Sitting with Discomfort and Bending Decolonial Mastery: The Affective and Transformative Possibilities of The Literary

deadline for submissions: 
October 31, 2022
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Sitting with Discomfort and Bending Decolonial Mastery: The Affective and Transformative Possibilities of The LiteraryOrganized by Miriam Sbih and Flora Roussel Recent studies and pedagogical practices concerning the teaching of socially, politically, and emotionally difficult concepts (racism, colonialism, and sexism to name but a few) increasingly foster and deeply reflect on the implications of a vulnerable posture within the learners (Brantmeier; 2013). While these educational experiences can lead to emotional and physical discomfort for the person who confronts them, a vulnerable perspective allows us to overcome this initial discomfort and take advantage of it. In letting ourselves be affected by others and by this learning, we can, indeed, transfigure vulnerability.

Further, to cultivate discomfort and bring it to a state of vulnerability towards otherness invites a posture of decolonial openness, outside of one’s educational, subjective, and social biases. We can think of the affective dynamics of white discomfort ( Ahmed 2004; Zembylas 2018), dynamics that support and encourage colonial structures, emotions, and paradigms to be validated, extended, and constantly reproduced. Instead of navigating in these milieus fueled by neo-colonial and power dynamics in place, we may, rather, imagine and initiate other milieus.

Literature is a space par excellence for new and unsettling possibilities since, as readers, we open ourselves to the potentialities created by narratives that are totally new or simply dissimulated in popular discourse, whether they are marginal or groundbreaking.In fact, the speculative dimension of literature, which facilitates readers to stage and imagine multiple ways of living , harbors considerable perspectives of transformation for subjectivities that engage with them beyond and through discomfort.

Indeed, literature and its complex forms of expression invite us to engage with other modes of thought and to learn from marginal, queer, decolonized and radical postures. By staging such critical alternative ways of thinking, literary texts (i.e., decolonial, feminist, postcolonial) can provoke uneasiness with regard to emboyding and being in the world , since they confront readers with the dominant normalized paradigms that prevail over them.

To adopt a state of vulnerability thus asks readers to go beyond their biases in order to welcome discomfort and the decolonial possibilities of a particular text, thereby allowing the re-construction of decolonial subjectivities.

How does the literary provoke productive discomfort to shed light on colonial biases? How does the literary allow one to dismantle the imperatives of mastery (Singh 2018) by opening up to the possibilities of decolonial and radical thoughts and texts?

We would like this seminar to reflect on postures of discomfort as a way of cultivating this feeling and the reasons for its affect in order to turn away from it and welcome other ways of life.

Other possible topics might include:

  • Grief, pain, and hope
  • Feminist alliances and renewals
  • - Language of discomfort
  •  Queer strategies 


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