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Call for Papers: Art and Violence: on Sense and Sensing


Stanford University Department of Art & Art History, Bay Area Graduate Symposium Call for papers: Art and Violence: on Sense and Sensing

From recent debates in the United States over whether to circulate images of the dead Osama bin Laden to the role of looted objects in the construction of power across cultures, from the deployment of propaganda to justify war to the mobilization of imagery to protest it, this symposium considers the ways in which images, films, works of art, and aesthetic objects have constructed, mediated, and mystified violence over time. How have works of art, both as representations and as objects, contributed to the perpetuation of violence or emerged as responses to violence? In what ways do objects of visual culture either constitute or engage traces of violence? Indeed, how are such traces of “real” violence encoded in monuments, films, and in the many other “artificial” manifestations of visual culture? In what ways have histories of art negotiated, sublimated, or ignored the violence of history itself? Does violence have an inherent aesthetics, a dialectic of appearance and disappearance? Are there ways in which art has served to endow violence with sense, and conversely, in what ways has it challenged it as senseless? How has art presented the “afterimage” of violence? Ultimately, can images or objects function as a form of healing, as a way of “working through” trauma or coming-to-terms with the violence of the past? What relationships exist between actual violence and its representation—what does it mean to “re-present” violence and what might be the dangers of such a project? 

These questions define a starting-point, but in no way set out the limit of the scope of inquiry into the myriad relationships between violence and art. We welcome any and all papers that present an interdisciplinary approach to the problem of violence through the prism of the visual and/or material culture of a given place and time, whether it be imperial China, medieval Russia, the Caribbean in the sixteenth-century or the contemporary West.

The deadline for abstract (maximum 300 words) is August 15th, 2011. Please include your name, affiliation, and the title of the talk. Candidates selected by the symposium committee will be informed by August 31st.

Send the abstract to:

This event is organized and sponsored by the Department of Art & Art History at Stanford University with co-sponsorship from the Stanford Institute for Creativity in the Arts, The Humanities Center, the Department of Comparative Literature, and the Program in Modern Thought & Literature.