Book of Abstracts – Thursday

All pre-recorded sessions and papers will be available on the website during the conference week. The Program lists all the Q&A sessions that are going to happen on a dedicated Discord server. All Presenters and registered Attendees will receive a link to the server via email.

Below you can find the abstracts of all the presentations with Q&A sessions scheduled for Thursday (Presentations 01 to 17).

For the Friday abstracts, please click here.

P01: Li Yawen – Reimagining Displaced Subjectivities of Refugee Writers in The Displaced (2018)

In his foundational work on biopolitics, Homo Sacer (1998), Giorgio Agamben follows Hannah Arendt’s critical inquiry into the problems of refugees in relation to the rights of the nation-state, and further explicates the normalizing politicization of refugees’ bare lives, whose subjectivities and human relations can be suspended and stripped of conveniently (Agamben 75-79). Published in 2018, The Displaced consists of 17 stories written by refugee writers worldwide. While continuing to reminisce the traumatic experience of fleeing from home and wars, as well as highlight their marginalized political conditions in the new countries, the refugee subjects in The Displaced move beyond the sweeping categorization of “Homo Sacer” and manifest a reservoir of resilience, not only in combating inequalities and reclaiming social visibility over the course of acculturation, but also in dealing with losses and nostalgia by means of transforming the idea of being displaced and misplaced into a sense of belonging, which they are able to cultivate in their own imagination and creative writings. By presenting a diverse range of refugee experiences, the editor Viet Thanh Nguyen addresses the particularities of refugee subjectivities along with the more nuanced and covert post-border-crossing traumas that even the most “successfully” assimilated migrants have been suffering. Significantly, Nguyen insists on being called “a refugee” and keeping the refugee memories close to him, an “incorporating” mnemonic practice (Connerton 72-104) that involves constantly reimagining the forgotten traumas, so as to remind himself of, and do justice to, the innumerable refugees who did not survive emigration and/or remain socially unseen (Nguyen “Introduction”). This paper also aims to explore the intersection of the real and the imaginary in selected refugee stories that transcends the dichotomy of archival/nonfictional memorialization and literary representation, and how this space opens up possibilities for the “recentering of displaced subjectivities and experiences” (Schlund-Vials 94).

Works Cited
Agamben, Giorgio. Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, Translated by Daniel Heller-Roazen, Stanford University Press, 1998, pp. 75-79.
Connerton, Paul. How Societies Remember. Cambridge University Press, 1989, pp. 72-104.
Nguyen, Viet Thanh. The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives. Abrams, 2018.
Schlund-Vials, Cathy J. “Creating Something in Times of Destruction: The Potential Energy of Refugee Writing”. Lit: Literature Interpretation Theory, 29:2, 2018, pp. 91-96.

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P02: SVD Chandrasekhar – The Subaltern Can Speak. Will the Cistem Hear?

This paper seeks to understand how the hegemonic monolith of ‘woman’ constructed by the Brahmanical cisgender heteronormative ‘cistem’ is being destabilised and challenged by Dalit transgender women and their increasing assertion in the face of a rabid Hindutva that questions their right to self determination and belonging.
It is argued that Dalit trans women face exclusion in multiple ways. First, in the operation of a Brahmanical governmentality that refuses to recognise their right to self determination. Second, exclusion is further propagated in the queer spaces which are dominated by Savarna upper class cis gay men. Third, the neoliberal international development paradigm and its attendant funder politics perpetuates the hegemonic category ‘woman’ suppressing the voices of Dalit trans women who could have benefitted from an intersectional understanding of development.
Against all odds, Dalit trans women are exercising their agency and resisting in a context of virulent Brahmanism in several spaces, both online and offline all at once. I study their resistance in the emerging anti-caste Ambedkarite assertion and alternate spaces and organisations which are providing a fertile ground for dissenting voices and reimagining their collective futures. The subaltern can speak and is speaking. Is the cistem ready to hear them?

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P03: Anindita Shome – Climate Change and the Precariousness of Lives and Livelihoods in the Sundarbans: A Reading of Amitav Ghosh’s “The Hungry Tide”

Sundarbans, being one of the largest mangrove forests on a delta arising out of the confluence of three rivers, is a unique ecological area that ties humans with other species, two nations- India and Bangladesh, and entangles human lives and nature in exceptional ways. The changing nature of the tides, the rising sea-levels, and devastating catastrophes, like cyclones and storms, have left human lives tussling with nature and other species for survival in the Sundarbans. This paper would attempt to study the part literature plays in bringing to the forefront the lived experiences of these marginalised communities to the forefront. As Amitav Ghosh contends, “…at exactly the time when it has become clear that global warming is in every sense a collective predicament, humanity finds itself in the thrall of a dominant culture in which the idea of the collective has been exiled from politics, economics, and literature alike.” This paper would try to understand how Amitav Ghosh’s “The Hungry Tide” represents how climate changes have pushed vulnerable communities to dire situations that threaten their lives and livelihoods, along with the ever-diminishing spaces for wildlife. Through the context of this novel and Sundarbans, this paper would try to understand how climate changes and its devastating effects leave marginalised communities at greater risks. Erratic climate phenomenon might be affecting everyone without discrimination, yet the existing power structures and inequalities in the societies, leave the individuals and communities- who do not form a part of the mainstream narratives- to either become extinct or turn into climate refugees.

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P04: Brendan Loon – This Subject Which Is Not One: The Analytic of Irigarayan Alterity as Approach to Post-Colonial Subjectivity in Nuraliah Norasid’s The Gatekeeper

An Althusserian over-determination of the present by the masculinist hegemony of Lacanian psychoanalysis in theoretical analytics has come to the fore, amidst the current global pandemic, with the Lacanian gaining axiological primacy and currency, as the epistemological mode of interpretation for the social-text of ontological being in this world, in this time. The virus; its discourse and the discourse phagocytosing it; and the simultaneous force of the reality of death and the fantasy of the surreality of othering others to and as the virus – transpose well to, respectively, the Lacanian Imaginary (not in the sense of ‘fictional’, but the need to perceive — and indeed, to imagine — the threat posed by that which is, literally, microscopic); Symbolic; and Real. This convenience, however, is conditioned; and so also conditional upon naturalising the Lacanian’s admission to and as knowledge – that is, to and as the phallogocentric centre. To interdict Lacanian centrality through the marginal (yet seminal) work of the physically, politically, psychically, and psychoanalytically exile Luce Irigaray therefore becomes an analytical, ethical, and intellectual imperative. Irigaray’s “Così fan tutti,” an essay chapter in This Sex Which Is Not One, has in particular attracted the scholarly scrutiny of critics and psychoanalysts, from Paul Miller, Jane Gallop, Hanneke Canters, Grace Jantzen, and Claire Potter, to Margaret Whitford, as that in which the “ambivalent […] oedipal relation between teacher and student [… is] seen.”1 I thus read from the margins of “Così fan tutti” for an Irigarayan alterity and approach to doing and seeing gender — indeed, the gendered-ness — in the (in)(di)visible body of the medusa as post-colonial subject in Nuraliah Norasid’s The Gatekeeper, a fictional work of magical realism from Singapore literature.

1 Miller, Paul. “Lacan le Con: Luce Tells Jacques Off.” Intertexts, vol. 9, no. 2, 2005, pp. 139-151 (139).

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P05: Sonali Sharma – Outside the Fold: Voices of Mahaar Women

This paper examines the narratives of marginalised dalit (out-caste) women in the historical context of movements for social equality led by Dr. BR Ambedkar, one of the major leaders of the ‘untouchables’ in India. In the case of Dalits in Western India Mahar women were the first among landless labourers mobilised by Ambedkar to protest against their age-old oppression by Hindus, and gained confidence to speak up for themselves early in the 1920s as compared to women of other low castes in Western India. Ambedkar encouraged Dalit women to become educated, participate in public life and gain self respect.1
The project of tracing historical evidence of Dalit women’s socio-political activities has been difficult as the contemporary mainstream newspapers and periodicals virtually boycotted the Ambedkar movement and so, the news of activists both men and women were rarely given much publicity.2 Accounts of Ambedkar’s movement written after his death in 1956 have not explicitly brought out the role of women. Ultimately, Ambedkar’s newspapers and periodicals proved to be a rich source material on women’s activism. Therefore, in the context of this exclusion of women from the history of Ambedkar’s movement, writings by Dalit women activists become significant.
Dalit women’s autobiographies are testimonies of the generalised oppression and poverty of the community and the double oppression of women as the site of exploitation by dalit patriarchy as well as high caste Hindus. This paper will focus on autobiographies by two mahar women, Baby Kamble (1929-2012) and Shantabai Dani (1918-1994) to study women’s divergent perception of Ambedkar’s politics, how they contend with the politics of exclusion and counter the discourse of dominant socio-political ideologies.

1 Afterword by Gopal Guru in Baby Kamble, The Prisons We Broke tr from Marathi by Maya Pandit, Orient Longman, Chennai, 2008.
2 Urmila Pawar and Meenakshi Moon eds. Aamhihi Itihaas Ghadvila (We Also Made History), Stri Uvach Prakashan, Mumbai, 1989.

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P06: Antonio García Gómez – The devaluation of femininity: Enacting masculine and feminine practices in dating sites

By analysing two hundred Tinder profiles of Spanish heterosexual men and two hundred Grindr profiles of Spanish queer men, this article examines these men’s online gendered and sexualised self-representation strategies. In this light, this study builds upon Schipper’s (2007), Blair and Hoskin’s (2015) and Hoskin’s (2019) rethinking of the possibilities for masculinity and femininity, and their role in gender hegemony. This study develops their argument further by (a) giving closer attention to the interplay of femininities and masculinities; (b) informing how heterosexual and queer men think about themselves in relation to their sexual identities as they construct and navigate their on-line social identity; (c) showing discourse evidence of how heterosexual and queer men move through and produce masculinity and femininity by engaging in masculine/feminine practices. In so doing, this study contributes to the existing literature giving evidence of the ways these men discursively position themselves in relation to occupying the feminine/masculine position. All in all, the paper attempts to cast light on the (d-)evaluating discursive strategies these Spanish heterosexual and queer men deploy when creating their profiles. Importantly, the analysis gives evidence of how occupying the masculine or the feminine position goes hand in hand with the devaluation and policing of femininity. Furthermore, the analysis calls attention to the contradictory gender ideas present in their personal profiles and this, in turn, sheds further light on the ways they construct multiple masculine identities to negotiate their sexual gendered identities.

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P07: Antonio García Gómez – Blogging about my love life: Female gendered roles, femininities and verbal aggressiveness

The combination of mind and body becomes particularly relevant in Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC) due to the fact that entering into dialogue with other people in the cyberspace is characterised by a process of disembodiment or dislocation of the self. Floating free of corporeal experience in personal weblog writing, the study aims to analyse the self-attribution process present in the discursive construction of British and Spanish female teenagers’ self-concept. More precisely, the study aims to delve into the different gendered discourses these female teenagers live out when narrating their current and former romantic relationships as an attempt to throw further light on how gender is reproduced and performed in the blogosphere. The blog corpus consists of 599 entries drawn from 34 British personal weblogs and thirty-one Spanish personal weblogs created by teenage females. Thus, it is predicted that the discursive construction of these British and Spanish female teenagers’ self-concept in their personal weblogs contains a repertoire of relatively discrete forms of self, each of which correlates with a particular self-attribution process. Furthermore, the contrastive analysis of the different personae attempts to throw further light on the nature of intimate dyadic relationships. More specifically, the study gives evidence of the social impact of this way of maintaining this type of relationships. Specially relevant for the field is the analysis of the self-attribution process associated with the construction of these British and Spanish female teenagers’ self-concept when narrating their former love relationships. These bloggers’ dispositional attributions seem to be explicitly correlated with a nascent culture-specific change in Spanish female teenagers’ social representation of verbal aggression. All in all, this study opens up an interesting field of research on interpersonal communication in the early twenty-first century.

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P08: Iris Pintiuta – Experimental Trans* Narratives in Contemporary Artists’ Films

This paper examines how recent trans* experimental cinema opens up new ways of thinking about trans* form and narrative by focusing on the intersections among identity, sexuality and biodiversity. I argue that in these films, identity expands beyond the scalar frame of the body that has been canonical to queer studies, and is articulated as multiple, relational, and fluid. Guided by Erika Balsom’s (2018) observation that in contemporary artist’s films, the landscape “becomes a way of thinking and making images at a scale that exceeds the individual”, I argue that trans* experimental film finds in landscape a testimony to trans* alliances, framing it as a literal and metaphorical ground for self-construction and belonging. To sketch a larger argument about the expansive conceptualisation of trans*ness in recent experimental film, my reading focuses on three recent films, Pojktanten (Ester Martin Bergsmark, 2012), SaF05 (Charlotte Prodger, 2019) and PAISA (Dorian Wood, 2018). Drawing on recent trans* and posthumanist scholarship, I conduct my analysis on three different scales (body/film/landscape) and the intersections among them. I pay particular attention to how these three films emphasise nature’s trans*-embodiment while establishing a relation of both queer kinship and identification between human and non-human actors. The landscape, I contend, becomes an indispensable part of the trans* narratives established by the films.
In conclusion, I emphasise the radical narrative potential of queering the landscape as a site of trans* bodies and bonds, and propose this multi-scalar trans* reading as a new way of thinking about identity, the environment, and the relationship between the two.

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P09: Michał Choiński – Cutting the Umbilical Cord with the American South – Lillian Smith’s Killers of the Dream

In her memoir Killers of the Dream (1949), Lillian Smith, Southern writer and social critic, offers a relentless critique of Jim Crow laws and gender inequality in the American South at the beginning of the 20th century. In this autobiographical collection of texts, Smith employs a wide array of rhetorical strategies to challenge and to deconstruct systematic racism she experienced during her upbringing in the South. Smith uses densely metaphorical language to expose the customs and traditions of white supremacy – at the same time, on the meta-narrative level, she enters into a dialogue with herself, pushing the limits of discourse to the point of breakage, seeking to arrive at her own, individual voice, devoid of racist rhetoric. In my paper, I will demonstrate selected rhetorical strategies used by Smith, focusing, in particular, on the figurative aspects of how she describes the painful and ambivalent process of the “cutting the umbilical cord” with her regional background.

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P10: Lidia Kniaź-Hunek – Janelle Monáe as the “Q.U.E.E.N.” of the Afrocyberpunk Q.U.E.E.R. Community

Those who are familiar with the oeuvre of the American singer and songwriter Janelle Monáe, often claim that the artist is a revolutionary (Spanos) robot-person serving “euphoric funk” (Simpson) in her “otherworldly” concept albums (Félix). Making use of the seemingly unusual combination of science fictional aesthetics and r&b music, Monáe functions as a spokesperson of the marginalized voices finding themselves at the crossroads between space (private vs. public) and time (the present vs. the future). Her ongoing mission aimed at developing such a cyberpunk and science-fictional world that would incorporate the muted voices of underprivileged individuals is manifested not only through her political activism outside the world of music (participation in charitable campaigns and raising awareness during interviews and meetings with fans) but predominantly within Monáe’s cultural texts. Similarly to such artists as Madonna, Prince, and David Bowie, the singer is able to amplify marginalized voices while playing according to the rules of largely conservative pop music industry.
The presentation aims to explore the intersections between music and technology as well as blackness and queerness in Janelle Monáe’s oeuvre so as to highlight Monáe’s role as the “Q.U.E.E.N” speaking for the underpriviledged voices. The talk will revolve around the analysis of the music video to her single titled “Q.U.E.E.N” (feat. Erykah Badu) directed by Alan Ferguson (2013). In the presentation I argue that thanks to the use of Afrofuturistic and Afrocyberpunk aesthetics in her music videos the artist is able to regain control over her artistic image as a black queer woman living and creating her music in the contemporary United States and inspire other “Q.U.E.E.N.s” (Queer community, Untouchables, Emigrants, Excommunicated, and Negroid) to celebrate their non-binary identities across the world.

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P11: Svitlana Lyubymova – Media Representation of Latin American Stereotype

The media representation of American cultural divergence constitutes a “mosaic” of ethnic stereotypes, relatively stable cores of which contain the information about the historical past, traditions, customs, lifestyle, appearance of a particular nationality.
One of widely-spread American media stereotypes is a Latin American. This ethnic stereotype is marked by two types of designations: politically correct Hispanic, Latino/ Latina, Latinx and derogatory Greaser, Spic, Taco Bender, Beaner. Introduced by Nixon administration after the 1970 census, the word Hispanic denotes diverse groups with varying Spanish ancestry. Indicating genders, male Latino and female Latina emphasize an alien nature of not assimilated ethnicity. Consequentially, a gender-neutral, pan-ethnic term Latinx has been introduced in media discourse.
Derogatory terms reflect a biased attitude to ethnic minority. Spic conveys alienation of those who cannot speak English properly. Appeared recently in media discourse Beaner and Taco Bender have replaced an earlier-used word Greaser, which has designated ethnic stereotype since the 19th century, and now is used to denote a motorcycle subculture. Based on a visual characteristic of car mechanics, who pomaded their hair, the word implied a low social status. Reflected in terms Beaner and Taco Bender eating habits, which include traditional dishes of beans and rolled-up corn cakes, make Latin Americans targets for ridicule. The derogatory terms underline not so much the difference in cuisine, as uncover inferiority of ethnic minority.
Media representation of the stereotype reflects presidential anti-Latino rhetoric, which, in view of upcoming elections, has been changed from comparing Mexican immigrants to “rapists” in 2015 to acknowledging “the exceptional drive, talent, faith, skill, imagination, and devotion of Latino Americans” in 2020. The consequences of this change are anticipated to show off in media-discourse soon.

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P12: Jennifer Neidhardt – The Three Lives of Tiresias: Revisiting ‘Transgender’ Myths and Their Reception

My research is concerned with Greek myths and their queer receptions. While myths have often been used to legitimate hegemonic power structures, I aim to highlight their transformative potential and investigate the reclaiming of myths in queer communities. Drawing on theories of queer intertextuality and adaptation, I argue that the process of mythmaking, like Butler’s concept of gender performativity, depends on acts of imitation and reinterpretation. The very content of myths reflects their narrative fluidity, featuring bodies moving between genders and portraying relationships beyond heteronormative models. The blind prophet Tiresias, who is transformed into a woman and back into a man, is a prominent example for ‘transgender’ myths: Occupying a liminal state between male and female, this character challenges binary concepts of gender identities. While some contemporary adaptations such as Kae Tempest’s poetry collection Hold Your Own (2014) emphasize this myth’s fluidity, others such as Serge Le Tendre’s and Christian Rossi’s graphic novel Tirésias (2011) attempt to straighten it by stressing the supposedly natural difference between the character’s male and female performance. By comparing these two adaptations, I attempt to provide an insight into the complexity of gender identities throughout history and their impact on concepts of intertextuality and narrativity.

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P13: Margaret Steenbakker – Playing gender or being played by gender? The representation of maleness and femaleness in Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation

The popular video game series Assassin’s Creed (2007 – ) features both historical periods in time and real locations. Throughout the series, one becomes immersed in the world of the Assassin Brotherhood and is invited to assassinate other historical characters.
Throughout most of the games, one plays as a male assassin. It’s only with more recent installments in the video game franchise that the option to play as a female character has become part of the games, either through the creation of games with a female protagonist, a male and a female protagonist, or more recently, with the release of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (2018), with the option for players to choose whether they wish to play as a male of female assassin.
This shift in attention, from only creating male playable characters to creating female ones as well, can be seen as part of a more general trend within the gaming industry for gender equality. Games such as the recent reboot of Tomb Raider (2013), and its sequels Rise of the Tomb Raider (2015) and The Shadow of the Tomb Raider (2018), for instance feature a Lara Croft who is no longer interesting simply because of her heavily sexualized looks, but rather because of her skills in combat.
This makes the shift in the Assassin’s Creed games to include female playable characters all the more interesting, as this is clearly part of an ongoing trend within the broader field of games. Moreover, the choices the game makers have made regarding playability, missions and clothing for instance, betray what Bogost (2008) calls their procedural rhetoric. In this case this refers to their stance on what is feminine and what is masculine and thus whether they see male and female characters as being equal or not.
Games are not neutral sites without meaning. Instead, they are home to rhetorical strategies from the hand of their makers. This has led me to my central research question: How does Ubisoft portray maleness and femaleness as embodied by the male and female protagonists that can be found within the Assassin’s Creed video game franchise? As this question is too broad to answer fully within the scope of this paper, I have narrowed it down to focus on just one video game, namely the first one in the series to have a female protagonist: Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation (2014).

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P14: Ross Cameron – ‘For I am always classed with the buckherd’: Constructing Gendered Identities in Edith Durham’s Travel Writing, 1903-1909

This paper explores the constructions of gendered identities in the travel books written by Edith Durham during the Edwardian period, namely Through the Lands of the Serb (1904), The Burden of the Balkans (1905) and High Albania (1909). Drawing upon postcolonial and postmodern feminism I propose that Durham’s travels in the Balkans were ones in search of authority denied to her in Britain where she lived a life of domesticity. Durham uses the remoteness, subtle exoticism and dangerous reputation of the Balkans as a stage upon which to enact a conventionally masculine identity that transgresses dominant conceptions of Edwardian bourgeois femininity. This is most clearly illustrated through her androcentric writing, denigration of tourists and accounts of adventurous feats that see her mimic the qualities of colonial explorers. This paper also demonstrates the difficulty Durham has in adopting conventionally masculine points of enunciation for they clash with discourses of femininity that sought to make propriety and interiority appear ‘natural’ for bourgeois women. I argue that her travel writing reveals fissures in which she adopts a conventionally feminine narratorial position. In these moments she issues prefatory apologies, adopts self-deprecating tones and adheres to bourgeois social standards by stressing ‘proper’ behaviour. This paper concludes with the assessment that Durham’s travel writing expresses both proto-feminist and anti-feminist sentiments and must be treated as sites of discursive complexity.

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P15: Alexa Dicken – The Invisibility of Disability in The Hunger Games

Alison Kafer’s Feminist, Queer, Crip questions the definitions of bodily “deviance” and “normalcy” as they are commonly understood to mean with or without disability (Kafer 15). The exclusion of disabled individuals from “normalcy” creates erasure of the disabled community from society at large, as well as the literature that reflects societal norms. In dystopian fiction, the presence of disability is likewise difficult to find. However, this absence is particularly notable in dystopian literature because the genre aims to call attention to social inequalities and issues in its focus on the most horrible potentialities for the world. Still, the genre maintains ableist privilege in continually failing to centralize the disabled community.
In this essay, I will call attention to the absence of disability in the dystopian genre through The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, and include theoretical criticism using Feminist, Queer, Crip, by Alison Kafer. The Hunger Games highlights physical strength as a favorable quality in characters and therefore provides an interesting contrast to the lack of disability in the genre. The novel presents many opportunities for criticism through disability theory; not only does it prioritize physical strength, it additionally marginalizes other moments that could highlight disability, including the punitive removal of the tongues of political dissidents and a main character’s leg amputation.
This essay will read these textual moments through Kafer’s work. The text subtly addresses disability through the inhuman fortitude of the protagonist, the physical punishment of disfigurement, and the erasure of a main character’s disability. These issues connect to Kafer’s commentary on narratives of “overcoming” disability (28), the inextricability of disability and suffering (93), and the erasure of the disabled community (83). Overall, the essay aims to call attention to the marginalization of the disabled community and will conclude with the importance of visibility.

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P16: Jacqueline Toland – Gender, Mothering, and Violence in Octavia E. Butler’s “Speech Sounds” and Judith Merril’s “That Only a Mother”

Through an analysis of the stories of Judith Merril’s “That Only a Mother” and Octavia E. Butler’s “Speech Sounds,” I aim to examine violence in a new lens that specifically comments on gender roles and mothering as a concept. Both texts queer expectations of motherhood in significant ways as well as presents a new layer to the role of a mother not yet highlighted in current scholarship. Within post-apocalyptic, post-war SF, violence is an unavoidable truth, but what is also inherent is the connection to and commentary on mothering as grappling with mortal sacrifice (in Cold War times) and that gender roles are formative social constructs even in war.
Through the juxtaposition of these “other” mothers, both women queer (in the methodological sense) forms of the gendered role of mother. For instance, Rye is reluctant and does not take up the mothering mantle willingly until she discovers the children’s secret and Maggie (depending on your reading) deludes herself or ignores the truth of her baby. Essentially, both “other” mothers comment on and inform not only speculative fiction’s purpose, (which is a means to question our reality), but also promotes altogether new conversations on gender.

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P17: Paulomi Sharma – “Depressed Sufferings”: Dalit women’s life-writings as testimonio

Dalit life-writings have often been identified as reified spaces of protest against the Brahminical oppression continuing since centuries in the Indian society. While the social status of the lower castes changed significantly after several political movements and constitutional amendments, in which the role of Dr. B.R.Ambedkar remains the most crucial, major parts of the Dalit section continue to exist within the abyss of darkness, exploitation, poverty and deprivation. Viewed from a gendered perspective, the life-writings of Dalit women assume a double signification of being narratives of marginalization within and without their own communities. This paper seeks to explore the autobiographies of two early proponents of Dalit feminism, Baby Kamble’s The Prisons we Broke (1982) and Bama’s Karukku (1991), and read them as first-hand social critiques of the hegemonic dual institutions of patriarchy and caste-system.
Both Bama and Baby Kamble belong to the lowest strata of the indian caste structure. Their inability to find a publisher until quite a few years indicates the inherent discrimination existing in the indian literary circle, that delimits women’s voices to be heard on account of belonging to a sub-human caste. However, it is ironical to find that neither of these texts assume the shape of a ranting feminist manifesto intended to bring an ultra-radical social change. On the contrary the collective marginalization of an entire community by the upper-caste elites, unveils a testimony of extreme endurance and resilience as part of the lived-experience. The question that the author wishes to raise is: how does the use of the plural ‘we’ instead of the singular ‘I’ that these women-writers employ in their language, render the texts to be read as ‘testimonios of Resistance’ (John Beverley) instead of simple feminist autobiographies?

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For the Friday abstracts, please click here.

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