Call for Conference Papers
Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures
THE PAIN OF WORDS:
Narratives of Suffering in Slavic Cultures
May 9-11, 2008
Recent studies of emotions have pointed to a particular role of pain in shaping identities and narratives. Regardless of their disciplinary affiliations, scholars seem to agree that verbal expressions of pain first of all draw attention to the suffering individual instead of describing the actual experience of pain. Narratives of suffering provide the individual with a powerful symbolic presence. They create emotionally charged communities. Such narratives also lay the foundation for larger social, political or moral claims.
This link between pain, representation, and subjectivity is well documented in Slavic cultures, where vivid depictions of suffering saturate popular and elite cultures alike. As the young Mayakovski put it, "I am with pain, everywhere." However, this conference wants to move beyond the documenting of omnipresence of pain in Slavic cultures. Instead, we want to explore how social, linguistic, aesthetic, moral, gender, etc. conventions determine specific contents of pain in different historical periods and different geographical locations. What are the symbolic contexts in which experiences of pain are recognized? To what extent do available cultural practices constrain or encourage certain narrative versions of pain? What gets lost in the process of translating traumatic experience into narratives of suffering? How is the phenomenon of pain used to galvanize individual and group identities, to justify social values, to motivate artistic projects or, in some cases, to undermine (or generate) political movements? In short, what are those discourses through which Slavic cultures acquire and express their concepts of pain?
We seek to address these problems by bringing together an interdisciplinary and international group of people interested in exploring the value of pain in such diverse fields as history, literature, film, music, performing arts, everyday life, religion, ideology, politics, law, psychology, and history of medicine. We invite papers to reflect upon the diverse vocabulary of expressions of pain that have been constructed across Slavic space and time. We are also interested in comparative studies that could place Slavic narratives of suffering in larger cultural, historical, or geographical contexts.
We especially encourage submissions that approach concrete textual or ethnographic materials in a theoretically informed way, without reiterating the alleged masochistic fascination of Slavic cultures with pain and suffering.
Please send your abstract (300 words) and CV to by February 1, 2008.
We might be able to offer a limited number of travel subsidies for several foreign presenters.
Finalists will be contacted in the middle of February, 2008.
Serguei Oushakine (Princeton), Devin Fore (Princeton), Petre Petrov (Princeton), Alexander Etkind (Cambridge/Princeton), Nancy Ries (Institute for Advanced Study).
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