The Crisis of the Confined Body: A Conference in Romance Studies
The confinement and appropriation of bodies is an issue that transects geopolitical divides. Across these boundaries, physical and allegorical prisons have been erected, calling attention to the question of surveillance and control. In this context, contradictory discourses emerge, which problematize historical notions of the limits, integrity, and inviolability of political and human bodies. Globalization, new technologies, and transnational alliances make frontiers more porous, often resulting in human trafficking, kidnapping, and confinement by both state and non-state actors. Like “Crusade” and “Inquisition” before them, “Abu Ghraib” and “Guantanamo” have become symptomatic catchwords associated with new scientific technologies and with surveillance, physical seclusion, and the removal of bodies from circulation. The story of sequestered, kidnapped, and trafficked bodies is one familiar to scholars in Romance Studies who study narratives and language use, from any epoch or place.
The Crisis of the Confined Body will introduce the problematic of seclusion, extraction and confinement into a debate on literature and culture, and thus establish a critical dialogue between humanistic and sociological concerns. In effect, the Conference will explore diachronically in what ways confinement, whether self-imposed or dictated by others, defines the body. The Conference will also examine how the state of isolation opens and forecloses possibilities of representation, thereby facilitating discussions of alterity. What are the stakes of such representations? How do they complicate the historically understood dialectics of public/private and power/agency? How does language delineate (ab)normal bodies and the interconnections between them? What do seizures and confiscation
s tell us about the frontiers, limits and ownership of the body?
Crossing five of the Romance languages (Catalan, French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish), The Crisis of the Confined Body will offer a diachronic panorama spanning five continents framed by an historical understanding of physical confinement. The Conference will embrace a comparative approach and feature presentations on literature, film, photography, and the plastic arts. Through its breadth of material, The Crisis of the Confined Body will underscore the multiple points of contact between the arts, the sciences and the humanities, while accentuating the particulars, i.e. those differences that make the seclusion of bodies contingent on global, national, local, cultural or linguistic parameters.
General thematic subcategories: (a) violence and discourse; (b) institutions and power; (c) the body and knowledge; and (d) the body and/in space
Examples of critical topics include, but are not limited to:
- The frontiers of the body
- Scientific discourse and the abnormal body
- The Identity politics of the body (e.g. tropologies of the veil)
- The segregation of racialized bodies
- The body and the social semiotics of language
- Torture and testimony
- Mysticism and seclusion
- The psychology of confinement
- Technologies of surveillance and control
- The “War on Terror” and terrorist bodies
- Insurgent bodies and the body politic
- The embodiment of urban topographies/landscapes
Conference Organizing Committee:
William Heidenfeldt (French)
Francesca Pomara (Italian Studies)
Alani Hicks-Bartlett (Romance Languages & Literatures)
Joseph Mudikuneil (Romance Languages & Literatures)
Mayra Bottara (Spanish & Portuguese)
Julia Chang (Spanish & Portuguese)
Robert Medina (Spanish & Portuguese)
*Picture: Masaccio (Italian 1401 - c. 1428). "Confinement Room of a Florentine Lady." UCB Visual Resources Collection, History of Art.