Calls for Papers

ASAP/Journal Forum on

"Becoming Undisciplined"

Editors: Heather Houser,, Stephanie LeMenager,

Abstracts due September 15, 2020

Call for Contributions

We must become undisciplined. —Christina Sharpe

It is brave indeed to wander across disciplines looking for that . . . undisciplined third space where one can think strange thoughts and even make mistakes. —Susan Squier
In my view, a somewhat 'feral approach' to disciplinarity naturally changes the identity of what might be the proper archives for one's scholarship. —Mel Chen

Introducing three books published in the 2010s, these statements mark our current intellectual and activist moment as one of being—or, becoming—undisciplined. If "interdisciplinarity" was the buzzword of the prior two decades, the undisciplined inspires scholarly and creative positions in our current moment of hegemonic collapse and cultural transition. This Forum for ASAP/Journal calls on contributors to draw the contours of this shift to the undisciplined and to reflect on how it influences the work of scholars, creators, and activists. How does the "undisciplined" shape how you read, sense, create, collaborate, ask questions, make kin, produce thought, and impact the world?

Becoming undisciplined is a next step in the evolution of fields, genres, and methods such as Black studies, "auto-theory," science and technology studies, environmental humanities, and new media studies, among others. We find evidence of becoming undisciplined in multispecies studies, media arts projects, bioart, participatory public engagement, and scholarly writing that integrates personal narrative. These avenues for thought and creativity have raised questions about whether existing institutions, disciplinary frameworks, and academic genres remain relevant to addressing the dilemmas of our times, whether they are racial, cultural, environmental, epidemiological, and/or political. This Forum aims to spark conversation about how scholarly, creative, and activist projects defy disciplinary methods while generating knowledge and envisioning artistic and social change. 

Contributors are invited to challenge, reflect on, and/or expand on this central animating question:    

  • What does becoming (or being) undisciplined mean to you? 
  • Supplemental questions include: 
  • How do you understand institutions, methods, and genres in light of becoming undisciplined? That is, how do you make space within, outside of, or alongside existing institutions, methods, and genres? 
  • What collaborations across disciplines, communities, species, and/or media are particularly generative for you? 

ASAP/Journal Forum contributions are 600-1200 words or equivalent. You're invited to present your ideas through non-expository means; i.e., contributions may take the form of essays, case studies, multimedia, or personal narratives. Co-created pieces are welcome. 150- to 200-word abstract due to  by September 15, 2020.
The tentative timeline: Responses to submissions in October 2020. Submissions from those selected due in February 2021. Expected publication date of Fall 2021 or Winter 2022. Note that Forum contributions will not go through blind peer review; the guest and journal editors will curate and edit pieces. 

ASAP/Journal Special Issue

New Inscriptions: Writing in the Expanded Field

Special Issue Editors: Paul Benzon, Skidmore College and Rita Raley, UC Santa Barbara

Essay Submission Deadline: Essay deadline: February 1, 2021

A wordless novel written entirely in an invented set of pictograms. Multiple copies of a book left to decompose in different biogeoclimatic zones. Words of a story cut into snow and photographed before they melt. Poems composed of arrows, brackets, and flow charts. An archive of literary works that waits unpublished for a century. Redacted documents that tell the secret history of empire and terror through blackness and blankness. Liquid chemicals floating on the surface of the ocean. Inscription is everywhere, all around us—and increasingly recognized as such. What new forms does it take in the contemporary moment? What materialities, surfaces, and spatial-cultural sites does it occupy most urgently, and to what end? How might it be thought historically, in relation to technological transformations in writing and language processing? What, in short, is at stake in the expansion of the concept, category, and field of inscription? 

For this special issue of ASAP/Journal, we seek contributions on contemporary practices, texts, archives, and theories that might collectively begin to imagine the study of new modes of inscription as both a field and a potential methodology. Collectively, these contributions will sketch the shifting parameters and possibilities of the ‘new inscriptions’ and consider how artists and writers in different linguistic, socio-cultural, and political contexts have begun to reconceive of inscription, and to what ends. If the expanded field of inscription, to use Rosalind Krauss’ language, can be read as symptomatic, what can it tell us about both our current historical moment and our thinking about form? How do different inscriptional practices engage both dominant and marginalized writing systems, and how might we articulate questions of power, history, and representation through a focus on inscription?

As inscription operates more widely in a more literal sense, we might ask as well what a deeper attention to new sites and practices of inscription could tell us about domains such as environment and ecology. What might an analysis of inscription as a ‘cutting into’ make legible when the surface is ground rather than clay tablet? Is there a geology of inscription? What happens when we disentangle inscription as a practice from writing as a medium—what other media might it illuminate, and what types of knowledge about medium, infrastructure, and substrate would a media-specific analysis of inscription produce? How might inscription as concept and practice contribute to conversations about durability, repair, preservation, and archiving?

If, on the other hand, we think of inscription as multi-sited, or even abstracted from concrete ground or field, what questions might we pose about the relations between a particular mark or utterance and larger systems, whether the global or planetary? In what sense could inscriptions open up a space for continued rethinking of the categories of “world literature,” “global language,” or “global art”—and how might it serve to constellate the relations among those categories? How might inscription now be thought in relation to prior moments of imagining global languages, media, and informational architectures? Could it be understood in terms of trans-cultural, trans-lingual movement, or aesthetic style and, if so, what type of alliances, or which family resemblances, would it make legible? What might a multi-sited notion of inscription tell us about shared affects, tastes, and sensibilities? What, further, can we learn from the circulation of inscriptions, whether through documentation, liking, and sharing, or through mimetic, even memetic, reproduction? What might we learn from engagement with invented or constructed languages? And what difference does it make if the writing subject, the inscriber, is nonhuman?  

For this special issue, ASAP/Journal invites 6,000-8,000 word articles responding to these questions or exploring new theories, practices, and sites of inscription in ways that may include but are not limited to the following:

  • Inscription, environment, and ecology
  • Inscription and/as infrastructure
  • Inscription, ephemerality, and permanence
  • Inscription and embodiment/disembodiment
  • Artists’s books and codex experimentation
  • Experimental and post-digital publishing 
  • Inscription and circulation and/or reception 
  • Inscription as indigenous, anti-colonial, decolonial
  • Inscription as nonhuman, antihuman, posthuman
  • Trans, queer, feminist, and BIPOC practices of inscription
  • Inscription and/as media archaeology
  • Inscription and picture languages
  • Inscription and the digital

Please submit to:

Rita Raley researches and teaches in the English department at the University of California, Santa Barbara.  She is an Associate Editor for the "Media, Film, Digital Arts" section of ASAP/Journal, as well as co-editor of the "Electronic Mediations" book series from the University of Minnesota Press. Her most recent stand-alone editorial project was a collaboration on a special issue of Amodern on the theme of "translation-machination." 

Paul Benzon is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Skidmore 
College.  His work has appeared in PMLA, Narrative, electronic book review, Media-N, and College Literature, and his book Archival Fictions: Materiality, Form, and Media History in Contemporary Literature is forthcoming from University of Massachusetts Press.