing alternative engagement would be thinking theory through praxis—activism. What is the relationship between activism and theory, and, in a broader sense, academia?

Submissions should be no more than 10,000 words, book reviews (on any topic) no more than 1,200. Please send all submissions electronically as a Word document to theory@buffalo.edu. Deadline for submissions is February 1st, 2017.


Elsa Bragadottir, Natalia Pamula & Doruk Tatar, Editors

Department of Comparative Literature