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At the fourth meeting of the Out of Practice seminar, we hear from two colleagues working at the intersection of conceptual languages, voice, and interspecies conversation. 

Undoing Conceptual Languages. Joe Ford (ILCS)

In thinking and writing about the field of World Literature - and its varied theoretical expressions - I have become increasingly uneasy about the conceptual languages it deploys (vernacular/cosmopolitan; periphery/centre; ground-up/elite) and the apparent insufficiency of concepts that seek to redress the binaries that have persisted in its various theorisations. In this (working) paper, which is designed as more of a conversation with my past and present selves, as well as some of the critics I engage with, I invite the audience to consider how turning (back) to work by decolonial thinkers like Frantz Fanon and Grada Kilomba might help us to better grasp the foundational bind surrounding language itself as a binary colonial formulation, a sort of trap, that has become inescapable for the kinds of work literary critics do. Following Fanon and Kilomba, I ask what might be the 'ways through' this bind and how might it be useful to look inwards to ask more searching and self-reflexive questions of ourselves, about who we are really and what we are really doing as critics and educators. 

Joe Ford is a researcher and Senior Lecturer based at the University of London’s School of Advanced Study. He wrote his PhD and first book about the stakes of French-language literature and criticism during what became known as the Algerian Civil War or "Black Decade" of the 1990s. More recently, he has written about theories and discourses of World Literature in relation to the wider Francosphere, including North Africa and the Caribbean, and issues of multilingualism and education in the UK.

An Experiment in Six Voices Katja Hilevaara (Goldsmiths)

For this multi-voice reading of ‘Girlspeak’1 I invite Oops participants to perform sections of a chapter with me and (the voice of) my garden chaffinch. ‘Girlspeak’ is a chapter in which I stage an interspecies (bird-human) conversation between a charm of winged female creatures perched on a tall pine branch above a raging forest fire. The conversation is composed of fragments blending speculative fiction, quotes and birdsong; mimicking adolescent girls’ prattle, and foregrounding this girlspeak as a radical strategy to harness alternative approaches to the patriarchal system’s impasse that is failing to act in the face of the current ecological crisis. 

Katja Hilevaara is a collaborative artist, researcher and teacher who works in performance, installation and art-writing. Ideas around maintenance, care and enchantment are often foregrounded in her artwork. Recent works have drawn on (auto)biography and re-imagined histories, exploring ways to tell stories that question existing narratives, and which might deliberately mis-remember or otherwise creatively interpret events to shift their perspective and meaning. Katja is currently the Director of MA Performance Making at Goldsmiths University of London.

1: Hilevaara, K (forthcoming Dec 2024). ‘Girlspeak’ in Performing Punctuation. Eds. Anna Brown and Julieanna Preston. Intellect.

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