Radical media, politics and culture.

Democratic Aesthetics: Actual, Radical, Global

Democratic Aesthetics: Actual, Radical, Global Call for papers for a themed issue of the journal Culture, Theory and Critique to be published in April 2009

Since Walter Benjamin equated aestheticized politics with fascism and war, projects to conduct politics aesthetically generally have been regarded as inimical to democracy. Yet, given the role of the US as a hegemonic world power exporting democracy by force of arms, it is timely to re-examine the potential of productive relations between aesthetics and democratic politics. There are many different notions of “aesthetics,” ranging from a philosophical discourse about art (often understood as distinct cultural practices, objects, experiences, perceptions and judgments), to its original broader sense (by Baumgarten) of the study of sensory, bodily aspects of cognitive interactions with the world. Moreover, ongoing processes of globalization generate and intensify tensions among culturally variable ideologies of the aesthetic, even as they problematize the presupposition of democracy’s universal value. It thus becomes at once more difficult and more urgent to think the relation between democracy and aesthetics.

Issues to be Explored: The purpose of the issue is to focus on those senses of aesthetics that pertain to the sensory communication of social meanings through the production/dissemination and consumption/interpretation of cultural symbols. In these senses, democratic aesthetics can consist of, among others: a) particular genres of art forms that embody specific democratic values (such as portraits of ordinary people and individualism, or Brechtian, didactic, realist theatre); b) democratic styles of political performance (such as political actors presenting themselves according to the modes of popular culture, such as politicians as celebrities, or theatrical or “spectacular” activism); c) the democratization of aesthetics, recognizing aesthetic activity in everyday life (as in Paul Willis’ “grounded aesthetics” or Pierre Bourdieu’s “popular aesthetics”); d) the constitution of democratic publics as communities of aesthetic judgment (e.g. drawing from Kant’s and Arendt’s notions of sensus communis).

The issue will analyse general processes and particular examples of democratic aesthetics, while also assessing them in terms of conceptual and normative distinctions of democracy. In particular, the issue will address the question of whether democratic aesthetics is irrevocably associated with commodified and mass mediated capitalist culture, and hence is symptomatic of attenuated forms of actually existing liberal or market democracy (as in critiques by Terry Eagleton and David Harvey), or whether (and under what circumstances) democratic aesthetics can motivate more radical, emancipatory versions of democracy. The distinctions between actual, critical and radical notions of democracy is also crucial to addressing a key motivating question for the issue, namely, whether under current conditions in which the Western militarized export of democracy cannot be considered an unqualified “good,” democratic aesthetics offer less hostile ways of practising democracy in an international and transnational environment.

The issue will be edited by Jon Simons, Associate Professor, Department of Communication and Culture, Indiana University. Please contact him with any queries about the suitability of essays for inclusion in the issue (preferably including an abstract), or any other editorial matters, at: simonsj@indiana.edu

Article submissions

Authors should submit an electronic copy of the abstract and the article to ctc@nottingham.ac.uk, retaining one copy for their own records. Essays should be in English, double-spaced (including all quoted material, notes and references) on one side only of the paper. Authors should confirm at submission that their essay is not also under consideration with another journal or publisher, and also indicate that their submission is for the themed issue on democratic aesthetics.

Submissions will be subjected to blind review before acceptance.

Deadline for submissions: May 6th 2008.

Form. Essays should not normally exceed 7000 words, including quotations and footnotes, and the word count should be printed at the end. For further details about note and referencing formats, the use of illustrations and other issues, please see: http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/journal.asp?issn=1473-5784&linktype=44

Culture, Theory and Critique is a refereed, interdisciplinary journal for the transformation and development of critical theories in the humanities and social sciences. It aims to critique and reconstruct theories by interfacing them with one another and by relocating them in new sites and conjunctures. Culture, Theory and Critique' approach to theoretical refinement and innovation is one of interaction and hybridisation via recontextualisation and transculturation.

Jon Simons, Associate Professor Department of Communication and Culture Indiana University 800 E. Third St. Bloomington, IN 47405 USA

Phone: 812 856 0896

Editorial board member: Culture, Theory & Critique http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/titles/14735784.asp

Co-editor (with Simon Tormey) of Manchester University Press book series, Reappraising the Political http://www.manchesteruniversitypress.co.uk/catalogue/aseries.asp?id=54