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Glamour in Theory and Performance

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Organizer: Julia Jarcho

Co-Organizer: Shonni Enelow

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For this year’s conference, we propose a seminar focused on the thing that drew many of us to the study of expressive forms to begin with: GLAMOUR. As total crisis accelerates, many of our disciplines and institutional cultures have gravitated towards questions of care, pedagogy, and other reparative forms of holding-it-together. To ask for a brief intellectual respite from this program of concern might seem unhelpful, and we are determined not to decide in advance how a focus on glamour might in the end be, if not helpful, at least clarifying. But we hope that a focus on what is insistently frivolous might yield some surprising proposals about how to think, read, perform, write, and/or live now. Accordingly, we invite papers considering the ways glamour may be functioning in particular works of theory and performance, and/or in other cultural texts.

Adjacent to but distinct from the social politics of  “fabulousness,” glamour is etymologically linked to “grammar” by a common concept of study, specifically denoting the cultivation of unnatural or supernatural knowledges: formulas, we might say, for the wrong results. Rather than jump to celebrating glamour’s restorative powers, we are particularly interested in the possibility of glamour as a discipline (or as a kernel of/within the disciplines of theory, textual study, and performance) that might resist instrumentality, even as the arts and humanities are continually pressed into service of various kinds (affective, social, political). One of our questions, therefore, is: how might the cultivation of, and/or the commitment to, glamour function as a practice of refusing to care and how might this refusal constitute a utopian demand constituted through resolute negativity?

We look forward, however, to hearing and discussing a variety of different arguments about what glamour is and does across a range of textual, theoretical, and performative objects and scenes. Further questions for discussion might include:

What’s the relationship between glamour and aesthetics? Between glamour and ethics? Between glamour and politics?
Is the word “glamour” untranslatable?  Or do terms in other languages capture the field of glamour?
What happens when once-glamorous objects seem so no more?  Or when a glamorous object returns, glamorous again, as an anachronistic shock?
Is there glamour outside the logic of the commodity?  

Having convened two prior working groups on psychoanalytic themes, we seek with this proposal to broaden our conversation beyond a strictly psychoanalytic discourse, and invite various engagements with glamour, which might draw on (e.g.) performance studies, queer of color critique, celebrity studies, media studies, histories of popular entertainment, fashion studies, decadence, and formalism, to name only a few possibilities.

Co-organized by Shonni Enelow (Fordham), Martin Harries (UC Irvine), & Julia Jarcho (Brown).


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