The Body Speaketh: Interrogating Cultural Constructions of the Body (selection based on Abstracts)

deadline for submissions: 
November 10, 2016
full name / name of organization: 
UGC-Sponsored Two-Day National Seminar organised by the Department of English, Ramakrishna Mission Vidyamandira, Belur Math, West Bengal, India

Modern critical theory has sensitized us to notions of the body as a cultural/linguistic construct and “a site where regimes of discourse and power inscribe themselves” (Butler). Discourses of the body – in all kinds of narratives – influence moral and ideological positions. The Foucauldian Panopticon has become the metaphor for the processes by which disciplinary ‘technologies’ police both our minds and bodies. Some of these discourses have created systems of meaning that have gained the currency of ‘truth’, whilst other alternative discourses are marginalized and subjugated, yet potentially offer sites where hegemonic practices can be contested, challenged, and resisted. Subsequent theories of the body, developed by poststructuralists and feminists, have taken on different directions. Judith Butler, for instance, has argued that gender is a performance or role enacted by individuals; its meaning depends on the chronotopic framework within which it is performed. Materialist critics, on the other hand, have pointed out how Butler emphasizes discourses rather than the material conditions, the representational over the lived. These critics have focused on issues of social structure and political economy as informed by capitalism and patriarchy and the demands they make on the body. Linguists have explored the idea of a gendered language, while in recent decades, debates have focused on the body not only as ‘gendered’ but also as ‘raced’. Last but not the least, the Stonewall Riots of 1969 and the emergence of queer theory has sought to destabilize essentializing ideologies and to resist heteronormativity through carnival, transgression, slut walks, and parody. 
The conference aims to unearth the ‘hidden history’ of the body and to shed critical light on whether the body is a ‘natural fact’ or is ‘naturalness’, as Butler writes, “constituted through discursively constrained performative acts that produce the body.” The questions that the conference will attempt to raise are to do with how some bodies maintain their authority, how some bodies get ‘heard’ while others are ‘silenced’. Papers (of 15 minutes each) are invited to interrogate the ways in which texts, be it literature, advertisements, films, or fashion, pervade our everyday lives and foster normative conceptions of the body.

Suggested topics include but are not limited to:
The Representation of Bodies in Literature and Media
The Body as a Political Site (Hunger Strikes, Gender Bending, Trans Politics, etc.)
The Body as a Capitalist Commodity 
The Body in Performance
The Body as Distinct from the Mind and the Soul
Desire and the Body
Body and Asceticism
The Body in Religious Cults
Violence and the Body
The Body in Psychoanalysis
The Body and Feminism
The Body at the Margins – Caste, Class, Race, Ethnicity, Sexuality, Nationality, Age, and Disability
The Body and the Private/Public Space
Sports and the Body
Dressing the Body
The Body in Ecocriticism
The Unborn/Dead/Non-Living/Post-Human Body
The Absence of the Body – Ghosts, Apparitions, Spirits

Please email a 300-500 word abstract by 10th November, 2016 to You will be informed about the selection of your abstracts by the end of November.

Please contact Tanweer Alam Mazhari ( for more details.