"Post-Politics and the Aesthetic Imagination" ACLA 2021 Seminar (Virtual, 8-11 April 2021)
This ACLA seminar seeks papers that reflect on the analytical bridges that might exist between post- political theory and the study of aesthetics broadly conceived. The main question the seminar aims to answer is the following: Decades after everything was declared to be political, what are the affordances, triumphs, and pitfalls of a post-political theory of aesthetics?
The work of theorists of post-politics such as Jacques Rancière, Chantal Mouffe, Ernesto Laclau, Alain Badiou, Slavoj Žižek, and Erik Swyngedouw among others has exposed the processes by which political action is currently being eroded, sites for its practice are increasingly disappearing, and political agency is in need of urgent revitalization. At the same time, much post-political critical discourse has concentrated on connecting the saturation of the practice of politics, as well as its subsequent evacuation, with the need to formulate new and alternative ways to generate meaningful political change.
While post-political theory has featured in analyses traditionally labelled “political” such as studies focusing on gender, environmentalism, postcolonialism, neoliberalism, or racism, a more explicit reflection on the contours, scope, and interpretive value of post-political theory for the study of aesthetics is absent in the critical theory corpus, and it can offer a crucial contribution. The starting point of this seminar is the following: What does the post-political stand for exactly, and how can issues concerning representation (textual, visual, aural, etc. as well as political) be rethought through this lens? Related questions immediately arise that may provide an adequate critical frame. What imaginative processes dovetail political activity and the work of the aesthetic imagination in the posterior period marked by the “post” in post-politics? Does “post-politics” indicate the “end of politics,” as some critics have suggested? A deconstructive/reconstructive gesture that signals a departure from a past in which it is nonetheless anchored? Or the birth of something else? What similarities and differences exist with other “post-” movements, such as “postmodernism,” “postcolonialism,” “postfeminism,” and “poststructuralism”? What are the specific roles of history, culture, and social relations in the dynamics at work at the center of post-politics? Answers to these questions, which should be tackled with as much methodological liberty as necessary, might shed light onto the continuities, if any, between the political and the aesthetic imagination. Papers, then, will be encouraged to either offer applications that analyze individual works of literature, visual and other arts, various media, cultural artifacts, etc., or illuminate the ways in which this theoretical apparatus can offer new analytical avenues.
Post-political theory has largely focused on neoliberalism and governance, and important work has been produced about the links between these categories and aesthetics. One major goal of the seminar, thus, will be to explore this crucial intersection but also a wider range of connections, exploring other themes, topics, and registers. How can the boundaries of post-political theory be expanded as it works in conjunction with and for the purpose of exploring the work of the creative imagination? What particular genres delineate specific dimensions of the post-political best? Which modes, styles, and techniques help us describe it? How is the production and consumption of specific works embedded in the post-political?
Proposals might address, among others, the following topics:
- Voice, authorship, collaboration, and/or agency
- Populism, “the people,” collectives, fragmentation, and/or division
- The individual, identity (race/ethnicity, gender, class, etc.), subjectivity, autopoiesis, (strategic) essentialism, and/or personhood
- Alternative genealogies of the current post-political moment
- Speculative accounts of the future
- Fiction, invention, emotiveness, good/bad taste, “beauty,” and/or embellishment
- Empire, decolonization, the post-colony, globalization, geopolitics, and/or neocolonialism
- Speech, silence, and/or voicelessness
- Humanism, posthumanism, and/or human threats to any and all forms of life
- Ethics, affect, micropolitics, and/or improvisation
- Strategic disruption, delay, dark patterns, and/or forced continuity
- Austerity, vulnerability, and/or violence
- Dystopia and utopia, especially against their grain
- Finance, money, (crypto)currency, barter, and/or exchange
- Rights and responsibilities, individualism, and/or collectivism
- Sovereignty, the (un)exceptional, and/or shared responsibility
- Depoliticization, re-politicization, the apolitical, and/or the impolitic
- Dignity, autonomy, buen vivir, and/or human rights
- Studies of specific genres, forms, and/or tropes
- Technology, mediation, (neo)luddism, and/or technophobia
- Work, jobs, weisure/playbor, and/or automation
- Nation, state, citizenship, refuge, and/or foreignness
- History, memory, revisionism, and/or amnesia
- Truth, “post-truth,” sincerity, disinformation, and/or propaganda
- Readership and political agency
- Biopolitics/necropolitics (illness, health, ability/disability, the body, reproduction, the family, etc.)
- Accelerationism/slow movements
- Single-standing or comparative approaches to modes (irony, parody, didacticism, self-help, the hyperreal, etc.)
- Single-standing or comparative approaches to periods and movements
- Specific examples of public aesthetic engagement
- Imaginary vs. physical spaces, deterritorialization
- Simulacrum, simulation, and/or the spectacle
Submissions are encouraged for papers that tackle one or several of these theoretical questions from global, national, or local perspectives, as well as employing an interdisciplinary approach.
Finally, papers that make apparent the two-way connection between post-political theory and the study of aesthetics, and not simply the application of the former to the later, will be given special consideration.
The ACLA conference (8-11 April 2021) will take place virtually.
Please submit an abstract with bio between October 1 and October 31 via the ACLA portal (www.acla.org; please do not send abstracts directly to the seminar organizer).
For inquiries, please contact Juan Meneses at firstname.lastname@example.org