Care, hope, resilience: critical emojis in the age of permacrisis

deadline for submissions: 
June 1, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Vilnius University (Lithuania) and York University (UK)

Care, hope, resilience: critical emojis in the age of permacrisis 

What is the connection between the current state of permanent crisis, now expressed in its own brand-new word,*  and the proliferation of critical buzzwords in contemporary culture? Care, hope, resilience: ubiquitous in social commentary from academic research to popular journalism and social media, these terms behave more like emojis than elements of systematic thought.  Are they useful short cuts to a comprehension of shifting social imaginaries in the age of permacrisis?  Or a dangerous limitation of the mental energies we need to think our way to a more positive of future?  


Certainly, all these ideas have authentic intellectual ecologies. An offshoot of the rise of emotion theory, ‘care’ has been associated with calls for an expansion of imaginaries of interdependence in response to the affective impoverishment of neoliberalism (Care Collective, 2020); ‘hope’ with Appadurai’s idea of ‘the future as a cultural fact’ (2013), the  concept of autonomy as a ‘tool for prefiguration’ (Dinerstein 2015) and the ‘agony’ of racial ‘progress’ (Winters 2016); ‘resilience’ with a gamut of critical applications ranging from the ‘cruel optimism’ of neoliberal energetics (Berlant 2011) and a ‘culturally embedded understanding’ of neoliberal self-governance (Bourbeau 2018; 2021) to feminist imaginations of resilience as a difference ‘that thrives outside governance structures and the confines of neoliberal policymaking’ (Almagro and Bargués 2022).  But does the ‘emojification’ of these ideas in the popular press and social media limit their emancipatory scope in academic and critical thinking, education and research?  Wai Chee Dimock has argued that ‘humans as a species have a track record of bouncing back, turning the endgames of finite individuals into linked chapters in our ongoing life’ (2020: 7).  What practices of care or resilience can we use to generate hopeful moments? What critical or theoretical differences between ‘finite individuals’ in - for example – Lithuania, Ukraine, Germany, Bulgaria, France, Italy, Canada, USA, the UK, bear on how ‘differently’ we adopt or pursue these practices, who or what we care for (human and/or non-human) or how or what we resiliently hope as a result? How do care, hope and resilience help (or hinder?)  scholars of the humanities or creative artists reimagine, reconfigure or renew commitments to new pluralities or collectivities?  


This project comprises a series of workshops in Vilnius, Lithuania and York, UK, leading to participation in a seminar/panel for ESSE 2024, a collection of essays and the publication of a special edition of Literatūra.   We encourage a creative diversity of critical approaches and textual forms across the range of Anglophone literary and cultural studies.  Please address any of the questions asked in the previous paragraphs, or any of the following additional questions or topics, or your own question or topic:  

  • what theoretical problems are raised by the idea of ‘permacrisis’? what is it or would it be to think permacritically? 
  • what problems does the ‘emojification’ of critical thinking create in the classroom? Can or should we be able to keep emojis on the phone and out of the seminar? 
  • caring, hopeful or resilient: texts, or readers? 
  • can, should, we read care, hope and/or resilience historically? is it literally meaningless to read a Shakespeare play caringly, hopefully or resiliently? 
  • how do we distinguish between looking for a theory of hope and hopeful theorising?  Do we care about the difference? 
  • ‘hope for the best, prepare for the worst’: what future does ‘care’ have in the political impasse between hope and resilience?  
  • Respond to or situate the idea(s) of care, hope and/or resilience in any of the following contexts: 

o   as genres of self-knowledge

o   in cultural memory and mnemonic politics

o   in the construction of the idea or possibility of truth 

o   and the phenomenology of event

o   and the governance of the self in conditions of uncertainty

o   and the neoliberal ethos, as represented in art, literature, film

o   indigenous trauma and the aesthetics of survivance

o   literature or film as a ‘crisis-responsive’ art form

o   in climate emergency and/or ecological criticism

o   in, for, with and by non-humans

o   and questions of moral and/or legal (un)accountability

o   and the ethics of vulnerability


Please submit proposals of not more than 300 words with a 100-word bio-note to Ruta Slapkauskaite, University of Vilnius and  Erica Sheen, University of York by June 1 2023, or contact us informally now with queries or expressions of interest.


*‘Brexit, Covid, war, climate disasters, a tanking economy, political instability, global insecurity, a sense of impending doom. There’s a single word for this, and it has just become Collins Dictionary’s word of the year: permacrisis.’ (The Guardian November 2022)