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 womenshistory#uiuc.edu.