The graduate students of the Department of German, Scandinavian and Dutch at the University of Minnesota are pleased to announce the graduate student conference, entitled “Impostors, Impersonation and Passing,” which will
take place on March 26 and 27, 2010.
In our everyday social interactions, the authenticity of those around us as well as the truth of our own self-representation seem to call for simultaneous (and strategic) faith and distrust. Our world is shaped by our
ability to negotiate between trust and disbelief in our judgment of available information. How is our understanding impacted by the ability - and tendency - of humans to pretend to be something we are not? How does the threat of the impostor influence relationships with ourselves and
others? Impersonation has long inspired fear, irritation and fascination as well as opportunism: we loathe the impostor revealed as such, but fitting in can require similar behavior. Today, the term “impostor” is still just as polysemic as described by Proust and Freud in the first half of the 20th century or by Zafer Senocak in the latter half, but it is surrounded by a host of perhaps less threatening terms for "other," more necessary ways of pretending. What motivates pretending,and what moves it along the spectrum from impersonation to passing to authentic transformation? How do we mediate the conflicting reactions to impostors, and how do we understand and represent their inner conflict? At this conference, we will take an interdisciplinary approach to impersonation and passing, drawing on diverse
perspectives and source material including literature, history, art, and theater, in order to explore the ways in which people have engaged with the figure of the impostor, the act of impersonation, and the necessity of
We welcome papers on the theme of impersonation and passing from both within and beyond the field of Germanic Studies.
Possible approaches include but are not limited to:
-Identity, modernism and the impostor
-The role of the impostor/impersonations in the modern, post-modern and/or globalizing world
-Emotion and imposture: fear, shame, self-loathing; bravado, greed, lust
-Religion and imposture: deadly sins, heavenly virtues and the motivations to impersonate
-The audience of imposture, the audience of passing: who should be fooled?
-Self-deception, self-loathing, self-preservation: Imposture and passing as defense mechanisms
-the transgender transition - spectrum of gender representation - how "convincing" the gendered performance is - how androgyny plays the impostor role
-Motivations and intent: entertainment, fraud, self-preservation, self-actualization
-Dimensions and sites of impersonation: appearance, speech and register as places of articulation
-Transparent, translucent, opaque: shifting layers of disguise and defense
-Trends and patterns of the impostor and the importance of ones perception thereof
-Approaches to modern and post-modern subjectivity as pertaining to the impostor
-The porous borders that define the trope of the impostor, impersonation and the act of passing
Please send a 250-word Abstract to Peter Mersch (firstname.lastname@example.org) by
TUESDAY DECEMBER 15TH.
Peter L Mersch
University of Minnesota
Department of German Scandinavia and Dutch
209 Folwell Hall
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