Call for Proposals: INFRASTRUCTURE

Special issue of Victorian Literature and Culture

Editors: Zarena Aslami (Michigan State University; aslami@msu.edu) and Tim Watson (University of Miami; watsont@miami.edu)

Please email the editors by October 1, 2022 with an idea for a 1,000-2,500-word article, which will be due June 1, 2023.

Graduate students, early-career scholars, and those from communities/institutions/locations underrepresented in Anglophone nineteenth-century studies are especially encouraged to submit.

VLC solicits ideas for 1,000-2,500-word short introductions to any aspect of nineteenth-century infrastructure, for a special issue of the journal devoted to the topic of Infrastructure. We hope for pieces that address the following questions: How do public works shape public and psychic life? At a time of calls for the privatization of infrastructure, what can we learn from turning to the nineteenth century, a period when the state increasingly shaped everyday life in ways that people began to take for granted? What forms of infrastructure underlay the nineteenth-century expansion of empire and capitalism in the wake of European and American slavery? What infrastructures were created/used/repurposed for anti-imperialism and anti-capitalism?

We construe the concept of infrastructure broadly for this special issue. We are interested in physical/built infrastructure: railways, canals, mines, undersea cables, imperial communication lines, military supply chains, and so forth. But we also solicit pieces that engage with informal/vernacular infrastructure, affective/immaterial infrastructure, media infrastructure, natural infrastructure, archival infrastructure, the infrastructure of the poor, even counter-infrastructures, and/or the ways that race and infrastructure collude, collide, and conflict. Pieces may center on a specific example of nineteenth-century infrastructure—a bridge, a machine tool, a communications protocol, a library, a street light, a garden, a cemetery, a school, a public square; pieces may focus on people’s experiences of infrastructure—workarounds, love letters, dystopian visions, boredom; pieces may highlight infrastructure in literature and culture; pieces may trace the legacies of nineteenth-century infrastructure in the twenty-first century; pieces may introduce aspects of nineteenth-century infrastructure the issue editors have not yet imagined.

Pieces should be written with a broad audience in mind. We are looking for writing that is scholarly but lively, writing that makes a contribution to the public humanities. We admire the public-facing platforms of scholarly journals such as Small Axe, Post45, and Modernism/modernity, as well as Public Books and LARB.

The nineteenth century is now seen as an inflection point for the accelerating transformations of the concept of race and racial difference, the Anthropocene, and extractive global capitalism; it is also the century in which the term “infrastructure” first appears, in French and then English. We tend to see the working of infrastructure only when it fails to work and breaks down, revealing hidden structures. We believe that literary and cultural scholars of the nineteenth century can make a major contribution to critical infrastructure studies by returning to the period when so many of these infrastructures were established and standardized, but also were contested and transformed in practice.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s