ACLA 2019: The Infinite Freak: Global (De)constructing of Aberration

deadline for submissions: 
September 19, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
contact email: 

The amount of scholarly literature devoted to the subject of “freaks” is grossly inconsistent with the volume of its uses. The term bears notoriously obscure and contradictory meaning, simultaneously natural and unnatural, common and uncommon, derogatory and complimentary, mythic and empirically determined, strange and familiar, cosmic and socially constructed. In speaking about “freaks” the scholar might feel compelled to substitute the term with one of its many aliases, such as “otherness,” “abnormal,” “alterity,” “anomalous,” or “divergent” but these synonyms impose limits exceeded by the uses of the term, “freaks.” This panel engages in the multiplicity of meaning, condition and consequence inherent in the subject of freaks. As a point of departure, Michel Foucault’s Abnormal: lectures at the College of France, brings articulation to the topic in an objective way. Using a perceptive ideology, Foucault traces the history of constructing norms by deconstructing the history of the abnormal. By establishing the “normal” as determined by the abnormal rather than that the abnormal is a byproduct of normalization, Foucault lends a primacy to the abnormal.  In conjunction with Foucault’s analysis, there is the ever-present shadow of Mikhail Bakhtin’s Rabelais and His World, which advanced the openness possible in carnivals, a social institution constructed to liberate what was suppressed outside the tent walls. In this place, encounters with the “freak” invited investigations into the unknown that were otherwise too terrifying to engage within the constructs of normal society. Foucault and Bakhtin serve as book ends in this examination of the enigmatic entity. Together they identify the pieces of an idea that facilitates encounters of attraction and repulsion.

We invite abstracts in any of the following areas:

Aesthetics and Freaks

Social Freaks and Culture Wars

The Neo-Carnival

Freaks in Literature

Freaks in Film

Cultural Studies and Freaks

Race/Ethnicity and Freaks

Gender and Freaks

Monsters and Freaks

The Grotesque and Freaks

STEM and Freaks

Freaks and Religion

Language and Freaks

Freaks and Affect


Please submit proposals on the ACLA website under this link:

Abstracts are due Spetember 19th, 2018.