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.

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Call for Papers: The Alien

UPDATED: Digressions invites manuscripts (3,000 to 5,000 words) for its special issue on “The Alien.” Deadline: 1 June 2017.

We still have space for one or two articles in our special issue on “The Alien.” If you have a paper related to this topic that you are willing to rework into a jounal article over the summer, please send it to us via email.

The Alien, in all its ambiguity — its simultaneous invisibility and hypervisibility — is a wideranging and innovative site of investigation for critical theorists and cultural analysts. The global present has seen a continuation and resurgence of fear, obsession, and intrigue with the figure, site, and notion of the Alien — exemplified by, among other developments, the recent antiimmigrant rhetoric among right-wing parties and their leaders around the world. We invite master’s, research master’s, and Ph.D. students from a variety of disciplines and perspectives such as feminist studies, post- and decolonial studies, queer studies, literary studies, media and performance studies, critical race studies, and animal studies, to submit their manuscripts that play into the inter- and transdisciplinary nature of the subject matter.

  • Science Fiction: From Ridley Scott’s seminal 1979 film Alien to Denis Villeneuve’s 2016 Arrival, the figure of the Alien has been a central component to (speculative) science fiction narratives. We encourage investigations (and reviews) on the figuration and representation of the Alien in a variety of cultural artefacts, including literature, film, art, music, and video games. We furthermore invite research and creative writing on space/Earth colonisation, ‘human’ and ‘alien’ migration, and alien(ating)/queering temporalities, that critically (re)think notions of race, gender, sexuality, and dis/ability. Think for example about the work of Octavia Butler, David Mitchell, Sun Ra, Janelle Monáe, Ursula Le Guin, N.K. Jemisin, Margaret Atwood, and Cixin Liu.
  • Migration/Politics: The Alien can be a site to explore the crucial and urgent questions regarding migrants, the (future of the) nation-state, and processes of alienation, racialisation, gendering, and (de)humanisation in a range of current sociopolitical climates. Submissions can cover, but are not limited to, critical investigations into (international) migration law and citizenship, cultural representations of Fortress Europe, the role of the media in relation to historical and contemporary refugee ‘crises’, and critical (co-written) ethnographic projects dealing with migrant experiences.
  • Body: Moreover, we are interested in submissions dealing with questions of the Alien, alienation, and nonhuman/inhuman/posthuman in relation to the body. Bodies shape, move, are experienced, and gather meaning at specific points in time and space, within particular material, economic, cultural, and demographic settings. What happens to human bodies when they interact with, seemingly, alien matter? Think of questions related to (living with) viruses and virality, cyborg and alien assemblages, body horror, pregnancy and motherhood, and the (human/animal) embodiment of the Alien.

We invite papers, reviews, and creative writing on these and all other Alien-related matters. Manuscipts, reviews, and creative writing can be sent by email to the editor before 1 June 2017.

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The Art of Banksy

Digressions is looking for an author to write an academic review of the exhibition The Art of Banksy (Beurs van Berlage, 18 June – 30 September 2016).

For instructions on writing an academic review, see our website: Deadline for submission is Sunday, 24 July 2016.


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Judith Butler

EXTENDED DEADLINE: Judith Butler, special issue

The journal Digressions publishes academic articles by master’s, research master’s, and PhD students as well as recent graduates. We are looking for contributions to a special issue on the work of Judith Butler.

Many disciplines have by now incorporated the ideas of theorist Judith Butler, including philosophy, political science, gender and sexuality studies, and cultural analysis. Do you wish to write an article on either Butler’s work itself, or on a topic inspired by Butler’s thinking? Then send in an abstract before 1 December 2016 by using the submission form on our website.


Judith Butler


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Call for Papers: The Diva

Digressions: Amsterdam Journal of Critical Theory, Cultural Analysis, and Creative Writing invites paper proposals, reviews, and creative writing for a special issue on The Diva.

Paper proposals

In her hyper-audibility, -visibility, and -artificiality, the Diva constitutes a privileged site for cultural analysis and critical theory. Numerous conflicting (identity) discourses intersect in this figure, including:

  • Gender. The Diva can be understood as a performance of excessive femininity which in its supposed arrogance shades into masculinity. Think in this respect of Margaret Thatcher’s entrée in Alan Hollinghurst’s novel The Line of Beauty (2004).
  • Sexuality. Traditionally, Diva fandom is associated with gay male sexuality, either in a sincere and/or a camp mode. To quote from Frank O’Hara’s 1964 “Poem (Lana Turner Has Collapsed!)”: “I have been to lots of parties / and acted perfectly disgraceful / but I never actually collapsed / Oh Lana Turner we love you get up.”
  • Race. There exists a long history of white audiences adoring an African American Diva, from Josephine Baker to Beyoncé, as long as she is not too overtly political in her racial self-awareness. This idea was recently spoofed in the Saturday Night Live skit “The Day Beyoncé Turned Black.”
  • Age. Is there a Diva expiration date? This is Diamanda Galas in defense of Madonna: “If watching a nearly 60-year old woman shake her ass in front of the entire world isn’t feminism, then I don’t know what is.”
  • Politics. In much of South America, Mercedes Sosa was seen as a Diva who spoke out against right-wing regimes. Lebanese singer Fairuz, the epitome of the Diva in the Middle-East and among much of the Arab-speaking diasporas, has taken “controversial” political stances as well. In the words of yet another political Diva, Nina Simone: “How can you be an artist and not reflect the times?”
  • Commodification. The definition of Diva includes critical and commercial success, which she often achieves through commodifying herself (her voice, her body, her private life). Or as Beyoncé sings: “A diva is a female version of a hustler.”
  • Margins/mainstream. To what extent do “fringe” Divas such as Divine, Diamanda Galas, Lydia Lunch, Grimes, Klaus Nomi, and Genesis Breyer P-Orridge complicate existing conceptions of the mainstream Diva? To cite Jack from Will & Grace to Cher: “I do a better Cher than you do.”
  • Everyday resistance. Perhaps Diva behavior can be used in everyday life to resist, negotiate, and/or make visible the gender script that labels female agency as “bitchiness,” for as Mae West explained: “Good girls go to heaven, bad girls go everywhere.”

We invite papers on these and all other Diva-related matters. Abstract due on 10 April 2016, please submit by using the e-form on First full draft due on 1 July 2016.


We are looking for reviews of Diva-related cultural artifacts and performances (e.g. Beyoncé’s “Formation” video, Madonna’s Truth or Dare rockumentary, Charlie Hides’ impersonations of various Divas, et cetera) and academic publications. For the latter, think of:

  • Brown, Kimberly Nichele. Writing the Black Revolutionary Diva: Women’s Subjectivity and the Decolonizing Text. Minneapolis: Indiana UP, 2010.
  • Dyer, Richard. Heavenly Bodies: Film Stars and Societies. London: Macmillan Education, 1986.
  • Kerr, Rosalind. The Rise of the Diva on the Sixteenth-Century Commedia dell’Arte Stage. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 2015.
  • Koestenbaum, Wayne. The Queen’s Throat: Opera, Homosexuality, and the Mystery of Desire. Boston: Da Capo P, 1993.
  • Kooijman, Jaap. “Triumphant Black Pop Divas on the Wide Screen: Lady Sings The Blues and Tina: What’s Love Got To Do With It.” Popular Music and Film. Ed. Ian Inglis. London: Wallflower P, 2003. 178-92.
  • Leonardi, Susan J., and Rebecca Pope. The Diva’s Mouth: Body, Voice, Prima Donna Politics. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 1996.
  • Nero, Charles I. “Diva Traffic and Male Bonding in Film: Teaching Opera, Learning Gender, Race, and Nation.” Camera Obscura2 (2004): 46-73.
  • Swinnen, Aagje, and John A. Stotesbury, eds. Aging, Performance, and Stardom: Doing Age on the Stage of Consumerist Culture. Berlin: LIT Verlag, 2012.

Indication of intention to write a review due on 10 April 2016, please send an email to the editor (email address listed on First full draft due on 1 July 2016.

Creative writing

Finally, we would like to publish creative writing (poems, short stories) about the figure of the Diva. Fictional fan letters, authentic biographical memoirs concerning your earliest engagement with a Diva, imagined dialogues between Divas – be as weird and fabulous as you dare to be.

Indication of intention to write a creative writing piece due on 10 April 2016, please send an email to the editor (email address listed on First full draft due on 1 July 2016.

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