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Love, Sex, Desire and the (Post)Colonial, University of London, 28–29 October 2011‏

For the most part, postcolonial studies, quite understandably, has
privileged the political. Historical and economic processes, forms of
identification (race and, to lesser extent, gender) and categories of
difference have been refracted through this particular lens. The
affective, however, has received scant critical attention. Love, sex
and desire are usually allegorized, often standing in as sites of
political conflict. This mode of analysis was initiated by the critic
who has most carefully attended to the dynamics of desire within
colonial contact zones, Frantz Fanon. By contesting the universality
of the psychoanalytic paradigm, his analysis of forms of colonial
alienation is invariably circumscribed by the political. Alienation,
desire, neuroses and psychosis are nothing other than indices of
socio-political processes. Many postcolonial critics have followed his
lead (e.g. Anne McClintock, Homi Bhabha, Robert Young, etc.).
However, there is an alternative tradition, such as represented in
queer and feminist studies as well as recent work on `affective
communities' and performativity. Notably, Chicana, Asian, and Black
feminists, queer theorists, and creative writers, such as Gloria
Anzaldúa, Trinh T. Minh-ha, Hanif Kureishi, Mahesh Dattani, Audre
Lorde, Reinaldo Arenas and Thomas Glave, have called attention to the
power of the erotic, queer desire, and love. Specifically, these
postcolonial authors and critics engage with forms of the affective
that incorporate, exceed, threaten or destabilize the political.
Special issues of WSQ on "The Global and the Intimate" (2006) and GLQ:
A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies on "Thinking Sexuality
Transnationally" (1999) transgress a narrowly political perspective.
Queer Diasporas (2000) explores the mobility of sexuality. Leela
Gandhi's Affective Communities (2006), Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's
Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity (2002), and Sara
Ahmed's work on affect explore new directions for love, sexuality and
desire. This conference builds on such approaches and goes beyond the
dominant analytical approach in postcolonial studies, which continues
to place emphasis on love, sex and desire as a subset of the
The affective brings into play questions of sexuality and desire.
Given the brutality, legal and extra-legal, directed against
homosexuals in the postcolonial world, the issue of homosexuality
needs urgent attention. Within postcolonial nationalist discourses,
the figure of the homosexual, male or female, is often degraded and
aligned with Western perversion in such a way as to secure the moral
authority of the postcolonial state. At the same time, the queer often
embodies alternatives to hegemonic and/or oppressive articulations of
imagined communities and subjectivity. We are interested in papers
which offer interventions to prevailing social and political
discourses. These may include explorations of non-heteronormative
forms of sexual expression within colonial and postcolonial contexts,
discourses of desire, debates around the intersections between
nationalist and rights-based discourses, the trope of the homosexual
within literary texts, queer perspectives, reflections on alternative
forms of citizenship, the dissident tradition, etc.
In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, ideological and religious
polarization has been disturbingly charged with explicit overtones of
sexuality and desire. The troubling photographs of Abu Ghraib, the
purported sexual and social oppression of Muslim women and girls, the
projection of sexual desire onto political extremism, all testify to
an older orientalism, which has been reconfigured, once again, to
justify the West's hegemonic ambitions.
In this fraught polarized world, various theories (by Jacques Derrida,
Anthony Appiah, Pheng Cheah, etc.) around the filiative, ethical
responsibility to others the post-postmodern turn to reconstructed
universals (such as love and beauty), and cosmopolitan commitment are
particularly resonant. Love, friendship and ethics have become renewed
sites of an engagement with the other. Ethics, in recent postcolonial
studies, has come to represent a means of going beyond the political,
for better or for worse. In the putative absence of alternative
political visions, philosophy, it seems, trumps politics.
This interdisciplinary conference is the first of its kind to bring
together into productive confrontation issues of love, sex, desire and
the postcolonial. It aims to promote collaborative work between
academics, activists, and the non-profit community. We invite panel
proposals or single presentations from a range of disciplines
(including but not restricted to anthropology, legal theory, history,
sociology, geography, literary studies, cultural studies, media
studies, drama, political science, development studies) on any topic
pertaining to the above concerns. We particularly welcome participants
from Africa, the Caribbean and Asia.
This conference is co-hosted by Royal Holloway, University of London
and the Brunel Centre for Contemporary Writing at Brunel University as
well as the Brunel Interdisciplinary Network on Gender and Sexuality,
West London.
Please send single abstracts of 250-300 words or panel proposals of no
more than 1000 words as well as brief biographies to the co-convenors,
Mark Mathuray, Lucienne Loh, and Wendy Knepper by 30 June, 2011. The
time-limit for each paper is approx. 20 minutes.
Please email your proposals to Denise Odell at . We hope to respond by 31 July 2011. For
more details, visit the Institute of English Studies, University of
London at