Owning, Despising, Joking: The Art of the Political Insult

deadline for submissions: 
June 10, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Judith Paltin/ University of British Columbia
contact email: 

CFP for an approved panel at the Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association conference, San Diego CA, Nov. 14-17, 2019

Please submit abstract proposals using PAMLA's online submission form (if you are new to PAMLA you will have to go to pamla.ballastacademic.com to create an account first).

Panel Abstract:  The insult is political. Trump supporters today profess to love what they call Trump’s “jokes” to own the libs, but the art of the insult has a long history as a technology of domination and social discipline, as well as sometimes functioning to undermine those in power. This panel explores the range of types who work by insult in fictional and/or nonfictional political contexts, gauges their success, and analyzes the cognitive and affective states which insults produce in their targets and audiences, in order to come to some conclusions about how the insult as a technology of power generates a set of relations between individuals and local or national communities.

Some political actors (both in fiction and in the actual world) have embraced the insult, and others express concern over its degrading effects on the quality of political conversation in democracies. This panel is interested in a range of case studies in the art of the insult and in its peculiar efficacy whether in arenas of domination or of critical resistance. The contemporary US political moment on Twitter is an obvious contemporary archive, but the insult functions as a technology of domination and rebelliousness across many genres and libraries. For example, Leopold Bloom’s day in Ulysses largely consists of enduring a long series of insults and provocations, some deliberate, and some unthinking. The insulting historical descriptions of colonized and Indigenous populations are a crucial matter of concern for many postcolonial and world literary works. Why insults are such a staple of political life in so many contexts deserves sustained attention and careful theorization.

Watch the PAMLA conference website for forthcoming information about the hotel, schedule, special events, etc.: https://pamla.org/2019