One year later, a “return to normal” remains the pandemic’s most enduring political promise, a token of hope to hedge against continued death and precarity. Held within this recursive promise, however, is a prima facie condition that deserves interrogation. What, exactly, is the “normal” to which we will return? Will capitalism and its attendant crises no longer demand our attention absent a continual state of emergency? The coherence and stability of the “normal” eludes us; Georges Canguilhem sees the normal as itself a chimeric category, one which, from the perspective of medicine and science, is not so distant from the “pathological” it is meant to foil.
In the contemporary moment, what we might term “paranormativity” has further infringed upon our so-called norms, unfolding in internet circles, blue-chip art institutions, and scenes of communal mourning. With the popular renewal of astrological, mystical, and pagan practices and discourses, we are witnessing a contemporary cultural demand for paranormal knowledge that exceeds the epistemological limitations of the secular. In recent years, these limitations have motivated critical attention to studies in metaphysics and non-western approaches to knowledge. Scholars such as M. Jacqui Alexander, Jeffrey Sconce, Omise’eke Natasha Tinsley, Harry Garuba, Jefferey Kripal and many others have helped shape a field that resists the transformation of the paranormal into a symbolic register, turning instead to events and phenomena that defy the assumptive principles of common sense or reasoning. In some traditions, the spirit world has long been connected to political resistance: of the Haitian revolution, scholar C.L.R. James wrote that “[v]oodoo [sic] was the medium of the conspiracy.” Qui Parle 31.1 invites paper submissions that consider the imponderable in relation to the normative: animism, aliens, hallucinations, UFOs, psychics, spirit mediums, miracles, mystics, and more. We are interested in works that treat their subjects with seriousness and avoid exoticism, attending to forms of life that do not return to ‘the normal’ but stage its undoing. As more and more in our shared present turn to the paranormal, we ask: to what extent can the “paranormative” resist capital and white supremacy, and to what extent is even the shifting ground of the normal open to commodification?
We encourage submissions from across all disciplines. Proposals on, but not limited to, the following topics are welcome:
- Ghosts, spirits, jinn and animist cosmologies
- Rapturous or ecstatic experiences
- A consideration of para- (to the side, shifted) and (what is) normative
- Mediation, haunted media, spirit mediums, dead media
- Astrology; its detractors and contemporary resurgence
- Aliens, UFOs
- The non-normative amount of death we have faced amid the pandemic
- Magic/magic tricks
- Spiritual dimensions of political resistance
- Possession / exorcism
- Conspiracy theories, hoaxes
- The embrace of mystical artists in the art world and their subsequent capitalist appropriation
Please send an abstract of 300 words and, in a separate document, a brief author bio to firstname.lastname@example.org by April 30, 2021. If accepted, full papers will be due on October 1.
Alexander, M. Jacqui, Judith Halberstam, and Lisa Lowe. Pedagogies of Crossing: Meditations on Feminism, Sexual Politics, Memory, and the Sacred. Durham: Duke University Press, 2006.
Canguilhem, Georges. On The Normal and the Pathological. Trans. Carolyn R. Fawcett. Dordrecht, Holland: D. Reidel Publishing Company, 1978.
Garuba, Harry. “Explorations in Animist Materialism: Notes on Reading/Writing African Literature, Culture, and Society.” Public Culture, 2003; 15 (2): 261–286.
James, Cyril L. R. The Black Jacobins. New York, N.Y: Vintage, 1989.
Kripal, Jeffrey J. Authors of the Impossible: The Paranormal and the Sacred. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2010.
Sconce, Jeffrey. Haunted Media: Electronic Presence from Telegraphy to Television. Durham: Duke University Press, 2000.
Tinsley, Omise’eke N. Ezili’s Mirrors. Durham: Duke University Press, 2018.