The Contemporary: Culture in the Twenty-First Century, March 3-5, 2016

full name / name of organization: 
Princeton University

We are constantly under pressure to define the "now." When did it begin? What does it include? When will it end? Recent attempts to capture this moving target have offered an array of starting points--the end of World War II, 1968, the end of the Cold War, the start of the new millennium, 9/11, the 2008 financial crisis. These attempts have also offered an array of periodizing concepts--postmodernism, post-postmodernism, late capitalism, neoliberalism, the anthropocene, the post-civil rights era, the post-human. We propose to respond to and circumvent this pressure in two ways. First, by creating a dialogue between our periodizing concerns and recent literature and art. Second, by contextualizing our concerns against recent developments in politics, science, technology, philosophy, and education. We aim to illuminate what makes the now new—and how and why we should study it.

"The Contemporary: Culture in the Twenty-First Century" will take place from March 3–5, 2016, at Princeton University. We invite early and mid-career scholars to propose 20-minute papers that examine the culture of the twenty-first century and the question of contemporaneity itself. The conference will focus primarily on literature in English, but we are open to scholarship that addresses work in other languages and in a range of media. We hope that the conference will be a unique opportunity to discuss major issues in the emerging field of twenty-first century literature and art. The conference will feature six panels, each organized around three speakers and one respondent. Keynotes will be delivered by Johanna Drucker and Ali Smith. We plan to use the conference as the foundation for an edited volume. Accepted participants will receive a travel allowance and lodging from Princeton.


Paper proposals should include a title, 250–500 word abstract, and cover letter with institutional affiliation and contact information.

Submit to:

NOTIFICATION: September 1, 2015

Organized by Sarah Chihaya, Kinohi Nishikawa, and Joshua Kotin