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Disembodied Communications: Vulnerable Identities and Caring Connections in Literary Texts

York University
Organization: English Graduate Student Association
Categories: Digital Humanities, Graduate Conference, Comparative, Interdisciplinary, Genre & Form, Popular Culture, Gender & Sexuality, Literary Theory, Rhetoric & Composition, Women's Studies, Adventure & Travel Writing, Children's Literature, Comics & Graphic Novels, Drama, Narratology, Poetry, Aesthetics, Anthropology/Sociology, Classical Studies, Cultural Studies, Environmental Studies, Film, TV, & Media, Food Studies, History, Philosophy, Science
Event Date: 2023-05-12 Abstract Due: 2023-02-03

"Disembodied Communications: Vulnerable Identities and Caring Connections in Literary Texts" 

York University English Graduate Student Association 2023 Conference
deadline for submissions: 
February 3, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
York University
contact email: 


Call for Papers:
“Disembodied Communications: Vulnerable Identities and Caring Connections in Literary Texts”
York EGSA Conference 2023 - May 12th, 2023

Deadline: February 3rd, 2023, 11:59 pm EST

Disembodiment is widespread in literature. In literary texts around the world, identities may lack physical forms, formerly embodied beings may abandon their bodies, body parts may be lost, disease or technology may invade the body, and organic property may transcend to a nonmaterial world. While being embodied may imply tangibility, visibility, familiarity and security, being disembodied can aptly imply other sides to these discussions: incorporeality, covertness, and vulnerability. More than this, (dis)embodied beings may lose grasp of or be made to feel like strangers in their own bodies, without autonomy or agency. Such feelings may result from oppression due to gender notions, racism, speciesism, ageism, classism, ableism, and various cultures of violence. The “dis” in “disembodiment” hints at the ways in which disparate physical forms and frames of mind can exist simultaneously. Concerns regarding feelings of (dis)embodiment can also call into question vulnerable identities. This conference seeks presentations that explore this interrelation between (dis)embodied communications and vulnerable identities, and what a presence or lack of care can suggest about these connections.  Nel Noddings argues that caring connections would be “interested in maintaining and enhancing caring relations—attending to those we encounter, listening to their expressed needs, and responding positively if possible” (13). When considering how exposure to such physical/mental disembodiments affect one's sense of self and one's voice, a humane response would evaluate how we can form caring connections with the vulnerable.

Some questions that this conference aims to address are as follows:

How do practices in disembodied communications contribute to feelings of vulnerability?
How can we consider feelings of and treatment towards autonomy, agency, and subjectivity of vulnerable, (dis)embodied beings?
How are such feelings addressed in literary texts?
How do literary texts demonstrate care toward the vulnerable?
How does a lack of care elicit feelings of compassion, action, and solidarity?

Various disciplines and practices have inscribed disembodiment and literary texts with particular interpretations, such as mind-body dualism; when each perspective is considered in isolation, such interpretations can be limited and imbalanced. Disembodied communications are manifested and easily interpreted in many fields of inquiry. Acknowledging these multiple interactions between (dis)embodiment and narrative,  this conference invites papers in any genre, period, or geographical space. Furthermore, (dis)embodiment presents itself in a diverse range of mediums. As such, a literary text, for the purpose of this conference, takes shape in many different forms: novels, graphic novels, short stories, poetry, film/television, nonfiction, theoretical works, memoirs and life writing, journalism, digital narratives, and other multimedia works.

Topics in literary texts that may be addressed include, but are not limited to, the following:
Discussions of human/nonhuman language in relation to (dis)embodiment
Discussions of race, gender, age, sexuality, disability, class, and/or species and how they create meaning regarding disembodiment and vulnerability
Virtual/digital communications, spaces, and realities
Prioritization of body language and other nonverbal communications
Posthuman/transhuman bodies
Transgenics, bodily modifications, and de-extinction
Narratives of absence, and how such marginalization can lead to (dis)embodiment
Ghost stories/narratives of hauntings
Communications within sonic communities
Dystopian control, apocalyptic oppression, and survivalism
Object-oriented approaches to disembodiment
Environmental narratives and rhizomatic communities
Representations of reproduction and children
Representations of cyborg/AI communications
Representations and discourses of monstrosity
Representations of pandemic-era narratives
Representations of “out-of-body” experiences
Representations of gaslighting and abuse in relation to feelings of (dis)embodiment
Representations of sensory and aesthetic (dis)embodiment

This conference is presented by the York University English Graduate Student Association. It will be in person, with a social event planned to take place following the conference, circumstances permitting.

This conference welcomes submissions not only from graduate students in English Literature but other related disciplines. Accordingly, our conference emphasizes inclusivity and respectful dialogue.

Abstracts between 200 - 350 words should be sent to yorkegsacolloquium2023@gmail.com by 11:59 pm EST on Friday, February 3rd, 2023. Please include a 50 - 100 word biographical note.

Visit http://twitter.com/EGSAconference to stay up to date with details of the conference.