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Call for Submissions (Book Chapter): Posthuman Pathogenesis

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Event Date: 2020-10-05 Abstract Due: 2020-05-18

CFP – Posthuman Pathogenesis: Virus, Disease, and Epidemiology in Literature, Film, and Media

Editors: Basak Agin & Safak Horzum


Since the Age of Enlightenment, which glorified reason and empirical observation as the nexus for human knowledge, and the Industrial Revolution, which brought about robust technological changes, science and scientific thinking have been increasingly placed above everything else. But from a humanities perspective, fiction has always moved one step ahead of science, dreaming of the impossible first. Science-fiction and speculative fiction, in both utopian and dystopian forms, are concrete examples of this. From Mary Shelley to Jules Verne, George Orwell, Frank Herbert, Isaac Asimov, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Margaret Atwood, many authors explored what the future holds for the world in their narratives of the ‘back-then’ unimaginable. Following a similar path to the literary examples, film industry and new media genres such as music videos, computer and mobile games, and advertisements have come to shape our imagination and paved the way for the future technologies, at least before they came true.

Germs, bacterial and viral infections, and subsequent pandemics are no exception to the meeting point of science, technology, and fiction. They are, to adopt and evolve Donna Haraway’s metaphor of the cyborg, a blend of myth and social reality. Bending the boundaries between life and death, they are the powerholders in Achilles Mbembe’s “necropolitics,” calling to mind Jacques Derrida’s words in his exploration of the animal question: “The dead-alive viruses, undecidably between life and death, between animal and vegetal, that come back from everywhere to haunt and obsess my writing” (“The Animal that Therefore I am” 406). Be they viral or otherwise, contagious diseases, therefore, constitute a problematic area of literary- and cultural-studies scholarships because they pose unpredictable challenges. Pandemics in our known medical literature, the most notorious of which include Black Death, Cholera Attack, and Spanish Flu, have often created havocs: They led to medical, social, and psychological discussions during and after their charge, yielding both negative and positive results, such as stigmatization, ostracization, delirium as well as fraternities and social bonding over the concerns of disease. One cannot help remembering, for instance, the violating impact of HIV on the homosexual communities in the 1980s and how this later gave birth to support groups. In other words, disease has always been a meddler of systems, triggering a drive to survival, and chaotic, liberating, and captivating impulses.

Literature of disease, especially science-fiction or speculative fiction – in both written and visual forms, has long focused on such viral interpolations in socio-political and environmental systems, creating both conspiracy scenarios and alternative realities whose truthfulness is only bound to the historical unfolding of the real-life examples. In the face of the current COVID-19 outbreak, we are – again – all full of doubts and questions. The answers are hidden only in time and patience. The seemingly simple symptoms of the disease at its onset, which, in certain cases, are currently reported to be non-existent, make it difficult to detect and prevent dissemination, forcing countries to take strict measures on many levels and damaging various areas of life, such as education, business, tourism, and aviation. As the spread of the zoonotic SARS-CoV2 has affected the entire planet with inconceivable numbers of infected cases and deaths all around the world, many of us, unfortunately, cannot help but wonder whether this is the “season finale” for humankind. How these anxieties over existence will shape the future politics, business, education, healthcare, science, and technology remains a mystery. Even if the global community succeeds in overcoming this macro-scale biothreat, its potential consequences on human psychology, world economies, and international politics are still unknown and incalculable at present.

Despite the bleak picture at hand, the current situation has once again proven the fact that the world, with all its beings and things, is an entangled mesh. True, the lack of unionized protocols brings about different measures in different geographical settings. And separatory attempts of administrations are required to slow down the pandemic. But one must notice that all the posthuman bodies of this planet are unified and act, ‘only by sitting at home,’ as a whole. ‘The COVID-19 going viral’ has made our lives even more digitalized, set us apart in social distancing, and yet brought us together for one goal: survival. It has made us understand one more time that, in Karen Barad’s words, every living being and inorganic thing on this planet is “a part of that nature that we seek to understand” (Meeting the Universe Halfway 26; italics in the original). This is a posthuman world and from viruses to non-organic bodies, from geological agents to complex organisms, we are one. Therefore, with the hope of being able to imagine a better future for our world, we call out to scholars from environmental humanities, posthumanities, digital humanities, medical humanities as well as those who work in the fields of literary and cultural studies, biotechnologies, and medical sciences. This edited volume invites you to send interdisciplinary proposals on how literature, film, and/or media has so far dealt with the issue of contagious diseases, with a focus on one or more of the following issues:

Theoretical and Contextual Discussions apropos Literature and Media

  • Historicity of Contagious Diseases
  • Contagious Diseases and Digital Education
  • Posthuman Ecologies of Contagious Diseases
  • Bioethics in Contagious Diseases
  • Contagious Diseases in Environmental Humanities
  • Social, Environmental, Political, Cultural, Economic Impacts of Contagious Diseases
  • Social Media and Contagious Diseases
  • Psychology during and after Contagious Diseases
  • Contagious Diseases in Medical Humanities
  • Contagious Diseases and Techno-Science
  • Contagious Diseases and Disabilities
  • Contagious Diseases and Ecophobia
  • Contagious Diseases and Materiality
  • Contagious Diseases and Monstrosity
  • Contagious Diseases and Animality
  • Contagious Diseases and Thingness
  • Contagious Diseases and Food
  • Contagious Diseases and Humor
  • Posthuman Isolation and Life/Death
  • Contagious Diseases and Posthuman Art

Contagious Diseases in Literature and Media (from the Antiquity to the Contemporary)

  • Posthumanist Approaches to Contagious Diseases in Literature
  • Posthumanist Approaches to Contagious Diseases in Film
  • Posthumanist Approaches to Contagious Diseases in Media
  • Contagious Diseases in Games, Advertisements, Music Videos, and Memes
  • Pandemics and Epidemics in Literature, Film and Media
  • Viral Illnesses in Literature, Film and Media
  • Bacterial Illnesses in Literature, Film and Media
  • Causal Inference in Literature, Film and Media
  • Epidemiology in Literature, Film and Media
  • Molecular Pathological Epidemiology in Literature, Film and Media
  • Molecular Pathology in Literature, Film and Media
  • Pathology in Literature, Film and Media
  • Pathophysiology in Literature, Film and Media
  • Salutogenesis in Literature, Film and Media
  • Blood Pathology in Literature, Film and Media

Please submit your proposals of maximum 500 words and a one-page biography to bashak@gmail.com and shafakhorzum@gmail.com until May 18, 2020. Full papers of accepted abstracts (6000-8000 words, including bibliography and footnotes) will be expected by October 5, 2020. 


Basak Agin and Safak Horzum (see the CFP below)