Anti-Conference Conference: Undermining the Reproduction of Privilege
Due: 20 June 2017


A transdisciplinary biannual graduate conference organized by the German section
of German and Romance Languages and Literatures Department of Johns Hopkins University December 1st and 2nd 2017 – Baltimore, MD

This conference addresses the shapes resistance takes within and without institutions, in literature, and examines the ways in which the academy participates in the perpetuation of privilege both within its own domain and outside it. We are interested in how all aspects of work carried out in relation to the institutions and their canons, literary or otherwise, can be complicit in and/or subvert the reproduction of injustice. Hence the conference will attend to the modes of such reproduction but also endeavor to subvert them.

Thus, we invite everyone from all walks of academic and activist life and anyone else interested to submit papers or projects that speak to these themes. Utopian, queer, feminist, postcolonial, indigenous and revolutionary visions of un-doing, resisting and transforming institutional/ university/canonical structures, as well as scholarly analysis of these problems in literature are welcome.

For our part, we will endeavor to organize the conference in ways that undermine the ivory tower by inviting also those normally silent in universities to speak in round tables, and to provide travel support, particularly to those not funded by institutions. In place of networking cultures that promote the few for an ever-waning job market, we hope to facilitate collaboration, co-operation and solidarity.

Possible topics include but are not limited to:

-Histories, presents, and futures of resistance and activism within and on the margins of universities and how they are narrated in any and all genres from film to poetry, literature, criticism, theory, etc.

-Personal and professional relations in and outside the classroom among students, graduate and undergraduate, professors, administrators, workers, adjuncts, etc. (love, dependence, crush, competition, struggle, theft, cooperation, unlearning, discrimination and so on).

-Literary resistance to canonical texts, genres and traditions inside and outside these categories.

-Feminist, queer, anti-racist readings of the literary canons.

-Trends of uniformization in the academy through publishing and the tailoring of academic work to the job market.

-The illusion of academic mastery, standards of knowledge production and visions of more just places of learning: utopian and revolutionary fantasies, real dreams.

-Feminist, queer, postcolonial, indigenous and other minoritized studies methodologies and knowledges.

-In order to welcome formats that deviate from the traditional academic muster, we encourage other approaches (fictional-or-not) such as epistolary texts, creative and/or poetic projects, participatory/interactive presentations based on audience involvement, etc.

Here is a suggestion for/from a Germanistic and comparativist epistolary route:

Letters across Time/Space

“No poem is intended for the reader, no picture for the beholder, no symphony for the audience.” With this sentence, Benjamin ends the first paragraph of “The Task of the Translator.” And letters? This conference presents a slightly different fictional format. Taking the cue from Benjamin’s Deutsche Menschen, we ask the participants to briefly introduce a letter (any letter written related to a German-speaking tradition, or not) they pick from epistolary or other sources and respond to it in the form of another letter they write either from the standpoint of today or any other time, with their own or anyone else’s ‘I’. The format is only as rigid as required to offer a free play space. The aim? To listen, to read.

Co-authored works are welcome.

Some possible letters (‘fictional’ or ‘real’) include but are not limited to:
Any letter from an epistolary, such as Marx/Engels, the Schlegel brothers, Schiller/Goethe, Abelard & Heloise; Goethe’s Werther or Hölderlin’s Hyperion; the poem “An den Ritter aus Gold” by Else Lasker-Schüler addressed to Hans Ehrenbaum-Degele; Campana’s letter to Prezzolini, January 6th, 1914; the ‘train letter’ of Hannah Arendt to Martin Heidegger from September 1930; letters from political or ‘criminal’ prisoners; letters sent during migration times, past immigrations, current emigrations; letters of resistance fighters (any sort); any letter from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; Walser’s imaginary letters; Nina Simone’s “Pirate Jenny” (Brecht/Weill); Samuel Morse’s telegram on May 24th, 1844; Gershom Scholem’s open letter to Hans Joachim Schoeps, published on August 15th, 1932; any of St. Paul’s letters in the New Testament; David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” “Rebel Rebel,” Virginia Woolf’s last letter to Leonard; Kafka’s letters; any of Derrida’s cards in the Postcard; Van Gogh’s letters to his brother Theo; Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time; Arthur Rimbaud’s ‘letter of the visionary’ to Paul Démeny, May 15th, 1871; Ovid’s Heroides; any letter from the epistolary between Ophelia Queuroz and Fernando Pessoa or Scheerbart’s 70 Schmoll- und Liebesbriefe des Dichters an seine Frau; letters from Rilke, Kleist, Gramsci, Kant, Rousseau, Freud, Shklovsky…

Please email your 300-500 word abstracts by June 20th to

We look forward to your abstracts and hope to communicate acceptance by August 2017.