Thursday, October 3, 2013


“Interventions: Private Voices and Public Spaces”
2-3 May 2014      Faculty of Humanities – University of Coimbra (Portugal)

Dalia Kandiyoti (City University of New York) & Manuel Portela (University of Coimbra)
CLOSING CEREMONY: Maria Irene Ramalho (U.Coimbra / University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Following on from the 2012 graduate conference, “Discourses That Matter,” in this second edition we continue to examine how English and American Studies as academic fields matter in the current state of affairs. However, we will be taking our previous theme one step further by introducing the issue of space and extending our inquiry into matters of subjectivity, privacy, and surveillance. Both the free access to digital information and the post-9/11 security politics have brought to the fore pressing questions of legitimacy that demand a reconfiguration of the public/private dichotomy. This question is actually not new, bearing in mind feminist critics’ powerful argument that the private has always been political, which made access to public space a condition to full citizenship. The dangers entailed in the world of network technologies, the recent WikiLeaks scandals, the revelation of a domestic spying program in the U.S., and suspicions of its existence in other countries, have made us realize the fragility of the balance between personal privacy and public authority, and how easily instances of surveillance sideslip into instances of ‘surviolence.’ On the other hand, the denunciation of private instances of violence or oppression through their exposure in the public space (documentaries, photojournalism, photography, social media), the mobilization of citizens across space through social networks, the invasion and occupation of public space by protesting citizens, migratory movements from postcolonial to postcapitalist spaces (and the entailed disruption of assigned social space), artists turning private bodies into public spaces or occupying public spaces for their artistic interventions, are some of the many instances that complicate our perception of the right to privacy, the limits of public policing, and the creative possibilities around the issue of space.
How can we contribute to a timely and necessary reflection on the reconfiguration of the public/private dichotomy, and how can English and American Studies intervene in this debate? How have literary and cultural studies approached these subjects? Where do we draw the line between public and private nowadays? What spaces are not public? What voices are still private? Is there such a thing as the privacy of public spaces? Is it always negative when private spaces become public? Is it desirable that public spaces are appropriated by private causes? What is the role of social media in our thinking of private/public spaces? What impact do these matters have on the body? And how can interventions be considered as acts of performativity?
As interdisciplinary academic fields concerned with entities bearing a common imperial legacy, English and American Studies hold a privileged position for understanding today’s world. From this vantage point, we will try and find how interventions in public and private spaces take place and shape our realities.
We invite proposals in the Humanities and Social Sciences from graduate students and early career scholars for 20-minute presentations; papers should address one or several of the following areas:
- English and American Literatures                            - Comparative Literatures and Cultures
- Ethnicity and National Identities                              - Postcolonial Studies
- Visual Studies                                                         - Media, Communication and Cybercultures
- Cultural Studies                                                      - Gender and Queer Studies
- Discourse Analysis                                                   - Performativity Studies

Students who are beginning to pursue their MA or PhD degrees are also welcome to participate in a roundtable, where research projects can be briefly introduced and discussed (max. 10 minutes). Our aim is to provide an informal setting based on cross-institutional collaboration, so as to enable dialogues about current research projects and future working life.
Abstracts for presentations should be limited to 300 words, and be accompanied by the author’s name, e-mail address, institutional affiliation, and subject area according to the list above. Students wishing to participate in roundtables should send a summary (100 words) of the topic they wish to discuss, along with the author’s name, e-mail address, and institutional affiliation.
Paper proposals and roundtable summaries should be sent to our e-mail address at Only one submission per participant per category will be considered.

The conference will be held in English.

January 20, 2014: Deadline for submission (a confirmation e-mail will be sent).
February 3, 2014: Notifications regarding paper proposals.
April 6, 2014: Deadline for regular registration.

For more information, please visit: