Suicidal Remains and Resistance 2017 : Special Edited Collection: Suicidal Remains and Resistance
Call For Papers
Judith Butler’s Notes Toward a Performative Theory of Assembly (2015) might best be illustrated as a treatise on the political, social, and ethical stakes—drawing from moral philosophy’s elementary question ‘how best to live?’—of the conditions of livable life. Butler writes, “it may be that the question of how to live a good life depends upon having the power to lead a life as well as the sense of having a life, or indeed, the sense of being alive” (212). In a similar vein, evoking Achille Mbembe’s deployment of the necropolitical, the chasms between rich and poor, human and non-human, citizen and non-citizen, the sovereign, “define[s] who matters and who does not, who is disposable and who is not” (27). And, as it were, the lines between life and death reveal the myriad ways in which the living, the dead, and the living dead are blurred. Suicide, the topic of this special edited collection, brings into a single space an assemblage of precarious conditions that confound the social, political, economical, ecological, historical, cultural, aesthetical, and pathological devastations inflicted upon human and, invariably, non-human experience. In response to the incredible flourishing of critical interdisciplinary studies—an interface for politics, biopower, necropower, and social justice—continued philosophical and theoretical discussions metamorphosize epistemic boundaries and confines in terms of ‘what is life?’ and ‘what is death?’.
Building upon and deepening these insights, this edited collection traces suicide both as a critical concept and material social phenomenon, questioning what it is precisely that such a critical concept conjures, embodies, and entangles, undoing its linguistic, historical, ontological, and epistemological presumptions. The revolutionary psychiatrist and philosopher, Frantz Fanon, in effort to address the perpetual opposition to the black other and in the pursuit of something outside of human life, stresses “a world of reciprocal recognitions” in Black Skin, White Masks (1952, 2008, 193). By emphasizing ontology and the existential status of being (non)human, Fanon bestows the gift of suicidal remains in an extended footnote on attitudes toward death, particularly when he cites Richard Wright’s white character claiming, “If I were a Negro I’d commit suicide,” juxtaposed to everyday talk imparting that the Black man does not “commit” suicide. Drawing on feminist and literary theorist, Gayatri Spivak, suicide, Spivak opines, does not belong to and is not of the “third-world.” Suicide, then, is fabricated, assembled, and instituted by the West. In The History of Sexuality Volume I (1978, 1990), Michel Foucault sketches, although briefly, the relation between life, death, power, and more specifically, suicide. Rather acutely, he writes:
"It is not surprising that suicide—once a crime—since it was a way to usurp the power of death which the sovereign alone, whether the one here below or the Lord above, had the right to exercise—became, in the course of the nineteenth century, one of the first conducts to enter into the sphere of sociological analysis; it testified to the individual and private right to die, at the borders and in the interstices of power that was exercised over life. This determination to die, strange and yet so persistent and constant in its manifestations, and consequently so difficult to explain as being due to particular circumstances or individual accidents, was one of the first astonishments of a society in which political power had assigned itself the task of administering life." (138-139)
Tracing Foucault’s suicidal remains, then, recognizing the sovereign’s right of death and power over life as the background deployed in the historiographical operation of sexuality, we can press the relation between sexuality, gender, and suicide. Does suicide eschew biopolitical and necropolitical power of death? What is the role of agency and subject formation when suicide is positioned as a critical concept? What historical underpinnings conceal new theories, thinking, and ways of being in the world when suicide is interrogated, complicated, and unraveled from questions centering “private” and “public” death? When is suicide “private,” and for whom? When is suicide “public,” and how does this public death become spectacularized and pathologized? Under what conditions is suicide publicly grievable? When does the governance of suicide preclude private/public occasions of mourning?
With Walter Benjamin’s “Theses on the Philosophy of History” (1940), analyses of suicide ought to ignite and establish how histories of loss, death, suicide, and, illuminating Agamben’s “whatever singularity,” corrode the logic of sovereignty. Benjamin’s “historical materialism” as a means to creativity, animating and reanimating, constituting and reconstituting, strains the relation between the past and the present, and incessantly, the living, the dead, and the living dead. Speculative of historicism, historical materialism draws near mourning, desiring to bring critical perspectives to the history of the present. In the case of suicide, the editors take seriously, with a nod toward Jacques Derrida, the work of mourning, acknowledging its hauntological absence, and indeed, the ghostly figure of suicide and its temporal uncanniness. That is, the editors seek submissions that work against the historiographical operation of suicide under pathological, criminal, and eschatological discourses, and instead, heed the call to impute generative suicidal remains of mourning, resistance, the political, and social ontology--falling toward the question, “What remains?”
This edited collection reanimates, enlivens, and affronts the myriad ways in which suicide complicates everyday understandings of the concept as such, shedding light upon uncharted, unforeseen, and buried philosophies and narratives. The editors encourage submissions that take psychological, psychoanalytical, sociological, and empirical studies of suicide to task. We are especially interested in submissions from social and political philosophy, critical disability studies, transgender studies, queer studies/theory, and critical prison studies that engage suicide in relation to biopolitics, necropolitics, environmental studies and philosophy, moral philosophy and ethics, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, citizenship, class, (inter)national occupations, and other social constructivist modes of difference.
By centering suicide, these are the kinds of questions suicide as a critical concept and social phenomenon engenders and evokes, though, not limited to the following:
• What new kinds of epistemological, political, ontological, and aesthetical frameworks emerge from suicide as a critical concept in the broader purview(s) of critical theory, social theory, politics, cultural studies, and philosophy?
• What role does the logic of suicide maintain in discourses of race, gender, sexuality, nationality, disability, ethnicity, and class? How does the application of suicide as a critical concept alter or reconfigure these discourses? How does suicide change across boundaries of race, ethnicity, class, and gender?
• Given the ways in which disabled people experience high rates of social disenfranchisement, what is the relation between necropolitics, disability, and suicide (i.e. assisted suicide)? How can critical disabilities studies perspectives further interrogate the social phenomenon of suicide in ways that have been unacknowledged and under-theorized?
• In what ways do we see suicide strategically used as a rhetorical device against Black livability? More specifically, how is suicide used rhetorically in the erasure of Black lives, and indeed, disruptions of Black mourning? In fact, how can we interrogate suicide--ethically, politically, and socially--questioning the ways in which the nation-state deploys “suicide” as a tool of erasure, racialized violence, and epistemic governance? What role does the prison-industrial-complex have in this rhetorical erasure? We are particularly thinking of Sandra Bland, though, we recognize this was not an isolated case. #SayHerName
• Turning away from the psychological and sociological skeptical discussions on nonhuman suicide, dating back to the early and mid-nineteenth century, and, instead, centering the environment and the nonhuman, through what purviews can we see nonhuman suicide? How can we, and should we, best think about, discuss, and recognize nonhuman suicide? Should we anthropomorphize nonhuman suicide? Is it our responsibility to recognize a scorpion stinging itself; a whale beaching itself; dogs jumping off of Overtoun Bridge in Scotland; elephants standing on their own trunks, suffocating themselves to end Phajaan in Thailand; exploding ants and honeybees sacrificing themselves; etc. as suicide? What is nonhuman suicide?
• How does the “imperative” of preventing suicide relate to the biopolitical subjugation of marginalized bodies? Who are these efforts for and who is left out? Who controls suicide prevention hotlines and nonprofits? How does ensuring an economically viable workforce relate to suicide prevention?
• With Foucault on the horizon of thought, in what ways do we continue to see the criminalization of suicide, especially at the “dirty hands” of mainstream media? Here, we aim to remember MarShawn M. McCarrell II and media coverage of his death, wherein the language of “commits” suicide comports us toward the historicity of suicide. Further, this complicates power’s biopolitical control of who dies, when they die, and how they ought to die. Instead, we raise the question: how can we come to critically reinterpret, destabilize, reconfigure, and decriminalize suicide?
• Given the problematic of suicide, biopolitics, necropolitics, and institutional power, then, what are the ways in which we ought to theorize suicide anew beyond its psychological, sociological, and medical confines? Drawing from recent media (mainstream and other platforms such as social media) how has suicide been a pathologizing caricature of what it means to be queer and transgender? How are queer and transgender communities depicted through the critical concept of suicide? And, importantly, how ought queer and transgender communities be seen?
• Within media, the spectre of the suicide contagion - the notion that more people will commit suicide when an individual’s suicide is reported on - posits suicide as a topic that must be concealed and privatized. How does this situate death as, Foucault describes, “the most private thing of all” (248)? How is the withholding of public discourse on suicide limiting critical analysis of the topic itself?
• In light of recent events deemed as “suicide-by-cop,” we question what it means to die “privately” juxtaposed to what it means to die “publicly.” Recalling Kayden Clarke, Robert Dentmond, and Daniel Perez, what does it mean to dial 911, placing a “suicidal call,” when police violence and murder supersedes? What is the relationship between suicide and national policing practices, including the nation-state’s militarized and medical authority? What is the relation between Transgender, Black, and Latinx gun violence imposed by the state? And importantly, how does this relation untether the being of suicide and philosophies of life?
• What trajectories or new modes of thought reveal themselves? As we orientate toward these new trajectories/modes, how do we begin to trace the impact on social justice, grassroots organizing, and scholastic solidarity?
And/or that engage the following topics:
Suicide; Necropolitics; Biopolitics; Livability and Grievability; Suicide-By-Cop; Suicide Bomber; Critical Prison Studies; Prison-Industrial-Complex; Critical Disability Studies; Human and Non-Human Suicide; The Environment and Suicide; Transgender Studies; Queer Studies/Theory; Social and Political Philosophy; Phenomenology; Antigone; Greek Tragedy; Suicide & the Literary; Mourning, Loss, Melancholia; Objects and Ruins; Space, Place, and Time; Aesthetics; Agency and Subject Formation; Black Lives Matter; Transgender Life & Death; Critical Theory; Kinship; Indigeneity; Postcolonial Theory and Decolonial Studies; Feminist Theory; Legal Theory; Medicine & Social (In)Justice; Pathologization and Depathologization; Criminalization; and Religion, Theology, Eschatology.
Please send chapter proposals (abstracts) of up to 300 words and CV to Sage Perdue (firstname.lastname@example.org), Bianca Negrete Coba (email@example.com) and Eli Erlick (firstname.lastname@example.org) by August 1, 2017.
300-word chapter proposal due Tuesday, August 1, 2017
Acceptance of proposal determined by Friday, September 1, 2017
Chapter draft (8,000 – 10,000 words) due Friday, December 15th, 2017 (tentative based on publisher)