NeMLA 2020 Panel: Rethinking Identity through Inaction

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Ergin Cenebasi / Northeast Modern Language Association
contact email: 

NeMLA Annual Convention

5-8 March, 2020

Boston, MA

In explaining what he terms as “Bartleby politics” Žižek notes that “Bartleby’s 'I would prefer not to' is the necessary first step which, as it were, clears the ground, opens up the place, for true activity”. Hardt and Negri, in their discussion of Bartleby and Michael K. observe that “[i]n political terms, too, refusal in itself (of work, authority, and voluntary servitude) leads only to a kind of social suicide… What we need is to create a new social body, which is a project that goes well beyond refusal. Our lines of flight, our exodus must be constituent and create a real alternative.” These quotes demonstrate the main tendency to think inaction as a preliminary gesture that prepares the ground for “true activity” or “real alternative.” Can we develop an understanding of inaction without positing it as a supplement for a type of activity? Can identities be formed around inaction rather than action? What could be the emancipatory implications of this type of identity formation? Although it is difficult to find critical treatises that handle inaction as a concept in its own right, there are many examples in film and literature. This panel invites papers that will explore the theme of inaction as it appears in works of literature and film. Topics may include, but not limited to:

-inaction and désœuvrement as it appears in Blanchot, Nancy, Agamben

-melancholy, acedia, sloth as forms of inaction

-inactive characters in literature (Bartleby, Wakefield, etc.)

-inaction in film and TV series


Please create a user account, and submit a 300 word abstract before September 30th, 2019 through the NeMLA submission page:

For detailed guidelines for submitting proposals you can follow this link:

NeMLA membership is not required to submit abstracts, but is required to present at the conference.

You can direct questions to Ergin Cenebasi at

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