Bodies of Bondage: Environments in Women's Neo-Captivity Narratives

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Society for the Study of American Women Writers (SSAWW)
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Proposed Panel for SSAWW's Triennial Conference (Philadelphia, PA, November 4-8, 2015). Theme: Liminal Spaces, Hybrid Lives

With the conference theme in mind, this panel will consider the liminal spaces and hybrid lives of women in neo-captivity narratives, a term that addresses the broad implications of the captivities about which women write in the 20th and 21st centuries. From early captivity narratives to sentimental novels of seduction and the slave narratives made popular around the Civil War to contemporary neo-slave narratives, women write and narrate stories of captivity that prominently feature their bodies and the various violences and bondages visited upon them, the manner in which they are pursued, controlled, and patrolled, and the possibility for redemption, bodily or otherwise. But another salient feature of these narratives is the how the body and its attendant discursive possibilities "fits" within certain environments and how that fit-ness (or unfit-ness) is made manifest in the lived reality—before, during, and after capture—of the captive woman. Therefore, this panel's focus is on the captive body of the woman and how that body: interacts with its environments, crosses and re-crosses boundaries between self/other, human/other-than-human, "inside"/"outside", public/private; experiences differing environmental conditions and sociopolitical forces before, during, or after captivity; pursues practices of liberation from captivities; negotiates societal expectations for women or the pressures attached to normativity; engages in family- and community-building; and pursues liberatory practices, becomes empowered and resourceful, and achieves courage and strength within oppressive environments.

"Captivity" and "environment" can be interpreted broadly, but some approaches you might want to consider include: works by incarcerated women or kidnapped women; the body in critical race theory, material feminism, environmental health/justice movements, or disability studies; writings by lesbian, queer, and/or transgender women; postcolonial or transnational approaches to the body; or representations of women's bodies in science and speculative fiction.

Please send a PDF file with an abstract (300-500 words) and brief bio by November 1, 2014 to Jill E. Anderson ( NOTE: While you do not need to be a SSAWW member to apply for a panel, presenters must be or become SSAWW members to participate in the conference.