CFP: Shadows of Cruelty

Posted on January 21, 2008


Theme Issue for Angelaki: journal of theoretical humanities
Edited by:Frida Beckman – The University of Uppsala
Charlie Blake – Liverpool Hope University
Proposed publication date: April 2009

This collection intends to address recent and contemporary reconfigurations of Sadism and Masochismin philosophical, literary and image-based expressions of identity. How can theoretical approaches to Sadismand Masochism assist our understanding of technologiesof self and other today? What are the philosophical,political and creative implications of these‘perversions’ in contemporary discourse, culture and media?In the second thesis of Dialectic of Enlightenment, Adorno and Horkheimer famously argue that the illumination and liberation signalled by the Kantian enlightenment will inevitably decay into the inhumangeometry of the Sadeian enlightenment. This is a realm in which any conventional notion of the “good” is either utterly corrupted or divorced from all rational ends and replaced by the exponentially conceived pursuit of pleasure, pain and depravity.

While there are certainly innumerable recent instances that wouldseem to indicate that this may indeed be the case inthe institutional and political arena, (as, forexample, the distinctly Sadean tableau of the human pyramids of Abu Ghraib), in the private and cultural arenas, the configurations of power and desire that make up human identity are more complex and ambivalent in their response to the violence of rationality. This is an ambivalence that characterizes the Sadean and Masochean spectrum, from individual proclivities and the subcultures of BDSM that have formed around them,on the one hand, to its broader expression and interrogation in art, film and fiction, on the other; an ambivalence whose consequences are further accentuated when viewed through and against the capacity of digital media systems and networks to infinitely duplicate and transform images and identities through repetition.From this observation, and following Gilles Deleuze’s distinction in Coldness and Cruelty between the Sadean obsession with cruelty as institutionalized possession and the Masochean deployment of cruelty as a contracted alliance, it becomes possible to revisitand reassess both the politics and the cultural obsession with violence, cruelty and sexuality inrecent and contemporary philosophy, literary fictions, art and film, as a spectrum of possibilities rather than as a logic of imposition.

Abstracts are, therefore, invited that will explore these themes in philosophy, politics, literature, art and film. Although some papers will inevitably traverse these thematic domains, the editorial design will delineate three main sections, dealing respectively, though in no way exclusively, with“Humiliating Reason: Philosophy & Perversity”, “TheCorrupted Text”, and “The Depraved Image”. We areparticularly interested in submissions that consider the implications of the discourses of Sadism/Masochismfor the contemporary theory and practice of self.

Abstracts should be submitted in electronic format byFebruary 29, 2008, to the editors:Frida Beckman and Charlie Blake. The editors will respond to abstracts within a month.

If accepted, completed papers should be with the issueeditors no later than September 7, 2008. Length:5000–10,000 words. Papers will then be circulated to external referees and depending on their feedback, papers will be amended or accepted by the deadline of December 1, 2008. Queries on this special issue may be addressed to the issue editors. Work accepted for development in this special issue must conform to theModern Language Association Handbook for Writers of Research Papers ( Manuscripts should be original in content and not published, and not under consideration for publication elsewhere. Manuscripts are not returned.

Angelaki: journal of the theoretical humanities