Brexit Wounds: Loving/Leaving the EU

deadline for submissions: 
May 6, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Manchester Metropolitan University, UK
contact email: 

CFP Special Journal Edition 

Brexit Wounds: Cultural responses to Leaving the EU  



Dr Eleanor Byrne, Senior Lecturer in English, Manchester Met

Dr Fionna Barber, Reader in Art History, Manchester School of Art


In April 2019 Anish Kapoor’s new artwork ‘A Brexit, A Broxit, We all fall Down’, was featured in The Guardiannewspaper, depicting a huge open wound down the spine of a three-dimensional map of England. The gaping void appears as an abyss without a safe landing place or visible end. Kapoor’s work on infinite voids seems a particularly appropriate mode for depicting Brexit. If Britain is staring into an abyss it is also according to Kapoor’s work inflicting a deep and potentially unhealable wound on the psychic landscape of the nation. The figure of the divide has become ubiquitous in discussions of Brexit, but there is no consensus on the nature or location of that divide, North and South, ‘elites’ and ‘the people’, borders between England and Scotland and the Irish border all demand our attention.  How does contemporary arts culture negotiate with the current national emergency of Brexit, diagnose or identify its causes and anticipate its legacies? This proposal for a special edition offers a timely and current critical evaluation of the national and international, political and cultural upheavals spawned by the 2016 Brexit vote and its subsequent ramifications, as speculation around its implications, its causes and its effects unravel in front of the nation via multiple media in real time. In the current moment of heightened dispute and political upheaval we can see a crisis of meaning around the very term Brexit, an exemplary case of Ernesto Laclau’s ‘empty signifier’, tendentially emptied of meaning to represent an infinite and unspecified number of demands, as exemplified in the tautological phrase used by British Prime Minister Theresa May – ‘Brexit means Brexit’. Brexit resists definition, or proliferates in possible meanings and so could be seen as actively inviting modes of affective cultural imagining, wishful thinking including everyday forms of what Lauren Berlant calls ‘cruel optimism’. 


Discourses of the ease and simplicity of performing Brexit have increasingly given way to a recognition of the multiple pitfalls, logistical difficulties and multiple modes of hurt and damage that it would inflict on citizens’ rights, borders and movement as well as their psychic wellbeing, state of anxiety or sense of cultural or national identity. Furthermore, Brexit has enacted a series of assaults on the terms of definition of each of these categories, putting them into crisis in a national discursive space that is riven, polarised and increasingly traumatised. This special issue explores the ‘archive of feelings’ that Brexit has both created and been created by. Following  in the wake of Ali Smith’s ‘state of the nation’ seasonal quartet of novels that have attempted to excavate the ways in which affective life pervades public life, Brexit Wounds proposes to explore the ways in which contemporary writers, artists and cultural critics have anticipated, documented and explored the cultural, affective and aesthetic implications of  weathering an ‘extended Brexit season’, of over two years of living in times of crisis and uncertainty, austerity and deprivation, accompanied by revivals of populist and far-right sentiments. ‘Weathering’ might be read here as a strategy for surviving in hostile conditions, following eco-feminist Astrida Neimanis’ use of the term to describe how the human body copes with cultural/climate change and Christina Sharpe’s use of the weather to describe an all-enveloping racist hostile environment. Departing from solely political or economic evaluations of Brexit’s effects, this special edition explores how writers, artists and performers engage with the causes, challenges, threats and potential disasters of Brexit and asserts the importance of cultural assessments of notions of belonging, patriotism, nationalism.  This special edition argues that in a media saturated with entrenched and hardening positions around collective identity, nation and culture, the arts have a vital role crossing between private/public space in which to debate and perpetually rework arguments, propositions and uncertainty about definitions and effects of Brexit as they unfold in everyday cultural practices and specific locations in current discourses of national and international culture, identity and belonging.  


These disrupted and unprecedented circumstances, however, invite a range of responses.  In addition to academic papers we welcome artistic, poetic and literary submissions and provocations engaged with ‘Brexit’s cultures’. These include (but are not limited to) subjects such as migration, citizenship and populism, violent borders and hostile environments, Brexit as an empty vessel, imaginary landscapes, fictional nations, banal nationalism, Brexit wounds – hurts, pains and feelings,  Brexit, trauma and the talking wound, Brexit and/as austerity, Brexit as disaster/apocalypse,  Brexit as Imperialist nostalgia, national melancholia, UK as ‘sick man of Europe’, Ireland: ‘waiting for Brexit’–deferral, delay and repetition, Brexlit  and new cultural forms, Brexit metaphors and tautologies, the language of Brexit : Hard, Soft, Red, White and Blue Brexits, Pro-European groups, leave and remain marches, activists and ‘I heart EU’, Perceptions of Press, BBC and media bias, New Brexit activists, populism and resistance, citizenship, race and belonging, Brexit’s effects on individuals, communities, families. Brexit and time, space, nature, weather.


Please send a 300 word abstract and short bio to  by 6thMay 2019