Goodbye Henke Hall

Sixteen years ago, the Center for Biographical Research moved to Henke Hall when our previous home, a cottage on the grounds of the East-West Center, was demonished. Last week, Henke Hall suffered the same fate (see video link).

Henke was always about to be taken down, so we came to believe that it would last forever. To our surprise, It did not.

We are now housed in the Biomedical Building, a gigantic, poured concrete building with central air conditioning that probably wouldn’t come down if they tried.

So we’re happy in our new home—photos to come!—but we still bid farewell to the rickety, beaten-up clutch of rooms that made so much of the Center’s work possible.

–Craig Howes, Center for Biographical Research

Biography 40.1 Caste and Life Narratives

Our latest special issue, on Caste and Life Narratives, guest edited by S. Shankar and Charu Gupta, is an unprecedented conversation between life writing, and Dalit Studies and Critical Caste Studies.

This special issue is dedicated to Rohith Vemula, a Dalit PhD scholar who committed suicide in January 2016, and whose suicide letter is reprinted in the introduction to this issue. As Shankar and Gupta write: “how does one not read such a life narrative? Wasnʻt Vemula precisely trying to get us to attend seriously to the issues that brought him to his difficult decision? Not reading seems equally a dishonoring of Vemula’s life, activist spirit, and anquished cry from the heart” (13).

Mahalo nui to all our authors and editors for their dedication to bring this issue to us, and reminding us of the ongoing struggle to care for lives that are seen as unworthy, invisible, less valuable than the rest.

Available online at Project Muse (https://muse.jhu.edu/issue/36728) or hard copies through UH Press: (http://www.uhpress.hawaii.edu/p-8514-biography.aspx?journal=1)

Volume 40, Number 1, Winter 2017
TABLE OF CONTENTS

Editors’ Introduction
“‘My Birth is My Fatal Accident’: Introduction to Caste and Life Narratives,” pp. 1-15
S. Shankar, Charu Gupta

LITERARY LIVES
“Speaking Self, Writing Caste: Recovering the Life of Santram BA,” pp. 16-43
Charu Gupta
“The Dalit Personal Narrative in Hindi: Reflections on a Long Literary Lineage,” pp. 44-63
Tapan Basu
“Tamil Dalit Literature: Aesthetics, Politics, and Life Narratives,” pp. 64-76
Parthasarathi Muthukkaruppan
“Bending Biography: The Creative Intrusions of ‘Real Lives’ in Dalit Fiction,” pp. 77-92
Laura Brueck

LIVES IN VISUAL AND PERFORMANCE CULTURES
“Periyar as a Biopic: Star Persona, Historical Events, and Politics,” pp. 93-115
Swarnavel Eswaran
“Affective Returns: Biopics as Life Narratives,” pp. 116-139
Bindu Menon
“Caste Life Narratives, Visual Representation, And Protected Ignorance,” pp. 140-169
Y. S. Alone
“Mangala Bansode and the Social Life of Tamasha: Caste, Sexuality, and Discrimination in Modern Maharashtra,” pp. 170-198
Shailaja Paik

LAW, SOCIETY, AND NARRATIVES OF THE SELF
“Brahmanical Activism As Eco-Casteism: Reading The Life Narratives Of Bindeshwar Pathak, Sulabh International, And ‘Liberated’ Dalits,” pp. 199-221
Mukul Sharma
“Invisibility of ‘Other’ Dalits and Silence in the Law,” pp. 222-243
Sumit Baudh

OUT OF INDIA
“Stories Of Dalit Diaspora: Migration, Life Narratives, And Caste in the Us,” pp. 244-264
Shweta Majumdar and Anjana Narayan
“Caste in Japan: The Burakumin,” pp. 265-287
June A. Gordon

Select Bibliography, pp. 289-292

Biography at IABA Europe 2017!

We are so excited to announce that all three co-editors of Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly will be presenting at IABA Europe 2017: Life Writing, Europe, and New Media! If you’ll be at the conference, don’t forget to check them out!

And while you’re there, don’t forget to check out this panel for a preview of what’s to come in the next special issue of Biography, which will be on Caste & Life Narrative! One of the guest editors, S. Shankar, will be joined by three of the special issue contributors: Laura Brueck, Swarnavel Eswaran, and Francesca Orsini! Special thanks to J. Nandakumar for allowing us to use his terrific painting both on the cover of and within the special issue!

You can see the full program of the conference here: http://www.kcl.ac.uk/…/ce…/lifewriting/IABA-Europe-2017.aspx

Now accepting applicants for a Graduate Assistantship!

We’re pleased to announce that we’re now accepting applications for a Graduate Assistantship at the Center for Biographical Research!It’s a one-year appointment, to begin Fall 2017, renewable pending availability of funds and satisfactory performance, salary commensurate with degree standing.

Minimum Qualifications

  1. Classified degree-seeking student in the MA or PhD program in a department in the College of Languages, Linguistics & Literature or related field.
  2. Be in good academic standing and maintain a GPA of 3.0 or above.
  3. Demonstrate outstanding writing skills in English.

For the full details, please check out the job listing on the Work @ UH website! The listing closes on JUNE 9, 2017.

Have any questions about the job? Feel free to reach out to Anjoli Roy, Managing Editor of Biography, at biograph[@]hawaii.edu or give her a call at (808) 956-3020.

#BiographyBrownBags now on SoundCloud!

Wish you could make it to our Brown Bags, but don’t live on island/have class at noon on Thursdays/have work at noon on Thursdays/just aren’t able to make it in person? We’re so stoked to share with you our latest initiative to improve your access with us: our three most recent Brown Bag talks will now be available to listen to at your convenience on our SoundCloud page, linked here! Follow us on SoundCloud for live updates, or find links to recent talks here on our Facebook page.

Want to check out an older talk? Message biograph@hawaii.edu the talk details and we’ll send you a link to our archived recordings.

Biography Prize 2017!

We are pleased pleased to announce that the Biography Prize 2017 is now open for nominations! The deadline to submit for this prize is Monday, April 17. The nominated project should focus on or intersect with any aspect of life writing theory, history, or practice in any medium and discipline. PhD and MA students in any graduate program of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa are eligible for this prize. Students can nominate themselves. Please see the attached flyer for nomination details.

The release of 39.4!

We are so excited to announce that Biography 39.4 is officially out on Project MUSE (https://muse.jhu.edu/issue/35886)! This issue inaugurates a new annual feature, the International Year in Review, which replaces our Reviewed Elsewhere section with, as editor John David Zuern says, “a collection of short, site-specific essays by scholars from around the world on the year’s most influential publications in life writing in the countries, regions, and languages in which they specialize.” Read his introduction to the International Year in Review in this issue to learn more! This issue includes:

—Michael A. Chaney’s essay “Digression, Slavery, and Failing to Return in the Narrative of the Sufferings of Lewis Clarke”

—Maureen Moynagh’s essay “Making and Unmaking: Child-Soldier Memoirs and Human Rights Readers”

International Year in Review

—John David Zuern’s introduction to the International Year in Review

Gillian Whitlock‘s “Pictures at an Exhibition: The Year in Australia”

—Wilhelm Hemecker and David Österle’s “Biography in Austria, a Selection: The Year in Austria”

—Sergio Barcellos’s “Public Lives as Personal Assets, the Trial of Biography: The Year in Brazil”

—Alana Bell’s “Truth and Reconciliation in Life Writing: The Year in Canada”

—Chen Shen’s “Nostalgia for Republican China: The Year in China”

—Maarit Leskelä-Kärki’s “Old Traditions and New Experiments: The Year in Finland”

—Moulin Joanny’s “‘Life Writing’ n’est pas français: The Year in France”

—Martina Wagner-Egelhaaf’s “Guntram Vesper’s Frohburg Between Religion and Politics: The Year in Germany”

Zoltán Z. Varga‘s “Seeking Facts and Witnesses in a Post-Factual Age: The Year in Hungary”

—Gunnthorunn Gudmundsdottir’s “Truth and Testimonies: The Year in Iceland”

Heui-Yung Park‘s “I Am No Hero, the Alternative to Being a Role Model: The Year in Korea”

—Hans Renders’ “Biography in the Public Sphere: The Year in the Netherlands”

Claudia Ferreira Faria‘s “Reflections and Insights: The Year in Portugal”

—Ioana Luca’s “Life Writing in Full Bloom: The Year in Romania”

—Tom Overton’s “Movement of Trade and Movement of People: The Year in The UK”

Leigh Gilmore‘s “The Life of the Body in American Autobiography: The Year in the US”

Carl Rollyson‘s “American Biography: The Year in the US”

Sad News for Life Writing: Barbara Harlow has Passed

Please find a message below from CBR director Craig Howes regarding the passing of Barbara Harlow. A more extensive tribute will appear in a future issue of Biography.

“Barbara was a major influence for many in our field. To quote Julia Watson, ‘Resistance Literature (1987) was one of the earliest and most important interventions in autobiographical studies, as it brought to attention testimonies and manifestos of people struggling under oppressive regimes around the world. She did similar work on behalf of incarcerated women in Barred, her book on women’s prison writings. And her numerous co-edited collections on the work of colonial and postcolonial writers around the world engaged in political struggle is an archive of work awaiting further study.’

“Barbara was also a mentor, friend, co-worker, and conscience for many of us at the Center for Biographical Research in Honolulu. She published on a number of occasions in Biography, was a participant in the symposium that led to the “Corporate Personhood” special issue, and was one of the keynotes at our 2008 IABA conference here. We will miss her warmth, and her fire.”

CFP: Political Biographies in Literature and Cinema

Political Biographies in Literature and Cinema

Abstracts due: April 15, 2017

Biographers have a strong impact on our perception of history. They offer narratives of the lives of political leaders that necessarily defend a thesis of one sort or another, whether they pretend to strive to comprehend how politicians’ individual characters have underpinned their political responses to particular crises, or present an overtly biased portrait of historical figures. Biography scholars Hans Renders and Binne de Haan contend that biography designates “the study of the life of an individual, based on the methods of historical scholarship, with the goal of illuminating what is public, explained and interpreted in part from the perspective of the personal” (Theoretical Discussions of Biography: Approaches from History, Microhistory, and Life Writing, 2). Since the early nineteenth century, journalists have often played the role of political biographers. In the US, for example, reporters writing about figures such as Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln presented themselves as “champions and guardians of American character ideal, attending to the virtues, vices and ‘flaws’ of their subjects” (Shawn J. Parry-Giles, Hillary Clinton in the News, 4). Journalistic reporting has influenced political biography by spotlighting the incongruous gossip that sells newspapers, endowing the media with the power to shape a politician’s public image through calling attention to eye-catching images and sound bite pieces that simplify the political debate into visual clichés and stereotypical phrases. Contributors may question how the individual careers of Donald Trump, Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson, and Narendra Modi conform to conventional models or translate into a new type of political biography.

This issue of Biography aims to further reflection on the evolution of political biography in a media-saturated context, turning political figures (present and past) into celebrities. It has also become a custom for statesmen to write their own autobiography—and more often in fact to have these ghost-written as first-person biographies of sorts (see Roman Polanski’s 2010 film The Ghost Writer)—during, before, and after their terms of office, thus incorporating their personal path into their political career and vice versa. It is our purpose to question the political content of these literary endeavours undertaken by Richard Nixon, Margaret Thatcher, Nelson Mandela, Barak Obama, etc., to consider how the politicians’ written and oral words have seeped into other media. An increasing number of politicians have written political biographies, and used this genre to ponder their political choices; Labour backbencher Roy Jenkins’s biography of Churchill is a case in point.

Biographical films (whether fiction or nonfiction) have influenced the generic evolution of biography through promoting a “tabloid culture” that feeds on the private lives of public figures. Considering that political power relies on representation, including visual symbols and rhetorical devices, we aim to foster the analysis of politics and biography as two interweaving strands. Political biofilms should not be analysed as a source of entertainment that discards political analysis; they also build political discourses through specific biographical angles. Some films draw on the hagiographic tradition (e.g. Stephen Spielberg’s Lincoln, 2012) whereas others question the relationship between power and the individual (e.g. Errol Morris’s The Fog of War). Biographical documentaries addressing political characters have much in common with the methods of scholarly research, which are also discernible under hybridized forms in various types of docudrama.

Contributors will be interested in bringing to light interferences between different sources, analyzing the construction of political discourses through various biographical channels. To what extent do biographies promote or question the biographee’s political values? What are the limitations of prevailing assumptions (popular and/or academic) about biography’s relationship with history? What models of the political subject do biographies of political figures presuppose, and with what consequences? Articles of general relevance, as well as specific case studies of print or film biographies, are welcome in this special number of Biography, An Interdisciplinary Quarterly on political biographies in literature and cinema.

Potential contributors are asked to submit abstracts of 250–500 words and an abbreviated CV (of all authors) by 15 April 2017 to joanny.moulin@gmail.com and delphine.letort@univ-lemans.fr. We will contact those authors from whom we wish to see full manuscripts by 15 May 2017, and will expect to see those full manuscripts by 1 December 2017.

These manuscripts should be between 6,000 and 8,000 words in length (including notes and bibliography) and should use MLA style, 8th edition. Please also include all authors’ affiliations, emails, and mail contact information in the submission. We welcome inquiries about prospective submissions.

First Brown Bag for February

We hope to see you at this week’s Brown Bag event by Mara Mulrooney, entitled “From the Field to the Archives and Back Again: Connecting Works of the Past to the Future at the Bishop Museum”! Click the poster to see an abstract and learn more about Mara and her work. As always, this Brown Bag will be on Thursday at 12:00-1:15 PM, but don’t forget that we’ll be in KUY 410!