Call for Papers – “The Subject and Critical Feminist Biography”, special issue of the Journal of Women’s History

For a special issue of the Journal of Women’s History on “Critical
Feminist Biography,” we invite short submissions (approximately 1000
words) for a roundtable on “The Subject and Critical Feminist
Biography.” In this roundtable, we ask scholars from various fields who
have been engaged in biographical projects to reflect on how the subjects of
feminist biography get consolidated. What sorts of “filters” operate
through the process of biographical work, from a scholar’s choice of
subject to the pressures publishers may exert that result in highlighting
some subjects and not others. Equally important, how are life histories
written, in what forms do they emerge given scholarly commitments to issues
of representation and silencing that feminist theory and praxis foregrounds?

Given that women, children, people of color, people of the global South,
and other subjects deemed marginal to dominant historical narratives
continue to have a vexed relationship to conventional archives—and given
that such archives may continue to be constituted in ways that exclude
such subjects—how do we write biographies of social actors whose
“marginal” energies we want to highlight and interrogate? This question
may become especially apposite when such subjects move across local,
regional, and national borders, and/or if they do not appear to embody an
autonomous, discrete subjectivity. When, as subjects of oral histories or
interviews, they are actively co-producers of accounts of their own lives,
what kinds of differences does this make in the production of biography
and, as feminist scholars, what kinds of investments do we make in such
co-productions and how do we (or ought we) to foreground the processes by
which these life narratives come into being?

Another question that might be asked is: what nodes of reception surround
(or haunt) biography written as a kind of feminist praxis? How do
historians receive—and use—biography as a source? For historians who
foreground gender and women, does biography continue to offer a useful
arena for feminist historical scholarship, or does it as a genre risk
overemphasizing the recuperative and celebratory aspects of earlier
women’s history? This question links back to that of the pressures on the
biographer as a result of the multinational capitalist configuration of
the publishing industry. What kinds of compromises must be made—if
any—to move feminist biography outside of the academy? Can we articulate a
feminist politics to a broader audience through biography?

Our due date for submissions to this roundtable is July 15, 2008.  Editors
for this special issue are Marilyn Booth and Antoinette Burton. Please
send queries to


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