Captivity and Culpability: The Disciplining Subject in the Literary and Cultural Imagination

14 December 2012, 10:00 - 15 December 2012 18:00

Speakers:
Please see programme (above)Keynote address: Bob Brecher (University of Brighton)
Organised by:
Human Rights Consortium
Event Type:
Conference / Symposium
Venue:
The Senate Room (Senate House, First Floor)
Venue Details:

Senate House
Malet Street
London WC1E 7HU 

Download a map of the central precinct with directions for getting to the University of London Senate House.

Description

Poster

To register and pay for this event, please click here.

Registration fee: £60.00 (standard) / £40.00 (students/retired/unwaged) (please note this fee covers lunch and refreshments for both days)

Societies often have ambiguous and even conflicting attitudes towards state institutions that fulfil normalising, reformatory, punitive or disciplinary functions. This unease is frequently represented in an ambivalence or a hostility not only towards those disciplined or incarcerated but also, and perhaps paradoxically, towards the agents of those institutions, e.g. state incarcerators, the police, interrogators, soldiers, counterterrorist agents, or staff in mental hospitals. These figures tend to be conceptualised and represented in simplistic and often reductively negative terms. This demonisation reflects an unease towards institutions that are understood to be at once socially and politically necessary and saturated with threatening potential.

Connected to this is a complex social attitude towards state violence. At the same time as societies sanction it, figures such as executioners, torturers, and concentration camp guards are frequently despised. For this reason, while severe state violence is sometimes deemed to have situational or conditional necessity, expedience, or legitimacy, it often must also seek to conceal or disguise its own extreme nature as violence. Much as those perpetrating acts of state-sanctioned violence are disavowed, the violence itself is also surrounded by an apparent uncomfortable double standard.

This conference aims to interrogate literary, filmic, popular cultural and artistic representations of the agents of those institutions, specifically in terms of guilt and culpability. Why, for example, can we observe a tendency to hold at a cautious distance the disciplining subject whilst accepting (or even celebrating) the institutions they represent as socially and politically necessary? Why, when the actions of such agents become extreme, transgressive or criminal, is there a tendency to pathologise such actions in terms of individual perversity – as the actions of ‘bad apples’ – and thereby transfer culpability from the institution to the individual subject, rather than explaining such actions in systemic, structural or institutional terms?

Provisional Programme

To register and pay for this event, please click here.

This conference is a joint initiative of the Institute of English Studies and Human Rights Consortium, School of Advanced Study, in collaboration with the University of Newcastle, University of Paderborn and University of Bielefeld

Related Events

SPOTLIGHT ON...

Refugee Law Initiative: leading and promoting research in international refugee law

VISIT RLI