Call for Papers: The “Failing” Body

Call for Papers – The “Failing” Body


For its next issue, Digressions invites master’s, research master’s, and Ph.D. students as well as recent graduates from a variety of disciplines and perspectives to submit papers, reviews, and creative writing pieces that take as their focus the figure of “the failing body.”


While we tend not to think about it as we go about our day-to-day lives, the body is a fragile thing subject to sickness, the vicissitudes of time, and the whims of an indifferent environment. Consequently, the ultimate failure of the body is something that – sooner or later – we will all experience. Although in certain instances the failure of the body may be a swift process, for most of us this will be an incremental experience that slowly occurs throughout the course of our lives. Nevertheless, whether experienced suddenly or incrementally, the failure of the body as a continuous and active process seems to point to a performative embodiment.


Digressions seeks interventions on the theme of the failing body that aim to deconstruct and interrogate the implicit normative boundaries between productive, healthy, “normal” bodies on the one hand, and failing, diseased, “abnormal” bodies on the other. How can examinations of the failing body expose the unspoken assumptions underlying the supposedly knowable and livable normative body? What possible trajectories can we develop for opening up the category of normalized bodies to include those bodies currently classified as abject, disabled, or other? How might we consider the failing body to signify politically and economically, particularly in a time when many countries are rolling back social welfare provisions? What might works such as Michel Foucault’s Birth of the Clinic (1963), Kathy Acker’s “The Gift of Disease” (1997), Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s A Dialogue on Love (1999), Susan Greenhalgh’s Under the Medical Gaze (2001), Alison Kafer’s Feminist, Queer, Cripp (2013), S. Lochlann Jain’s Malignant (2013), and Johanna Hedva’s “Sick Woman Theory” (2016), among others, contribute to discussions about the subjectivity of the failing body? Furthermore, when considered in light of publications such as Christopher Bell’s Blackness and Disability: Critical Examinations and Cultural Interventions (2012), what happens to the notion of the failing body when we take into account axes of difference like race, ethnicity, and sexuality?


Similarly, what can the failing body in various kinds of films, novels, and other cultural objects reveal? How might such depictions help us understand the way in which failing bodies are framed in various cultural contexts? What interpretations of these cultural artifacts open up when approached from disciplines such as disability studies, gender studies, postcolonial studies, death studies, phenomenology, madness studies, and aging studies? Indeed, how might texts as diverse as Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954), Toni Morrison’s Sula (1973), Alice Walker’s Meridian (1976), David Lynch’s The Elephant Man (1980), Lieven Debrauwer’s Pauline and Paulette (2001), Mahesh Limaye’s Yellow (2014), Jan Meerman’s Sprakeloos (2017), and Heleen van Royen’s Het doet zo zeer (2017) serve as fruitful rubrics through which to think about the failing body?


Special guest editor for this issue is Dr. Jules Sturm, author of Bodies We Fail: Productive Embodiments of Imperfection (2014).


Abstracts are due on 1 November 2017. Please submit by using the e-form on First full draft is due on 1 February 2018.