Literatures of Resistance, Anarchy and Nonviolence

Safoora Arbab's picture
Call for Papers
September 21, 2017
California, United States

Although literatures of resistance have a long lineage and continue to be articulated through various genres, especially under the rubric of postcolonial literatures, voices articulating the ideology of nonviolence are either muted or limited to the works of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Thoreau, Tolstoy, and the philosophy of Thich Nhat Hanh.  And even these iconic works are often treated discretely, as idealistic and utopian aspirations rather than pragmatic means to change the normative political.

This seminar calls for papers that explore alternate literatures of nonviolence and anarchic resistances—as well as new interpretations of classical texts—not only in the American and European traditions but especially in Asian and African ones that remain largely silent to this day. To recall Gayatri Spivak’s essay “Can the Subaltern Speak?” as well as Foucault’s inaugural lecture at the College of France in 1976, “naive knowledges, located low down on the hierarchy have been silenced by both the imperial center and local patriarchal systems. So how do these silenced subalterns voice their “insurrection” against the prevalent multivalent registers of systemic violence?

How do literatures of nonviolent resistance—be it against colonial domination, state oppression, patriarchy and gender violence, normative traditions/culture, human rights violations, animal abuse, environmental degradation or global capitalist economies— proscribe, negotiate and posit alternate narratives and, in Judith Butler’s terms, alternate normativities? What modes of politics, ethics and communal organization have been created in opposition, both literary and embodied, to the global, neo-liberal, capitalist, imperial and patriarchal narratives?  What are the contours of these articulations? Do they present, in Jacques Derrida’s terms, a new politics of friendship?

Gandhi’s concept of “enlightened anarchy” represents a social system in which the practice of moral imperatives (in the Kantian sense) by self-sovereign individuals renders the state’s coercive mechanisms, and thus the political, superfluous. Tolstoy also ties the concept of anarchy to nonviolent resistance rather than its more widespread meaning as violent disorder. What are the shapes of such anarchic politics? Have they existed historically or is this merely a utopian ideal?

Papers are invited on any topic, methodology or (inter) discipline. The purpose of this seminar is to open a space for discussing alternate imaginaries, narratives, histories, utopian futures, embodied experiences that could, would or do affect the normative political.

This call for papers is thus also a call to rupture the dominant mechanisms of silencing.

Submit abtracts online at the ACLA website on or before September 21st, 2017

ACLA 2018 conference at Univeristy of California, Los Angeles, March 29th to April 1st


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Safoora Arbab, Department of Comparative Literature, UCLA


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