CFP: Special Issue of a/b: Auto/Biography Studies on ‘Embodiment’

CFP: Special Issue of a/b: Auto/Biography Studies on ‘Embodiment’

Guest Editor: Sarah Brophy, McMaster University

a/b: Auto/Biography Studies seeks original articles for a special issue on ‘Embodiment’ to be published as volume 33.2. Embodied lives, in all their corporeal, social, sensory, affective, political, economic, and technological dimensions, are the primary grounds for auto/biographical production. Building on the groundbreaking feminist work of the 1980s and 90s that brought embodied subjectivity to the fore, research in the field of life writing continues to generate powerful insights into the constitution, inscription, chronicling, narrativization, and performance of multiple embodiments, including an expansive and nuanced engagement with illness, disability, gender, grief, and trauma. Open to a wide variety of critical work on embodiment and auto/biography from a range of humanities and social science inter/disciplines, this special issue highlights two emergent areas demanding attention: 1) the biopolitics and necropolitics of race and disability, considered dialectically together with resistant acts, practices, and movements; and 2) the intensified, shifting relationships among auto/biography, embodiment, and mediation in the era of digital communication. Accordingly, essays could consider:

  • Why and how have certain auto/biographical modes that pertain to or index embodiment emerged as especially pervasive and popular at the beginning of the twenty-first century? What are the genealogies of these evolving forms, and what are their innovations, affordances, and dilemmas? Examples might include: medical micronarratives; photojournalism; profiles; ecological memoirs; graphic non-fiction; wearable technology; data tracking and the “quantified self”; social media; selfies and self-portraiture; collective biography; performance and/or installation art; digital design and play.
  • How does auto/biographical cultural production critique the ways that bodies are inscribed, produced, circulated, de/valued, targeted, exploited, and/or exalted under capitalist and settler-colonialist structures? Under what conditions do bodies come to testify or to stand in opposition to occupation, war, displacement, austerity, eugenics, hunger, thirst, pain, incarceration, and/or surveillance? What are the material, infrastructural, generic, and discursive conditions of, and obstacles to, such testimony? In what ways might auto/biography challenge presumptions of limitation or damage regarding particular subjects and/or communities?
  • How and why are auto/biographical modes deployed to think through “transmission” and “intercorporeality,” including, for instance, relations of toxicity, injury, contagion, communicability, inheritance, and/or futurity?
  • What kinds of embodied relationalities, or kinships, are being imagined and mobilized in auto/biographical projects, and according to what impetuses?
  • What is the role of the “lived” everyday—the mundane, the chronic, the atmospheric, the textured, the interior, and/or the surface—in life narratives, images, practices, and/or archives of embodiment?
  • Why and how might auto/biography scholarship engage, recontextualize, and/or revise influential theoretical concepts of “the body,” i.e. from phenomenology, assemblage theory, feminist intersectionality, new materialism, affect studies, visual culture studies, digital studies, post-structuralism, posthumanism, biopolitics, and/or trauma theory?
  • What critical framings, methods, and pedagogies are necessitated by bodies on the move, by bodies in conflict zones and under occupation, by bodies crossing or inhabiting borders, or by bodies in revolt or refusal?
  • What is the salience of theorizing embodied narratives and self-inscriptions in terms of im/material labour or precarious labour?
  • If embodiment is constituted (perhaps now more than ever) through mediation and remediation, then what critical methods and questions do repeated, iconic embodied images, tropes, and narratives require?
  • What is the relationship between narratives, images, practices, and/or archives of embodiment, on the one hand, and acts of citizenship on the other? How and when might embodied auto/biography mobilize (new) repertoires, ensembles, or collectivities?

This special issue is imagined as an opportunity to bring auto/biography studies into generative dialogue with critical interdisciplinary fields that are asking urgent methodological, historical, material, and philosophical questions about embodied lives, including but not necessarily limited to: migration, citizenship, social justice, Black studies, Indigenous studies, Asian and Asian diaspora studies, mixed race studies, disability studies, crip/queer studies, mad studies, trans studies, women’s and gender studies, fat studies, sexuality studies, child and youth studies, aging, ecocriticism, animal studies, and narrative medicine.

Send original articles of 6,000-8,000 words (including works cited and notes) to Sarah Brophy ( on or before December 15th 2016. Inquiries also welcome.

Biographical Note: Sarah Brophy is Professor in the Department of English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University. She is the author of /Witnessing AIDS: Writing, Testimony, and the Work of Mourning/ (University of Toronto Press, 2004) and coeditor with Janice Hladki of /Embodied Politics in Visual Autobiography /(University of Toronto Press, 2014).

All essays must follow the format of the /MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers/ (7th ed.) and the /a/b/ Style Sheet, which can be found here.

Essays submitted for the special issue, but not selected, may be considered general submissions and may be selected for publication. Authors are also requested to include a fifty-word abstract and two to four keywords with their submissions. In order to ensure a confidential peer review, remove any identifying information, including citations that refer to you as the author in the first person. Cite previous publications, etc. with your last name to preserve your anonymity in the reading process. Include your name, address, email, the title of your essay, and your affiliation in a cover letter or cover sheet for your essay. It is the author’s responsibility to secure any necessary copyright permissions and essays may not progress into the publication stage without written proof of right to reprint. Images with captions must be submitted in a separate file as 300 dpi (or higher) tiff files.

Sarah Brophy
Professor, English and Cultural Studies
McMaster University
Chester New Hall 321, 1280 Main St. W.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada L8S 4L9
Reviews Editor, Contemporary Women’s Writing

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