How to Do Things with Worlds (Again) [DEADLINE EXTENDED]

deadline for submissions: 
January 15, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Indiana University Department of English

Call for Papers

How to Do Things with Worlds

18th Annual Interdisciplinary Conference

Department of English, Indiana University, Bloomington

Dates: TBA [but virtual]

Keynote: TBA



“A ‘world’ need not be a construction of a whole society. It may be a construction of a tiny portion of a particular society. It may be inhabited by just a few people. Some ‘worlds’ are bigger than others.”

  • Maria Lugones, “Playfulness, ‘World’-Travelling, and Loving Perception” (1987)

“For poetry makes nothing happen; it survives…

a way of happening, a mouth.”

  • W. H. Auden, “In Memory of W. E. B. Yeats” (1939)


Maybe this Call for Papers seems familiar to you. This conference was originally scheduled to be held in-person at Indiana University in April 2020. As we all know, that reality became impossible and we, the conference organizers, officially postponed the conference in early March. We were hoping, like many, that a year would give us enough time to “return to normal” and be able to host the conference in person. 


Last year, the conference organizers felt that the inquiry we were launching was timely and needed. Almost eight months later, we are committed to having the conversations in a safe, virtual environment, but we feel that this is still a nexus of conversations we need to have. Those who applied and were accepted last year will still participate  in this new iteration of the conference but given the drastic change in the world and the way we live it, we’d like to open up this call again for submissions. One advantage of hosting the conference virtually is that we aren’t limited by how much physical space we can afford to rent. 


So with that in mind, now, more than ever, is a good time to think and act upon the state of our worlds. With the present climate disaster; the rise of white supremacist terrorism emboldened by governing bodies; the continued attempted eradication of people of color in America; and a global pandemic bent on restructuring the rhythm of our daily lives, now is a good time to ask, “Who are our worlds for?” Because worlds are made up from the “descriptions and constructions of life,” they are open to re-description and re-construction (Lugones 10). This conference takes the pun on J. L. Austin’s How to Do Things with Words seriously to think, on the one hand, about the performativity of word-making, and on the other, its interplay with “world”-making. How does language construct the worlds we inhabit, and what are its uses and limitations in spurring action or bringing about new possible worlds? How do we do the things that are urgently begging to be done with the skills that we’ve spent years cultivating?  What opportunities can be leveraged, what constraints must be negotiated, and what limits must be acknowledged in investing in our scholarship and teaching as a force for doing things with, in, and, at times, against worlds? 


“How to Do Things with Worlds” is, for us, a question of what we should be making out of this specific moment. In your own reflections on how to do things with worlds, some topic areas to consider may include (but are not limited to):

  • How - The attitudes taken towards our doing.

    • The role of academia in public or civic action

    • Speculative realisms

    • Critique and post-critique

    • Affect studies

  • To Do - Action that may also involve our being and our knowing.

    • Queer worldmaking

    • Materiality and language

    • Performance studies and performativity

    • Phenomenology

    • Reception theory and historiography

  • Things - Putting our knowing to material uses.

    • Social activism and protest

    • Public-facing scholarship and public humanities

    • Pedagogy

  • With - But also in, and sometimes, if necessary, against; a cooperative endeavor.

    • Citizenship

    • Community writing

    • Digital humanities and digital rhetorics

  • Worlds - Life, shared.

    • Borders and migration

    • Geography and area studies

    • Decolonial studies

    • The public sphere and counterpublics

    • The environment, ecocriticism, and the anthropocene

    • Rhetorics of space and place

    • Science fiction, especially Afrofuturism

    • Animal studies

 We invite proposals for

  • Individual scholarly papers and creative works (15-minute presentations; 250 word abstract)

  • Panels organized around a thematic topic (three 20-minute papers or four 15-minute papers; 350 word panel abstract as well as a brief abstract for each individual paper on the panel)

Email your submission to by January 15, 2021. In your email, please submit your abstract (both in the body of the email and as an attachment), along with your name, institutional affiliation, degree, email, and phone number. We are also happy to address questions about the conference via email.