CFP: New Poetics of Disappearance Conference (Senate House, London)

16-17 June 2014 / Senate House / London

This conference gathers together academics and writers living and working
on memory issues in Latin America, the United States and Europe. We aim
to discuss the way in which literature has addressed the complicated
neither-dead-nor-alive figure of the disappeared from the 1970s and 1980s
to the present. The term disappeared was popularized in Latin America to
account for the crimes perpetrated by the dictatorships of the last
century, whereby citizens were detained, held and often murdered without
trace. Not only ‘standardized’ and ‘transnationalized’ by Human Rights
laws, the term was also translated worldwide to describe similar or
analogous cases of uncertain death at the hands of a terror State.
The intention of this event is to identify and explore new poetics in the
representation of the disappeared. Allegorical narratives, testimonies
and memoirs have been predominant forms of addressing this figure in the
aftermath of collective traumas. More recently, however, we are
witnessing adventurous and experimental writings of the past and of the
self. New generations in particular are exploring original ways of
narrating this figure in accounts presented as science fictions and
hard-boiled memories, fantasy tales and horror stories, autofictions and
online diaries.

Some questions that drive this conference are: what are the common formal
strategies, motives, and procedures in the literary representation of the
disappeared by the postdictatorship/postconflict second generations? What
makes this literature different, in its form and concerns, from both the
literature of the so-called ‘1.5 generation’ and from the emerging
literary production of the third generation? Are there essential
differences between the works by children of the disappeared and works by
authors who have no disappeared relatives? Is literature always a
progressive discourse when it comes to narrating the collective traumas
of the past? Or can it also contribute to constructing social stereotypes
such as that of the ‘innocent victim’ or the ‘hero’ and stigmas such as
that of the ‘traitor’?

Although the conference is centred on literary approaches to the figure
of the disappeared, the interdisciplinary nature of many of these
contemporary works means that we can no longer stick to formerly rigid
genre borders. We thus welcome papers that cross disciplines (literature,
theatre, cinema, photography, performance) and draw on non-conventional
formats (including comics, social networks and blogs).

We invite colleagues to send an abstract (max. 250 words) for a 20-minute
paper, and a brief biographical note by 10 January 2014 to:

Papers can be given in English or Spanish.

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