Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Call for Participation: "Hearing the Inarticulate: Ethics and Epistemology in the Archives”

The Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics at DePauw University has issued the following call for participation:
“Hearing the Inarticulate: Ethics and Epistemology in the Archives,” Seminar and Writing Retreat, Prindle Institute for Ethics at DePauw University, June 20-29, 2016

In the late 1970s, Lawrence Levine’s landmark book Black Culture and Black Consciousness modeled new ways of understanding “people who, though quite articulate in their own lifetimes, have been rendered historically inarticulate by scholars who have devoted their attention to other groups and other problems.” In the four decades since then, abundant and energetic scholarly work in that spirit—social history, the expansion of literary and other canons, ethnographies of the underprivileged—has generated a wealth of new knowledge and insight. But the essential problem Levine identified has not gone away. For all that we have learned about ordinary people, we still know more about “the educated, the intelligentsia, the elite.” Those who long were, and often still are, “rendered . . . inarticulate”—people who are poor, illiterate, disabled, or otherwise socially marginalized—remain less well understood, both as historical actors and as citizens of the contemporary world. As Beth Schweiger has written recently, “What ordinary people were thinking about remains generally beyond the bounds of intellectual history.”

A key reason is methodological: studying the “inarticulate” is usually more difficult, laborious, and time-consuming than studying the articulate. As James C. Scott notes, “historically, the goal of peasants and subaltern classes has been to stay out of the archives.” For academics who themselves constitute a social elite, writing about ordinary or marginalized people also involves challenges of research and interpretation that are ethical as well as methodological. How do we derive meaning from obscure, incomplete, and fragmentary evidence of “what ordinary people were thinking”? How can we responsibly give voice to people, often very unlike ourselves, who were or are silenced? How do we know if we are restoring the voices of marginalized people on their own terms or reinventing them for our own ends?

In June 2016, DePauw University’s Prindle Institute for Ethics will host a seminar and writing retreat devoted to such questions. The Institute aims to bring together an intimate group of scholars in a variety of disciplines and using a variety of frameworks—which might include (but are not limited to) childhood, class, disability, gender, immigration, incarceration, literacy, and race—who see their work contributing to the larger project of hearing the inarticulate.

Participants will spend ten days in residence at DePauw, dividing their time between workshops devoted to each other’s works in progress and—taking advantage of the Prindle Institute’s spacious and secluded setting—long blocks of uninterrupted writing. Ideally, participants will not only receive extensive feedback from their fellows but also draft substantial portions of essays or book chapters. Those selected to participate will receive travel, lodging, and most of their meals during the retreat, as well as a $500 stipend to cover incidental expenses.

Hearing the Inarticulate will be directed by Christopher Hager, the current Nancy Schaenen Visiting Scholar at the Prindle Institute. Hager is Associate Professor of English at Trinity College, Connecticut, and the author of Word by Word: Emancipation and the Act of Writing, which won the 2014 Frederick Douglass Prize. Seminar faculty will also include Grey Gundaker, the Duane A. and Virginia S. Dittman Professor of American Studies and Anthropology at the College of William and Mary, and Andy Cullison, Phyllis W. Nicholas Director of the Prindle Institute and Associate Professor of Philosophy at DePauw.

To apply, send a two-page CV and a statement of purpose (no more than 1500 words) to prindleinstitute@depauw.edu by March 1, 2016. The statement should describe both your larger scholarly agenda as well as the specific project, or portion of a project, you intend to work on during the retreat. Graduate students who have advanced to the dissertation stage are eligible to apply. Direct questions to christopherhager@depauw.edu.
Hat tip: Rabia Belt