Endangered bodies: Representing and Policing the Body in Western Culture – Comparatistas – english version

Endangered bodies: Representing and Policing the Body in Western Culture

Dates: 8-9 October, 2018
Deadline for submission of proposals: 31 July, 2018
Venue: School of Arts and Humanities, University of Lisbon


The notion of ‘endangered bodies’, or bodies in danger, arises from our concern with current western political and socio-economic tendencies and practices against the discriminated or disenfranchised Other, whose body is physically, materially and symbolically subjected to internal pressures towards normalization and homogenization. The vulnerability or differential power of the Other’s body becomes, in this sense, subject to social control and / or commodification. The different pressures and actions taken against these bodies are filtered and manipulated through popular culture, in ways that do not always provide accurate representations of the social / political / material issues they raise, many times exacerbating them in insidious forms of policing.
In this conference, we invite you to consider, explore, and critique policing approaches to the body as a gendered, sexual, racial, class-specific and / or political site. Efforts by branches of intersectional feminisms are important examples of current attempts to provide a respite for marginalized populations to reclaim a voice against the intrinsically patriarchal, colonial, capitalist and neo-liberal control of the physical and social body (denied whether due to gender identity, biological sex, ethnic background, migrant status, poverty and / or class issues, etc.). The endangered body of these subjects, groups and communities, is routinely repressed and subject to erasure, simultaneously presented as a threat to the system and threatened by it.
We aim to promote an interdisciplinary debate over different types of representations of bodies in popular culture, in a national / transnational and comparative perspective. In a western context, multiple events (varied in terms of social and ideological meanings and dynamics) have been accompanied by nationalist rhetoric and discourses of fear, which have again gained visibility and momentum. These events are often complex and entail multiple responses and critical counteractions; their repetition in the media’s echo chamber reflects varying degrees of bias which are, in turn, amplified by popular reactions. The election / administration of Donald Trump in the USA and the ensuing backlash in the form of public protests (e.g. the Women’s March); the political assassination of human rights activist Marielle Franco (known for her vocal criticism of the violent actions of the military police in Brazil) and the subsequent worldwide demonstrations of solidarity towards her cause; the global reach of the #MeToo Movement that provided visibility to the pervasive ubiquity of harassment and sexual assault; the movements demanding visibility for the expression of sexualities of functional diverse people (e.g. the Yes We Fuck! documentary); or the recent persecution of the LGBTQI+ community in Chechnya, may be considered recent examples of these ricochet effects that continue to affect the ways in which bodies are regulated and controlled.
Among the many consequences of the aforementioned events, the call to a return to the safety of the home-land – paradoxically concomitant to the ever increasing awareness of globalization –, has been particularly felt, and, as a result, the regulation of the (physical) body, understood as a site of inscription of political, juridical, economic
and cultural identities, has become one of the main concerns / topics in political agendas worldwide. Old forms of control rooted in patriarchy, western-centrism, colonial, neocolonial or imperial ideologies are still operative–such as the use of physiology and geography as markers whereupon constructs of People and Nation are built that, in turn, validate political/economical exploitation of non-european countries. However, these forms of control seem to be incompatible with a globalization process which does not seem to have an outside limit that allows the dichotomy “us/them” to effectively remain functional. Nevertheless, the increased awareness of these thresholds and strains also enabled the political and economic powers to seek new forms of control, especially new
technological and communicational means – the very same ones that allowed the process to take off in the first place.

Alongside old strategies and structures of disciplinarization of the body, there are now new tools to shape the body, to threaten it in order to control it by providing “protection”: among such tools, we can find the rhetoric of “health”, the spectacle of violence, the aestheticization and commodification of bodies (including so-called exotic bodies) which go hand in hand with new discourses of fear and desire that, through the acentered and deterritorialized space-time created by the new media, have a boundless reach that trespasses national, racial, gendered, age and class boundaries, creating new dynamics and power relationships. The regulatory practices and policies that have arisen in the last years must therefore be set against this backdrop of an intensifying global crisis and widespread insecurity.

Western media and popular culture play a crucial part in disseminating representations of a large specter of identities, aided by an escalating consumption and development of technology (smartphones, tablets, etc.). Movies, television series, video games, music videos, among others, have a considerable impact in the social construction of mindsets regarding social markers like gender, class, sexuality, and ethnicity (especially among teenagers). Whether explicit or implied, both positive as well as negative/misguided representations continue to affect the progress towards the acceptance and integration of diverse identities into social, political, and economic spheres, urging us to re-conceptualize the endangered body.

We welcome proposals that problematize and reflect on visual and/or verbal representations of the estranged body in western popular culture.
The proposals should be framed by (but not limited to), the following subjects:

  • Representing female, male, and non-binary bodies in pop culture
  • Policing sexuality and the body
  • Western politics, class, ethnicity and the body
  • Framing the body within neo-liberal / neo-nationalist narratives
  • Representing gender in video games / music videos
  • Gendered representations and misrepresentations in media / advertising / marketing
  • Women and military / women and wars
  • Body Terrorism
  • LGBTQI+ activism and artistic expressions within popular culture
  • The body on the screen / screening bodies
  • Gender representations in literature / literary genres
  • The photographic body and the body photographed
  • The body as cyborg in contemporary Sci-fi narratives
  • Cybernetic social justice movements
  • Gender in the private and public sphere
  • Increased visibility: the representation of non-binary gender fluidity
  • Women’s social / political movements in popular culture (hashtags, women’s marches, etc.)
  • Pharmacopornographic capitalism and the reproductive / social control through the regulation of bodies
  • The challenges of representing men: debunking hypermasculinities
  • Debating new waves of feminisms

The conference will take place at the School of Arts and Humanities, University of Lisbon (Portugal), on the 8th and 9th of October, 2018, (Anf. III).
We accept proposals for a 20 minute presentation. The main working language will be English, however, proposals in Portuguese will also be accepted. There will be no simultaneous translation.
Proposals should include the communication’s title, proponent’s name, institutional affiliation, contact details, abstract (up to 300 words) and a brief bio (up to 150 words).
Please submit your proposal until: 31st July 2018
Send your proposals to: endangeredbodies@letras.ulisboa.pt
Notification of accepted or refused proposals will be sent by: 15th August 2018.

Registration fees

Fee €50
Early bird (by 15th August) €40
Students (ID required) €40
Students early bird (by 15th August) €30
Attendants without presentation who wish to have a certificate of attendance €15

The registration fee includes: coffee breaks, certificate of attendance and conference materials.

Details about payment will be provided via email.

Organizing committee
Ana Romão
Eva Dinis
Igor Furão

Scientific committee
Susana Araújo
Manuela Carvalho
Cristina Martínez Tejero

This work is financed by national funds through the FCT - Foundation for Science and Technology, I.P., within the scope of the project UIDB/00509/2020 and UIDP/00509/2020.