Call For Papers: AAA 2013 Chicago (November 20-24)
Exploring the Boundaries of the Ethnography of Reading: Locating readability at the intersections of text, object and performance
In the introduction to “The Ethnography of Reading,” Jonathan Boyarin argues that a critical exploration of reading departs from “dissolving the stereotype of the isolated, individual reader” (Boyarin 1992). Boyarin, for example, demonstrates how performances and actions around the text (the traditional ‘objects’ of literacy) are as, if not more, important in literacy encounters as literate engagements with the objects themselves. Far from a private, inward experience of text “decipherment,” the foregrounding of performance demonstrates the ways in which reading mediates social relationships across space, and facilitates contact between actors inhabiting different temporal-worlds—whether of “the ancestors”, or a future community. If the ethnography of reading has demonstrated the extent to which reading is highly unbounded, scholars working on the history of the book (Chartier 1992, Johns 1998), in a related critical vein, have challenged the boundaries of the text-object, arguing instead for the co-constititutive relationships between reading practices, networks of production and consumption, and the material organization of text-artifacts. This panel builds on these critical insights by asking how the situated practices of performance--like those foregrounded in the ethnography of reading--participate in the production of text artifacts themselves. Hence reading may be seen not only as performance, as Boyarin notes, “around the text,” but may endow objects with ‘readability’--their potential to be implicated in socially organized encounters with a text. In light of the complex interplay between text, object and performance, how might we understand the boundaries of “reading?” Does reading always imply the actualization of an already constituted text-artifact, or rather, do practices of reading, in fact, endow a text with its interactive potentiality? Who or what participates in these interactions we call reading? How, in and through situated performance, do participants locate themselves in time and space with reference to text-artifacts? What might a performance centered approach tell us, these papers will ask, about the social processes, institutional dynamics, and political stakes implicated within practices of reading?
Departing from the insight that a critical approach to reading challenges its boundaries, this panel seeks to explore and traverse borders, both analytical and ethnographic in nature. On the one hand, we seek to expand the work of the ethnography of reading and histories of the book to locate reading at the complex intersection between networks of performance, objects, and textuality. On the other, we want to explore how practices of reading create socially situated boundaries, while also allowing people to cross diverse spatio-temporal realms. We welcome papers from any region of the world.
Please send an abstract of approximately 250 words including your name, institutional affiliation, and contact details to Joshua Friedman (email@example.com), Nishaant Choksi (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Nadia Loan (email@example.com) by Monday April 8th 2011 to be considered. Deadline for panel submission is April 15th 2013.
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