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.
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”
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.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. 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.
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!
We hope to see you at this week’s Brown Bag event by Susan Scott, entitled “Crabs, Rats, Trees, and Murder: The Mysteries of Palmyra Atoll”! Click the poster to see an abstract and learn more about Susan 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!
And thank you to those who came out to hear Doris Wolf give her talk, “Authorizing the German Child to Speak: The Suffering of the Perpetrators in North American Kriegskinder Memoirs of World War II.” The poster for that event is below.
We are delighted to share with you our Spring 2017 lineup of exciting Brown Bag talks, which are starting this week. Click the image to see the full list!
Our first talk of the season is by Doris Wolf, our CBR visiting scholar from the University of Winnipeg. Her talk is titled “Authorizing the German Child to Speak: The Suffering of the Perpetrators in North American Kriegskinder Memoirs of World War II.”
We hope you’ll join us at these talks this semester! As always, our Brown Bags are FREE & OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. Bring your lunches and listen to some fascinating presentations with us!
We are thrilled to let you know that Biography 39.3, “Indigenous Conversations about Biography,” guest edited by the amazing Alice Te Punga Somerville, Daniel Heath Justice, and Noelani Arista, is officially available on ProjectMuse! This gorgeous issue includes:
—an Editors’ Introduction by Alice Te Punga Somerville and Daniel Heath Justice
—K. Tsianina Lomawaima’s “A Principle of Relativity through Indigenous Biography” with responses by Natalie Harkin and David A. Chang
—Elle-Máijá Apiniskim Tailfeathers’s “A Conversation with Helen Haig-Brown, Lisa Jackson, and Elle-Máijá Apiniskim Tailfeathers, with Some Thoughts to Frame the Conversation” with responses by Mārata Ketekiri Tamaira and Dustin Tahmahkera
—Warren Cariou’s “Life-Telling: Indigenous Oral Autobiography and the Performance of Relation” with responses by Nēpia Mahuika and Peter Minter
—Arini Loader’s “‘Kei Wareware’: Remembering Te Rauparaha” with responses by Mary Jane Logan McCallum and Alyssa Mt. Pleasant
—Deborah A. Miranda’s “‘They were tough, those old women before us’: The Power of Gossip in Isabel Meadows’s Narratives” with responses by Leah Lui-Chivizhe and Tina Makereti
—Shino Konishi’s “Making Connections and Attachments: Writing the Lives of Two Nineteenth-Century Aboriginal Men” with responses by Ashley Glassburn Falzetti and Joseph M. Pierce
—Ngarino Ellis’s “Te Ao Hurihuri O Ngā Taonga Tuku Iho: The Evolving Worlds of Our Ancestral Treasures” with responses by Cresantia Frances Koya Vaka‘uta and Chadwick Allen
—Jordan Wilson’s “Gathered Together: Listening to Musqueam Lived Experiences” with responses by Crystal McKinnon and Hōkūlani K. Aikau
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
For subscription and press information, please visit the UH Press page here.