CFP: Issue 21 Private/Public (2015)



There has been a significant shift in the boundaries between the private and public realm in recent years. The increasing indistinction between the two spheres has multiple causes, among them the rise of identity politics and the popularity of the confessional mode. The former might be said to underwrite the latter: the feminist rallying cry,  ‘the personal is the political’ providing a substantial justification for radical autobiography. The motto continues as a cornerstone of feminist consciousness, as well as other forms of identity politics (after all, the agora remains predicated upon exclusion to some degree), but the ongoing consequences for public discourse are unclear. Some suggest that the privileging of positions based upon more and more specific identities promotes a form of narcissism or victimhood which threatens collective agency and the possibilities of larger conceptions of ‘the public good’. 

While identity politics and the confessional mode have contributed to the enlargement of ‘the private’, the increasing dominance of the corporate model has led to the erosion of what has traditionally been conceived of as ‘the public’, most notably in the commercialisation of the media, and the edging out of the public-interest model. Institutions such as museums, universities and schools have also become defined by the corporate paradigm, and public space is increasingly no such thing. New technologies, in particular social media, have played their part in blurring the boundaries between public and private, formal and informal.

Has there been a retreat into private and individualised experience? Have the critical languages that might abstract this individualised experience been largely abandoned in favour of the logic of spectacle? What constitutes the public sphere in the contemporary moment? If the traditional notion of the public sphere involves a ‘top down' model, what are the possibilities for the ‘bottom-up’ paradigm offered by the commons, and enabled by online networks?

Issue 21 of FORUM seeks contributions from a range of disciplines that engage with the debate about the distinctions or indistinctions between the private and public spheres.

Suggested topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Feminism/gender and the confessional mode
  • Identity politics
  • ‘Traumaculture’ and victimhood
  • ‘Reality hunger’
  • Historical conceptions of the public/private distinction
  • Contemporary conceptions of the public sphere
  • Contemporary conceptions of universality
  • Individualism and/or collectivity
  • The semi-autonomy of art (the museum as forum for service to public or patrimony)
  • The validity of ‘disinterestedness’
  • Architectural representations of public and/or private
  • Privacy
  • Privatisation
  • Surveillance
  • Popular culture, media and technology
  • The commons: participative citizenship
  • The Digital Humanities

Papers must be between 3,000 - 5,000 words in length, formatted according to MLA guidelines. FORUM is also considering academic book reviews (1,000 words) and multimedia and alternative presentations for publication. Please e-mail your article, a short abstract and your academic CV in separate, clearly labelled DOC(X). files to by 15 September 2015. All eligible articles will be peer reviewed prior to publication. Only one submission per author per issue is permitted.