2015 ESA Conference CFP: Trance

This conference seeks to bring together critical and imaginative forms of scholarship, participatory projects, performance and other creative work around ideas of trance. From the Great Awakening’s irruptive glossalia to the glossed eyes of late capitalist workers, from various manifestations of trance dance to the moving spiral, trance is woven into the fabrics of spiritual, theological, political, and literary histories, texts and methodologies. Trance not only challenges Enlightenment models of knowledge production, but also forces us to navigate extra-linguistic experience, thus challenging language as epistemological ground.

Spells, tricks, and questions abound: Is trance out-of-body or emphatically embodied? Is trance inherent to aesthetic experiences? Does trance (d)evolve from boredom or hyper-attention? Is it inherently active or passive? Does trance occasion a rupture in “business-as-usual” or are the predominant forces of media and markets the producers of trance? Beyond these dialectical poles, what other modalities of critical and creative thinking and expression does trance invite? Trance raises questions concerning conceptions of subjecthood, empirical versus mystical teleology, and the limits of knowledge and conscious experience. We believe that a convocation around trance will produce important interdisciplinary connections and inspire further inquiry into our scholarly and creative methods. Attention to trance in academic study demands reconsiderations of the ways in which modes of (irrational) experience or altered-consciousness are differently accessed, coded and perceived. How is trance racialized, gendered and/or classed? How is the entranced subject read differently across cultural lines? How does trance act as both a decolonizing and colonizing practice?

Given trance’s richly valenced place in poetics, literature, psychological inquiry, religious practice, and sites of cross-cultural exchange, this conference encourages panel, paper, and project submissions from across a variety of disciplines. We especially welcome proposals for interactive performances and workshops that might engage participants more experientially.

Graduate Center Professors Kandice Chuh (English), Susan Buck-Morss (Political Science) and Jasbir Puar (Women & Gender Studies) from Rutgers University will participate in the opening panel on the evening of Thursday, March 5.

Professor Wayne Koestenbaum will be our closing keynote speaker the evening of Friday, March 6.

Participant panels, performances and workshops will take place all day Friday, March 6.

Please email  proposals (500 word max) and bios (150 words max) by December 8th to trancetheconference@gmail.com

Possible topics (this is by no means an exhaustive list!):

  • Trance and aesthetic experience (temporality, corporeality, aurality, visuality, etc.)

  • Institutional trances (schools, prisons, museums, etc.)

  • Trance of production and consumption (the commodity, the assembly line, labor, eating while reading)

  • Trance and religion/spiritual practices

  • Trance dance (might include Vodou rituals, the Shakers, Evangelicals, Ravers, and possession of various kinds)

  • Racial and cultural implications of trance’s uses and accessibility (might include Primitivism, New Age and Radical Faeries)

  • Hypnosis and induced therapeutic states

  • Transcendence and immanence

  • Trance and the image

  • Magic, charms and spells

  • Methodologies of trance (automatic writing, ritual, practice, etc.)

  • Sex and trance

  • Trance and weather

  • Trance and land(scape)

  • Reading and writing practices/experiences

  • Mesmerism in literature

  • Drugs and the literary

  • Distraction and/or getting into the zone

  • Spectatorship, audience participation and crowd mentality

  • Trance and cinema

  • Performance as/and trance

  • Sound and trance

  • Trance and habit/trance and ordinariness

  • Trance and ugly feelings

  • Trance and violence

  • Trance and so-called criminal behavior

  • Trance and space/movement

  • Notions of sanity and mental illness

  • Trance and trauma

  • Pain, illness and trance

  • Prosecution of trance and entranced prosecutors

  • Trance and community

  • Trance and marginal state/status

  • Trance and miscommunication

  • Trance and the digital

  • Modes of learning, study skills and procrastination

  • Radical possibilities of trance