You Are Here and Not Here: the Self Re-configured
During a dérive (Debord 1956), a subject drops their usual motives for psychogeographical movement and action. From a dérive point of view, cities have psychogeographical contours, with constant currents, fixed points and vortexes that strongly encourage and/or discourage entry into or exit from certain zones. But the dérive includes both this letting-go and its necessary contradiction: dominating these spaces through acquiring knowledge about their psychogeographical specifications and variations. What, then, delimits space and so-called free movement? There is another type of movement in the landscape where the geography of thought in Asia centers on becoming and re-becoming, where change is central to the constant re-configuration of self. In the Americentric and Eurocentric context, however, notions of self and identity perpetuate the differentiation of the singular, individual “I” more common historically to first person monolingual perspective. Processes of negotiation and conflict on this East-West axis (if an axis exists at all!) are needed to access and widen that aspect of the self that is important to scholarship in the instrument and plasticity of language, as in English itself.
Gender and sexuality
As a principle of social organisation, Salvatore Cucchiari (1981) writes, gender is historically relative: ‘although the gender system has biological referents or markers, in no way is it determined or made inevitable by those sexual markers’. Despite its illegitimacy, ‘genderless human organization cannot be observed in either present or historical ethnography’, because, in the same way as class and ethnicity, gender distinctions have become an element that determines social hierarchies. Language and literature, art and sociology can offer a fruitful perspective on the way societies and cultures are affected by gender stereotypes: whether they consciously or unconsciously support them, or as witnesses they point out their unjustness. This panel investigates the social construction of gender and sexuality across different societies and cultural groups, questions the legitimacy of heteronormative and male-oriented social structures, and takes a longitudinal perspective to look at feminisms throughout history and global location. It further inspects alternative social configurations, considering historical, linguistic and literary rescriptings of the roles, narratives and possibilities of gender and the ways in which counter-culture and alternative narratives can subvert this dominant order.
Speech in society: The multivalent lives of utterances
Discourse, write Coupland and Jaworski (2014), is ‘language reflecting social order but also language shaping social order’. Its study comprises a host of practices, strategies and disciplines that continue to evolve and to be internally re-structured, yielding a critical field that affords insights into how society is produced and maintained. From conversational analysis to work in multimodality, from pragmatics to theoretical formulations, numerous approaches demonstrate how language can at once index individual identity and fortify assemblages of power. This panel seeks to create linkages across different approaches to language, investigating how the study of speech, in verbal and written utterances and in the absence of each, can generate insights into social class, cultural affiliation, gender and sexuality, commodification and ideology.
Borderscapes: land, crossings and ecology
According to Johan Schimanski (2015), ‘the borderscape concept is a way of thinking about the border and the bordering process not only on the border, but also beyond the line of the border; beyond the border as a place, beyond the landscape through which the border runs, and beyond borderlands with their territorial contiguities to the border’. This panel explores the idea of the border and the history behind border establishments in dialogue with humanity’s shifting relationship to the earth, as the Anthropocene edges the world’s organisms into a new and unprecedented stage of dangerous mutability. Though migration movements and geopolitical conflicts have long destabilized the hard border of the nation-state, climate change is already accelerating the scale of each. As shorelines are swallowed up by rising seas and intemperate weather, arid zones become desert and the air in cities increasingly unbreathable, the space for human life is shrinking. More than any precedent, the twenty-first century will bear witness to the greatest unsettling of borders, inviting us to reconsider the idea of confines and delimitations.