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Release of Biography 42.3

We’re proud to announce the release of a new special issue of Biography:

Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly, vol. 42, no. 3, 2019

Biographic Mediation: On the Uses of Personal Disclosure in Bureaucracy and Politics

a special issue edited by Ebony Coletu

https://muse.jhu.edu/issue/41516

“Introduction to Biographic Mediation: On the Uses of Personal Disclosure in Bureaucracy and Politics”

Ebony Coletu                                                

This special issue explores biographic mediation as a tool to analyze technical demands for personal disclosure that affect earnings and overexposure to policing. Biographic mediation refers to institutional documentation of personal information to make decisions about who gets what and why, alongside public critiques and calls to action that feature personal narratives. The issue engages the dialectic between bureaucracy and politics, where institutional paperwork and public perception of applicants interact, making the case for exploring less visible linkages between paperwork and politics to better understand how biographic data operates within a political economy. Contributors include scholars and activists working to redefine the scope of rights that are narrowed on paper, while drawing attention to mechanisms for surveillance operating through biographic forms.

“Biographic Mediation and the Formerly Incarcerated: How Dissembling and Disclosure Counter the Extended Consequences of Criminal Convictions”

Michelle Jones                                                        

When formerly incarcerated people seek access to resources and opportunities upon release they are often met with biographic mediation processes that weaponize stigma, as the demand for disclosure re-adjudicates criminality upon them.  Performing dissemblance and managing disclosure are two ways in which the formerly incarcerated counter the violence inherent in the carceral rationality of governance that works to break or keep broken, disabled, and therefore easily controlled, formerly incarcerated people. As this essay shows, weaponized stigma, while effective, is not absolute.

“A Complaint Biography”

Sara Ahmed

Originally appearing as a blog entry on Sara Ahmed’s public research site, Feminist Killjoys, this essay understands paperwork as a tool to both address and deflect complaints, with the file appearing as an object made to manipulate time and exhaust energy. By interviewing people who have engaged the complaint process, Ahmed develops a means of tracking tensions in the act of reporting, incorporating silences and the effect of time on decisions to withdraw complaints—to “get on with life.” Creating a working vocabulary from the interviews themselves, Ahmed proposes alternative forms of listening and accountability that exceed the reputation-management functions of university protocols. In this essay, Ahmed models a listening technique that takes place outside of the grievance protocol while reflecting on it publicly.

“Lives on the Line: An Interview with Aly Wane”

Aly Wane interviewed by Ebony Coletu

In this interview, Ebony Coletu speaks with Aly Wane, an undocumented immigrant and human rights organizer. Wane reflects on his own path to activism and how personal disclosure became a central part of his practice. Turning away from exceptional narratives tailored for national inclusion, Wane emphasizes the need to recuperate the criminalized remainder left out of immigration reform proposals. He contributes to a theory of biographic mediation by using his own story to interrogate the ways racial profiling, violence, and deportation operate together, marking the limits of “papers” as a form of protection. With specific attention to Black and indigenous experiences in the United States and the ongoing resource of Black feminism, he argues that citizenship cannot be the horizon for migrants’ rights organizing if it justifies mass incarceration, selective recognition, and patriarchy as a model of power.

“The Securitate File as a Record of Psuchegraphy

Cristina Plamadeala

Working primarily with Securitate files, currently stored at the National Council for the Study of Securitate Archives (CNSAS), located in Bucharest and Popesti-Leordeni, Romania, this essay explains the various terror mechanisms the Securitate, Romania’s secret police during the country’s communist period, employed in order to gain recruits and employ them as part of its surveillance network. This article  discusses the following two concepts—psuchegraphy and dossierveillance—described herein as two terror methods applied by the Securitate to obtain informers and compel them to collaborate.

“‘Has someone taken your passport?’: Everyday Surveillance of the Migrant Laborer as Trafficked Subject”

Annie Isabel Fukushima

This article examines the role of the missing passport in human rights discourse about migrants who experience violence in the form of human trafficking. Fukushima argues that the passport and mechanisms of documentation that emerge in human trafficking survivor accounts are central to legal and social appeals for recognition. Through a scavenger methodology, the essay analyzes the “missing passport” in campaign materials, a survivor memoir (Shyima Hall), and court testimonies in U.S. v. Kil Soo Lee, Rana v. Islam, Lipenga v. Kambalame, Gurung v. Malhotra, U.S. v. Firas Majeed et al., and U.S. v. Wood. Ultimately, Fukushima explores how the question “has someone taken your passport?” discursively and socially compels the everyday person to participate in surveillance, thus witnessing transnational migrant laborers through the racializing and policing logic of biographic mediation that furthers neighborly suspicion.

“Guidelines for Squatting: Concerned Citizens of North Camden, 1978–1990”

Mercy Romero

Concerned Citizens of North Camden (CCNC), a multiracial activist group in Camden, New Jersey, used genres of organizational writing, from pamphlets to housing applications, to circulate and develop its practices, from squatting to a community land trust. CCNC developed a counter-bureaucracy to pressure policy reforms that included the least-resourced residents of North Camden. Throughout, CCNC carefully used biographic mediation—from their identification as “concerned citizens,” to a fixed sense of neighborhood affiliation and belonging, all designed to communicate across bureaucratic information networks that held the economic potential to alleviate the lived conditions of homelessness and push against discourses of demolition and blight.

“Frames of Witness: The Kavanaugh Hearings, Survivor Testimony, and #MeToo”

Leigh Gilmore                                              

This article argues that three frames of witness competed in the 2018 Kavanaugh hearings: the life story of Supreme Court nominee—now Justice—Brett Kavanaugh that was fashioned for the nomination process, the survivor testimony of Christine Blasey Ford that interrupted it, and the cultural frame of #MeToo in which her testimony and his repudiation of it were heard, which includes the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearing and the accompanying pattern of erasing Black women as they bear witness. With reference to Judith Butler’s work on grievability, “Frames of Witness” identifies the potential affiliation of #MeToo discourse with other protest movements in order to underline how vulnerable subjects cross into testimonial spaces and find, or fail to find, a hearing.

“Call My Name: Using Biographical Storytelling to Reconceptualize the History of African Americans at Clemson University”

Rhondda Robinson Thomas

Biographical storytelling can be an effective means for higher education institutions like Clemson University, which was built by a predominately African American convict workforce on John C. Calhoun’s Fort Hill Plantation, to reclaim complicated public narratives that are informed by the history of slavery and its legacies enacted in Jim Crow policies and practices. Thomas examines how biographic mediation enables the extraction of details from historical records that were created to commodify or criminalize people of African descent who are inextricably intertwined with institutional histories for the creation of life histories. The author asserts that biographic accountability can lead to the development of a multifaceted approach to acknowledging and commemorating Black labor as a critical component of the building and sustaining of higher education institutions, while offering descendants the documentation they need to make a case for redress and reparations.

“Mirror Memoirs: Amita Swadhin on Survivor Storytelling and the Mediation of Rape Culture”

Amita Swadhin interviewed by Ebony Coletu

Ebony Coletu interviews Amita Swadhin, the founder of Mirror Memoirs, a national storytelling and organizing project featuring the narratives, healing, and leadership of LGBTQI+ people of color who survived child sexual abuse. Recently, they completed sixty audio interviews for a growing archive that brings storytelling to bear on our understanding of how institutional spaces designated for “help” sustain child sexual assault. Working through the theme of this special issue, Swadhin reflects on biographic mediation as a mechanism operating within Mirror Memoirs, explaining how the collection of “inconvenient” stories about survivorship can help transform institutional practices of profiling that disappear the most vulnerable targets of violence.

“The Consumption of Adoption and Adoptees in American Middlebrow Culture”

Kimberly McKee

Interested in how the media engages instances of fraud within adoption, as well as how adoptees negotiate the practices that led to their adoptions, this essay explores the reunion of Korean adoptee twins Samantha Futerman and Anaïs Bordier. The author analyzes the depiction of the twins’ reunion in the documentary Twinsters (2015) and Futerman and Bordier’s reflections in their co-authored memoir. Central to this analysis is how biographic mediation functions—demands for personal disclosure affect public perception of adoption and adoptees’ reflections of their adoption experiences—to shape the documentary’s arc, and how it affects what information is disclosed in the memoir. Operating simultaneously is how adoption agencies and institutions mediate their adoption records, and what is shared to both adoptees in adulthood and adoptive parents during the adoption process.

“(Un)Reasonable, (Un)Necessary, and (In)Appropriate: Biographic Mediation of Neurodivergence in Academic Accommodations”

Aimée Morrison

Using neuroqueerness as a heuristic as well as a form of situated auto/biographical knowledge, this article considers the biographic mediation of disability in the academic workplace. Ultimately, what is at stake when disability makes itself visible to the institution is not so much whether the provision of extra administrative assistance or noise-mitigating equipment is affordable. It is, instead, this: what do disabled lives mean? The main sites of biographic mediation of disability in the academic workplace are diagnosis; the formalized process of disclosure and verification in the university accessibility bureaucracy; and the enactment and framing of any granted accommodation. Each site is the ground for battles over agency enacted through the solicitation, management, and framing of disabled life stories. Biographic mediation of disability in the academic workplace works to contain and control difference in such a way as to leave intact the fundamentally ableist set of values, practices, and built environments that constitute the institution known as “the university.”

Release of Biography 41.3

We are delighted to announce the publication of the latest issue of Biography, vol. 41, no. 3, which includes two clusters–Asian American Hip-Hop Musical Auto/Biographies (edited by Roderick N. Labrador and Brian Su-Jen Chung) and Political Biography in Literature and Cinema (edited by Joanny Moulin and Delphine Letort).

The full issue is available on Project Muse: http://muse.jhu.edu/issue/39537

Table of Contents

Editor’s Note

“Freaky” Asian Americans, Hip-Hop, and Musical Autobiography: An Introduction
Roderick N. Labrador

“Bad Gal” and the “Bad” Refugee: Refugee Narratives, Neoliberal Violence, and Musical Autobiography in Honey Cocaine’s Cambodian Canadian Hip-Hop
Kenneth Chan

Redefined What is Meant to Be Divine: Prayer and Protest in Blue Scholars
Mark Redondo Villegas

The Posse Cut as Autobiographical Utterance of Place in the Night Marchers’ Three Dots
Ruben Enrique Campos III

(Re)Writing Contemporary Cantonese Heritage Language and Identity: Examining MC Jin’s ABC Album
Melissa Chen and Genevieve Leung

Narrating Failure: MC Jin’s Return to Rap in the United States
Brian Su-Jen Chung

Beats, Rhymes, and Life in the Ocean of Sound: An Object-Oriented Methodology for Encountering Rap Music
David A. M. Goldberg

Introduction to Political Biography in Literature and Cinema
Delphine Letort and Joanny Moulin

French Television and Political Biography
Rémi Fontanel

Recasting the Iron Lady into Flesh and Blood: Gender Performance and Politics in Three Thatcher Biopics
Nicole Cloarec

Writing the Life of Ronald Reagan: An Impossible Mission?
Françoise Coste

From Political Biography to Political Event: The Daens Myth in Literature in Cinema
Gertjan Willems

Political Life Writing in the Pacific: Reflections on Practice ed. by Jack Corbett and Brij V. Lal (review)
Alexander Mawyer

Tainted Witness: Why We Doubt What Women Say About Their by Leigh Gilmore (review)
Sarah Brophy

Picture Bride Stories by Barbara F. Kawakami (review)
Kelli Y. Nakamura

How Come Boys Get to Keep Their Noses? Women and Jewish American Identity in Contemporary Graphic Memoirs by Tahneer Oksman (review)
Roberta Mock

Gendered Testimonies of the Holocaust Writing Life by Petra M. Schweitzer (review)
Batsheva Ben-Amos

Holocaust Memory in the Digital Age Survivors’ Stories and New Media Practices by Jeffrey Shandler (review)
Sarah Jefferies

Back to the Blanket: Recovered Rhetorics and Literacies in American Indian Studies by Kimberly G. Wieser (review)
Lisa King

Corrigendum

Nadine Gordimer and the Vices of Biography: A Reply to Hedley Twidle
Ronald Suresh Roberts

We’re hiring!

Aloha Friends,

The Center for Biographical Research seeks a managing editor to join our team of editors, and we are hoping you can help spread the word about this exciting opportunity!

The job description for this full-time, permanent position can be found below. 

This position is designed for those who are invested in life writing and editing, and the position comes with travel opportunities and benefits.

The ad for the Editor position (#80851) is posted here.

**The closing date is 06/29/2018 at 11:59 PM.**

Please note that all applicants will have to apply on this site.

Sincerely,

The CBR Team

Call for Proposals: M4BL and the Critical Matter of Black Lives–A Special Issue of Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly

Call for Proposals

M4BL and the Critical Matter of Black Lives: A Special Issue of Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly

Guest Editors: Brittney Cooper (Rutgers University) and Treva Lindsey (Ohio State University)

Submit: Abstracts of 300-500 words in length by November 1, 2016 to biograph@hawaii.edu

In July 2016, the Movement for Black Lives, a collective of over fifty organizations “representing Black people” from across the United States formally released its vision and agenda. The comprehensive platform articulated demands for economic justice, political power, community control, reparations, investment/divestment, and ending the war on Black people. Detailed and pointed, the platform implicitly “clapped back” at detractors who mischaracterized M4BL as a moment or as leaderless movement with no tangible goals. The release of the platform also occurred in the middle of one of the most explosive, racially violent summers in recent history. The Movement continues to grow not only because of its consistent and visually compelling use of protest, but also because of something more intangible: the way that we are drawn into the lives of Black people slain by police and feel like these are people we “know.” Most of us don’t know those who have been killed, but often in the aftermath of another person being memorialized by a hashtag, Black people take to social media to say, “it could have been me. I could have been Michael Brown, or Trayvon Martin, or Sandra Bland.” In 2013, President Barack Obama famously declared that “Trayvon Martin could have been me thirty-five years ago.”

Employing the lens of life-writing and the particular way that the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) has represented Black lives singularly and collectively, this special issue will explore the history, current state, and future of the Movement for Black Lives. What is it about the stories of people slain by police and vigilantes since 2012 that has compelled a new movement? What does “life” mean in the context of M4BL? What is the fundamental meaning of “lives” when centering those on the margins?  What does it mean to politicize and narrate the life stories of people whom we’ve never met but feel like we know? What happens when the desires and needs of families push back against the political demands and inclinations of a broader movement? Who controls the life stories and dictates the political utility of those no longer here? Why has this form of empathy and connection to slain Black people become the affective context for the Movement for Black Lives? Which Black lives have become most compelling in this context of the Movement and why? How are the stories of Black lives slain by police or otherwise racially subjugated being told? Which stories haven’t been told? And how has technology shaped the way we tell the stories of individual and collective Black lives?

As the most recent iteration of Black freedom struggles in the United States, what is the story of #blacklivesmatter? How have the individual life stories of Black people harmed or slain by police shaped the biography of a movement? This special issue is interested both in the political life of the M4BL and in the stories of those who made this movement possible. We are interested in the critical moment of encounter, when because someone’s life was taken, a community’s life, an activist’s life, or our collective lives changed.

How do representations of maternal or familial grief serve to engender empathy or identification and what are the pitfalls and possibilities of utilizing such a strategy to forward MB4L objectives? What are the sexual and gender politics that attend which individual Black lives are represented in the insistence that Black lives matter? What are the class politics embedded in how we engage the lives of those killed by police? How does a focus on the goodness or innocence or intelligence of those executed by the police impede or complicate the push for structural change? How do celebrity calls for BLM (i.e., Jesse Williams) or endorsements by politicians or at elections rallies and conventions energize and/or curtail the M4BL? How do we understand and interrogate the politics of Black life and Black living, in a moment where liberal humanist conceptions of “the human” fail to compel broad empathy and structural protection for the value of Black people? How do we articulate the relationship between the lack of structural empathy and care for Black lives and the radical forms of empathy and identity with those killed that animate the Movement for Black Lives?  How does M4BL work to create broad empathy and identification with individuals victimized by state violence? What can the proliferation of Black death at the hands of the state and the necropolitics which inhere in the accretion of Black bodies offer to us in the mode of understanding Black lives? How does the Movement’s insistence on acknowledging trauma and prioritizing a healing justice framework challenge the death-grip our current system has on the quality of Black lives? What tools does the Movement for Black Lives offer up to us, not only for reconceptualizing the social structures which shape Black living, but also for reconceptualizing our current understandings of Black life in the first place?

In asking these questions, we seek to understand the life contexts and livelihoods of Black people living at the beginning of the 21st century. Although contemporary realities are deeply rooted in historical lived experiences, we have entered a unique era in anti-Black racial terror. These living stories must be told. Understanding the stories as simultaneously about violence, resistance, (in)justice, and freedom, we seek by way of centering interrogations and representations of individual and collective Black lives to unearth both the possibilities and potential challenges for the Movement for Black Lives. Additionally, we seek to understand what it means to inhabit and embody a free Black life at the dawn of the 21st century. We propose to understand this question using the lens of M4BL together with life-writing criticism and theory.

Beyond a hashtag or minor and significant misconceptions, how do we understand the Movement for Black Lives, its purpose, its goals, and the people who comprise the Movement? How do we account for fissures, differences, and tensions within the movement and the way these differences affect both individual Black lives and Black life as a collectivity? To cover both the breadth and depth of M4BL, we seek contributions that bring a life-writing focus—one that carries with it some of the questions and approaches outlined in the previous paragraphs—to bear on topics including (but not limited to):

  • #SayHerName, the gender and sexual politics of the Movement for Black Lives
  • Uprisings, Rebellions, Riots? How do we chronicle violent resistance to anti-Black state violence?
  • Whose Black Lives Matter?
  • Cross-racial, cross-gender and transnational solidarities
  • Conceptualizing and Actualizing a “LeaderFull” Movement
  • Global Perspectives on M4BL (#FergusontoPalestine, #BLMToronto, #BLMLondon)
  • Understanding the complicated role of social media in M4BL
  • The role of mass media in documenting and shaping M4BL
  • How the Movement Changed Your Life (Politically, Culturally, Spiritually, Communally)
  • Conceptualizing the life of a leader in a leaderfull movement?v
  • Intergenerational Collaboration and Tensions within M4BL
  • How Trauma Shapes Black Lives
  • How Healing Justice Reshapes Black Lives
  • Anti-M4BL Organizing and Mobilization
  • Interrogating the role of faith, spirituality, religion, and the sacred in M4BL
  • What is state-sanctioned anti-Black violence?
  • Black Life Matters or Black Lives Matter?
  • The Biopolitics/Necropolitics of Black Lives

We invite potential contributors to submit abstracts of 300-500 words in length by November 1, 2016. First drafts of articles will be submitted in June 2016. Please note that contributors will be invited to present drafts of their final papers at the University of Hawai‘i in Honolulu at the end of August 2017, and the issue will be published in summer 2018. Articles should be between 6,000-8,000 words including bibliography and notes.

 

 

 

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