DEFIANCE: An Interdisciplinary Graduate Conference

deadline for submissions: 
May 8, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
Dalhousie Association of Graduate Students in English

DEFIANCE: An Interdisciplinary Graduate Conference

**DEADLINE EXTENDED: May 8, 2017**

Hard times are coming, when we’ll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine real grounds for hope. We’ll need writers who can remember freedom – poets, visionaries – realists of a larger reality. […] We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable – but then, so did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art. Very often in our art, the art of words.

— Ursula K. Le Guin, Acceptance Speech

(National Book Awards 2014)

Though Le Guin made her speech in November of 2014, her words seem to gain urgency every day. Hard times are here, and many of us are grappling with what defiance looks like in our present moment. Existing structures of racism, misogyny, and economic inequality are being exacerbated by an increasingly unpredictable political situation. But throughout it all, individuals and communities are hard at work, sharing information and strategies, offering support, creating art, and fighting back. Social media has made these everyday acts of defiance more visible than ever. While some criticize the methods of groups like Black Lives Matter and #NoDAPL, there is no doubt that they are decisively and deliberately defying a system they consider oppressive. And while broader movements, like the Women’s March on Washington, are invigorating, but are called upon to be more intersectional. As scholars and teachers, we have the great privilege to negotiate our own strategies of defiance. Our specialized knowledge becomes a tool, as we discuss present-day politics in terms of a history of fascism, or use critical race theory to interrogate health practices. Who and how we read, how and what we teach, what we write, and for whom we write it: through our every act, we have the potential to resist and even to rebuild.

If, as Le Guin suggests, resistance often begins in words, how does literary studies mobilize this potential? How do other disciplines – psychology, history, science, gender studies, etc. – take up the work of resistance? Can disciplinary methodologies be a site of defiance, and what does that look like? Does real change depend on interdisciplinary work? What is the cost of sustained defiance, and how do we account for this cost on an individual or community level? How does a new resistant movement acknowledge and build on the longstanding anti-oppression movements? What affects make defiance possible: anger, hope, love, grief? What can defiance lead to–change, utopia, failure, empowerment, violence–and how do we reconcile intent with result? Le Guin argued for science fiction as a source of resistance and change; what other forms of pop culture lend themselves to defiant thought and actions? We encourage thoughtful engagement with these questions, as well as other manifestations of defiance in literature, the arts, history, popular culture, politics, and the everyday.

The Dalhousie Association of Graduate Students in English (DAGSE) invites submissions of paper presentations for “DEFIANCE: An Interdisciplinary Graduate Conference.” We welcome proposals from students at all levels and in all areas of graduate study. We encourage proposals from marginalized voices, and prospective presenters are welcome to self-identify in their proposals. This three-day conference will be held August 18th to 20th, 2017 at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and will investigate the various origins, forms, and results of defiance in culture and society. 

We invite proposals for papers (15-20 minutes) on themes and subjects including, but not limited to:

  • Defiance through activism and social justice work
  • Histories of defiance/historically defiant figures
  • Aesthetics as defiance (the avant-garde, subversive genres, etc.)
  • Narratives of defiance
  • Intersectionality within resistance/resistance movements
  • Destructive/Counter-productive defiance
  • “Quiet” or “invisible” defiance
  • When defiance fails
  • Defiance and affect
  • Defiant pedagogies/defiance in the classroom
  • Enacting/embodying defiance, defiant bodies 

Keynote Speakers: We are excited to announce our two keynote speakers for this year’s conference: Dr. Alice Brittan and Dr. Margaret Robinson.

DR. MARGARET ROBINSON is a bisexual and two-spirit scholar from Eski'kewaq, Nova Scotia, and a member of the Lennox Island First Nation. Her work examines the impact of intersecting oppressions and draws on critical, postcolonial, and queer theories, intersectionality, and third wave feminism. She has been a community-based researcher since 2009, incorporating participatory, action-based, feminist, and Indigenous research methods. She has led studies on decolonizing research funding in Canada, cultural interventions for Indigenous youth in conflict with the law, two-spirit people’s understanding of mental health, cannabis use among bisexual women, and bisexual women’s relationship choices. In 2016 she led a team that developed and validated a measure of microaggressions and microaffirmations experienced by bisexual women. She conducted her postdoctoral training at the Centre for Addiction & Mental Health and was previously a Researcher in Residence in Indigenous Health at the Ontario HIV Treatment Network in Toronto.

DR. ALICE BRITTAN received her Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, where she specialized in postcolonial studies. She has just finished a book called Empty-Handed: On Secular Grace, which presents grace as a crossroads concept where contemporary theories of materiality, creativity, and ethics intersect. Brittan has published essays on J.M. Coetzee, Michael Ondaatje, David Malouf, André Brink, Nadine Gordimer, Peter Carey, looting and magicians. Her work has appeared in Contemporary LiteratureSafundiThe Dalhousie ReviewAustralian Literary StudiesTydskrif vir Letterkunde/ Journal of Literary Studies, and the Routledge Companion to Postcolonial Studies (Ed. John McLeod), as well as in several book collections. In her off hours, Brittan reviews contemporary fiction and scholarship for Open Letters Monthly, an online journal of arts and literature.

Submissions: Please submit a 250-word abstract plus a 50-word biographical statement that includes your name, current level of graduate study, affiliated university, and email address to Panel submissions are also welcome.

Please include the words “Defiance Conference Abstract” in the subject line.

**EXTENDED DEADLINE**: 8 May 2017. Accepted presenters will receive notification in mid May.

Contact the organizers at if you have questions about the conference. Visit the conference website at