NIHIL OBSTAT: Reading and Circulation of Texts After Censorship
NYU Global Studies Center, Prague: 17-19 October 2019
Literary scholars, sociologists, and historians have long explored the processes and ideology of censorship as well as the histories of the censors themselves. Pre-publication censorship practices and the institutions of church and state that foster them have dominated the field of study. Fewer efforts have taken texts after the fact of censorship or have detailed their further intellectual, cultural, and social trajectories. But as Deleuze wrote in Negotiations (1995),”Repressive forces don’t stop people expressing themselves, but rather force them to express themselves.” While censorship takes various forms, many of them violent, it has tended toward failure, and historically the experience of censorship amongst groups as disparate as 17th century Puritans and 20th century Lithuanian poets is often deeply instructive in the means of subversion, publication, and dissemination. Censorship has informed collecting practices, as with Thomas James, who used the Catholic Index Librorum Prohibitorum to dictate the acquisitions policy of the Bodleian library from the late 16th century onward. Censorship creates new relationships between people and places because it is enforced differently from country to country, even from building to building; for example, in 1984 when the police raided Gay’s the Word bookshop in London to confiscate “obscene” imported books by Oscar Wilde, Tennessee Williams, Kate Millet, and Jean-Paul Sartre, the same titles remained available for loan at Senate House Library a few streets away, and UK publishers continued to publish the same authors unpunished. In the spirit of these examples, this conference seeks to foster an interdisciplinary conversation broaching a larger number of underexplored issues that begin only after the moment of censorship—the excess of argument, collaboration, revision, and in many cases, creative thinking, that are given shape by the experience of suppression.
We are pleased to announce that Hannah Marcus (History of Science, Harvard University) and Gisèle Sapiro (Sociology, Centre national de la recherche scientifique / École des hautes études en sciences sociales) will deliver respective keynote addresses each evening of the conference
This conference aims to be as broad as possible in its geographical, historical, and disciplinary range. The organizers welcome applications from anthropologists, bibliographers, classics scholars, comparative literature scholars, gender studies scholars, historians, philosophers, sociologists, and those within allied fields, including library and information sciences and the publishing industry. The working language of the conference will be English, but participants are naturally encouraged to present research completed in any language(s). The goal of the conference will be to publish the proceedings in a collective volume.
Applications should consist of a title, three-hundred word proposal, and one-page CV, due on May 31, 2019. Accommodations will be available for participants and some funds may be possible for travel assistance within continental Europe.
Possible topics include:
– The reception history of expurgated, bowderlized, and censored texts
– The social history of reading censored and samizdat editions
– The impact of ‘market censorship’ on the rise of small, independent or clandestine publishing establishments.
– Religious communities formed around mutual practices of censorship
– The history of translation vis-à-vis censored texts
– Publishing within colonized spaces
– Canonical texts’ reception vis-à-vis censored editions
– Strategies for circumventing censorship, i.e. scribal publication and xerography
– Scientific and medical pedagogical traditions employing censored texts
– Teaching censored texts: period pedagogy and teaching practices today
– The contingencies of space and geography in censorship practices and the international circulation of censored texts
– ‘Asymmetric’ publication or the coordination of censored and uncensored editions
– The changing status of texts from uncensored to censors, and the inconsistent enforcement of banned items
– Textual histories of self-censored texts and later full republication
– Reversing censorship
– Bibliographical challenges in book description
– Publishing, marketing, and openly advertising censored texts
– Hermeneutic and exegetical concerns facing censored or expurgated texts
– Classical scholarship built upon expurgated texts and embedded polemical citations