Call for submissions to special issue of Women's Studies Quarterly: Engage! Scholarly articles, poetry, fiction, nonfiction, art, on themes of engagement.
The declarative verb “engage” occupies cross-purposes. “To engage” spans innumerable social and cultural arenas: business, politics, sex, and other activities in which we engage. The word means, in some senses, to begin, to attract, to hire: she engaged me in conversation; the driver engaged the clutch. In other senses, the word indicates an invitation, a promise, a binding occupation: one engages by hiring, by engaging in a business, or in politics; one is betrothed to a beloved in the act of engagement. An engagement is entangling, drawing together participants in a cooperating unit (a workplace, a relationship, a contractual agreement) even as that entangling may be one of violent division: troops may engage in battle. Yet: engagement is more than co- presence, it is relational: at work or in love, one can simply go through the motions or one can engage with a vigor that is both actively corporeal and soulfully internalized. To engage encompasses processes of both setting in motion and sustaining a commitment, both to splice and to confront. To disengage, even, is to begin again in relation to some other being or entity; that is, to re-engage.
We are interested in the dynamic of all forms of engagement, and seek to explore its valence in explorations of the various kinds of engagements that gather individuals into pairings, partnerships, or groups, with particular attention given to the gendered stakes and sexual aspects involved in engagement. We are moved by discussions informed by feminist and queer theory that regard how one engages (explicitly or implicitly) in social alliances and political work. Consider for example, “The Tyranny of Structurelessness” by Jo Freeman (1972), “The Personal Is Political” by Carol Hanisch (1969), the anonymous manifesto “Queers Read This/I Hate Straights” (1990); Lauren Berlant and Michael Warner’s engagements of sexuality in the public sphere in “Sex in Public” (1998); Michael Worton’s theoretical engagement of erotic practices in “Cruising (Through) Encounters” (1998); and the engaging interrogation of pedagogy in “Teaching Shame” by Ellis Hanson (2009).
Such an inquiry—at once etymological, theoretical, and practical—is necessarily broad-based. But it allows us to ask: What does it mean to begin, to broach, to breach a public, political, or
cultural sphere? How do the dynamics of academic disciplines, relational, social, and political engagements inform one another? How are our relationships to work, play, ideas, institutions, identities, bodies (our own and others’), defined by the degree to which we engage, through indifference, resistance, denial, hostility, advocacy, identification, fandom, or action? What deconstructive possibilities does the imperative—to engage—invite given its generous applications in contemporary culture?
We invite scholarly submissions—as well as poetry, prose, and visual essays—that approach engagement or the imperative, “to engage,” from a variety of methodological perspectives. Suggested topics to engage include, but are not limited to:
o The erotics of being engaged by technology: engaging avatars, engaging with machines; gendered gadgetry and digital fetishes;
o Engagement marketing: identity politics of evangelistic branding campaigns; the tactility of word-of-mouth branding;
o Academic engagements: feminist and queer pedagogy and interdisciplinarity; practices of engagement in sociology, anthropology and other disciplines;
o Getting engaged: marriage, monogamy, polyamoury, flirtation, seduction; trans-, genderqueer and refusing to engage gender binaries; public sex, sex work; coupling, uncoupling;
o Gendered practices in partisan polemics, flip-flopping, direct action, occupation, military engagement, civil disobedience, joining, supporting, standing by.
Cynthia Chris & David Gerstner
Department of Media Culture
College of Staten Island/CUNY
2800 Victory Blvd., 1P-226
Staten Island, NY 10314
(718) 982 2541 phone
(718) 982 2710 fax
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