Call for Papers: Barbarisms Volume 24 Issue 2

Special Issue Call for Papers: Barbarisms Volume 24 Issue 2 (2018) parallax

In the wake of the First World War, Rosa Luxemburg expressed the dilemma of humankind as the choice between ‘socialism or barbarism’. Walter Benjamin re-framed this dilemma in his 1933 essay, ‘Experience and Poverty’, calling for ‘a positive concept of barbarism’ (Barbarentum). He argued that large-scale developments in technology had led to a poverty of experience and culture, in which short, immediate experiences (Erlebnisse) could no longer be incorporated into long, vital experience (Erfahrung). However, instead of lamenting this loss, he suggested that it provided an opportunity to break with the continuum of civilization by rethinking the role of the past in the present and the function of technology without the burden of tradition. At the same time, Benjamin drew attention to such figures as Paul Scheerbart, Adolf Loos, Paul Klee and Bertolt Brecht for their incorporation of technology into the human body. In the creations of these ‘positive barbarians’, Benjamin glimpsed an alternative to ‘capitalist-imperialist’ uses of technology.

This positive concept of barbarism, rooted in a critique-appreciation both of inherited cultural tradition and of technological modernity, in some ways anticipates current posthumanist debates about the immanence of technology to the human. Attentive, thus, to Benjamin’s explicitly ambivalent rehabilitation of barbarism, this issue of parallax invites contributions that explore the contemporary politics of technology.

Today, the double threat of cultural excess and atrophy is intensified in the vast accumulation of electronic data. The development of networked database technology and the standardization of information has led to new state and private sector regimes of quantification. In this context, the surveillance and privacy implications of data gathering have been increasingly highlighted. For instance, social networks endorse principles of participation and sociality-as-sharing, yet often remain inscribed within systems that betray their emancipatory promises, tracking and mapping users’ interactions. How, then, to rethink the relationship between technology and humanity? Does technology lead to a surfeit or a poverty of experience? How could Benjamin’s double understanding of barbarism and/in civilisation offer new perspectives on these urgent questions?

Possible topics include:

Critical media histories
Studies of the posthuman
Media ecologies
Digital culture and utopia
Postcolonial media cultures
Contemporary politics of technology
Submission guidelines
Article submission deadline: 1 May 2017.

Potential contributors should submit abstracts of 400 words to the guest editors by by 6 January 2017. Final essays should not exceed 6000 words including references. All essays are subject to peer-review.

Detailed instructions for authors can be found here.