Book History Beyond the Book in Asia, Africa and the Middle East
Call for papers
The last two decades have seen groundbreaking contributions to the field of book history in East and South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East that have sought to take into account the complex materiality and multilingualism of cultural production in these regions. However, teleological narratives persist about cultural forms and technologies, and their relationship to modernity, with the printed book and modern printing technologies still privileged as representing modernity par excellence. “Book History beyond the Book” invites doctoral researchers to take stock of recent interventions and seeks to provide a forum for dialogue between researchers working across languages and regions, and studying diverse media from manuscripts and performance to e-books and microblogs. We call upon participants to investigate the relationships between producers, intermediaries and audiences in the broad contexts of multilingualism and of commercial, patronage-based, and other economies of cultural production and consumption, exploring overlaps between moments. For instance, how do we account for the persistence of older modes of manuscript or book production into the 20th century, an aspect of cultural history often neglected by the privilege afforded to the modern printed book? Similarly, what are the spaces that magazines inhabit in the age of commercial publishing? How do we establish methodologies for studying archives and constituting new ones?
Papers are invited for, although not limited to, the following themes:
1. Re-establishing links: Reading the materiality of cross-cultural, cross-media, cross-genre archives.
2. Performance and sound as text and context: Approaching book history in a way that takes into account orality and sound alongside palpable cultural forms.
3. Small-scale publishing: In what ways can we speak of “publishing” in the context of small-scale production, such as in the case of manuscripts? How do small presses and little magazines flourish?
4. The limits of documentary archives: How does one read fragments when researching the production and reception of diverse cultural products such as manuscripts, magazines, chapbooks, pamphlets and newspapers?
5. Methods of comparing: How can one tackle the unevenness of “data” such as publication figures that are available for different but coexisting cultural products?
6. Commercial vis-à-vis the Literary: How can we join the dots between established approaches to literary criticism and the study of the economic and material aspects of cultural production? What implications does this have on the study of canon formation?
7. Travelling archives: How do we read documents of bureaucracy as gateways into investigating not only governmentality but also as codes of secrecy?
8. Publishing without paper: How can we read forms like digital books, e-publishing and mobile publishing, not only in context of a world without paper but in terms of new copyright laws, royalties?
9. Digital readers: What alternative modes of reading has e-literature/digital literature engendered, and what diasporic networks of writers and readers does it bring together?
10. Histories of un-reading: How can the book be studied as a material object of consumption that is sometimes completely divorced from its textual contents, and not necessary read at all?
11. Bookshops and what went before: Approaching the history of the book from the story of bookselling, and the dynamics of production for private and public consumption, how do we understand a/the commercial market for manuscripts? What was the interplay between commercial publishing and older forms of patronage?
12. The colonial book: What are the dangers of internalising colonial concepts of what a book is when utilising catalogues and archives?
13. Censorship and the market: How do state censorship and highly commercialized publishing industry play against each other?
Paper proposals should include a title and a 300-word abstract. In addition, a short bio of 100 words with institutional affiliation and contact information is also required. Please submit proposals via email at the following address: email@example.com by 31 March 2016.
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