InTensions Invites Papers/Art for a Special Issue

Tactics and dissonance: bending social relations towards justice, through art

This special issue of InTensions begins from the claim that the arts (or specific art forms, or artworks) have a particular capacity to facilitate just and ethical social relations. Such claims typically rest on ideas about identification – that art enables us to imagine our way into, and also to feel, something of another person’s life, and that this experience is a basis for ethical engagement across social difference. This potential of art has been advocated as particularly valuable where it enables new affects and understandings between dominant social groups and subjects, experiences, or knowledges that historically have been marginalized, denigrated, silenced, or oppressed.

Critics call this view into question along many lines: engagement with art about ‘others’ may indeed generate empathy, but it is an empathy often naive and apolitical (Emmons 2011; Sontag 2003), a feeling for an individual, isolated from historical context, and without social obligation (Boler 1997). The idea that art or artists have some inherently ethical or justice-leaning impulse is repeatedly contradicted by the historical record (Belfiore & Bennett, 2007). In disability studies, for example, rather than enabling “diverse ways of sensing, moving through, or otherwise being in and relating to the world,” art sometimes aims to reconstitute or transcend “broken” bodies and minds (Ignagni & Church 2008, p. 628).

This special issue considers expectations, rationales, tensions, and risks embedded in efforts to use the arts to foster more just social relationships. We invite submissions of art works that explore this theme, as well as scholarly articles that:

  •  consider what gets generated through specific artworks that invite audiences to empathize/identify across gulfs in experience
  •  unpack the political work of art or arts-informed practices that intentionally refuse, discourage, or disrupt moves to empathy/identification
  •   attend to the contingent potential of art to unsettle normative and socially divisive affective relations
  • address the uneven effects/affects provoked or assumed through particular art works
  • flesh out historical, philosophical, or cross-cultural understandings of art’s capacity or limits to materialize new ways of relating in the world
  • consider that art’s power for justice is not about empathy at all, and emerges through something else entirely

Editors: Christina Sinding and Elysée Nouvet (McMaster University) in collaboration with A.C.C.E.S.S  (Arts-Centered, Community-Engaged, Social Sciences Research Consortium).

For further information or to submit, please email Christina Sinding or email Elysée Nouvet.
Deadline for submissions: May 1, 2016.

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