Theory and Popular Culture Call for Chapters

Naomi Barnes, Amanda Heffernan and  Shirley Steinberg are calling for abstracts for an edited book, tentatively titled Would Foucault have read Harry Potter? Unlocking social theory with popular culture. After initial consultation, the book is intended for Palgrave Publications.

Below is the preliminary abstract of the book:

Can we use popular culture to explain complex theoretical concepts? In our edited book we want to explore how we understand theory by examining how theories are romantic, horrifying, science fiction, dystopian, magical, or have dragons and quests. In this book we want to present an argument for popular culture being used to work through the complexities of critical and post structural theories. For example, can Pretty Little Liars help us understand Foucault? Can the Marvel Universe shed light on colonialism? Can Ursula Le Guinn help us understand political theories? If I read Stephen King could I better understand democracy? In this transdisciplinary edited book, we are calling for contributions from scholars who have used popular culture to comprehend complex theoretical concepts they have used in their disciplines.

Theories represent the “canon” of social research and many theorists have used works of literature (eg Deleuze and Kafka, Sara Ahmed and Virginia Wolfe, or Donna Haraway and Science Fiction) to develop their theoretical frameworks and students trying to understand theories often read those works to better develop their understanding. This book is embedded in the literary theory that tapping into students’ background knowledge is a key step in helping them engage with new and difficult texts and acknowledging the important role of popular culture in developing comprehension. As theory takes a considerable amount of time and energy to read and understand, this book will make visible comprehension strategies that experienced readers of theory use to understand the texts they read.

We are particularly interested in ensuring the book contains both well know concepts of the theoretical “canon” that a student will come across on a regular basis but they will also develop a clear understanding that the canon is contested. Furthermore, we are interested in chapters which provide a diverse understanding of popular culture and/or unlock key ideas in feminist, critical race, LGBITQA+, and critical disability studies.

We anticipate that this book will have an international audience and that authors will come from a range of international backgrounds and locations.

Chapters would be fairly short—approximately 4000-6000 words/16-24 double-spaced TNR pages—and aimed at being relevant to scholars and students. While we would encourage creativity in each author’s response, to keep the overall book coherent, each chapter must include the following:

  • Introduction: Please try and engage the reader right away with an overview of your chapter and something that immediately grabs their attention. We want a readable text, so please use accessible language and define any technical terms that students with a basic understanding of your theoretical concept might not know. You will also need to overview your chosen popular culture reference with the assumption that not all readers will be familiar with all popular texts.
  • What are the most important ideas embedded in your chosen theoretical concept? We urge you to think about what students need to know about the theoretical concept. You might think of this as a list of essential knowledge that should be the foundation for applying the theory to research. What are the big debates around the concepts? Do multiple theorists use the concept in differing ways? How can popular culture tease those differences apart? What myths are important to debunk?
  • How can aspects of popular culture be used to explain the complex ideas? Here, you should make visible what transferable strategies you use to connect the popular cultural reference to the theoretical concept. This might involve drawing inferences, comparing and contrasting, how conclusions are drawn, self-reflection and questioning of own practices, how problems are solved, distinguishing between ideology and fact, unlocking the text via exegesis, or another strategy you might use. It is important that you reflect on your skill and make visible how you developed that skill.
  • Conclusions and Recommendations. Please suggest and discuss the importance of the theory you unlock with popular culture.
  • References

We plan to follow a set of generous deadlines that make the project very do-able:

* Invitation to (and confirmation from) potential authors

* Submission of 250 word abstract: 1 November 2018

* Submission of DRAFT chapters: 1 May 2019. PLEASE NOTE that in agreeing to contribute to the edited collection, you agree to peer review two other chapters. This understanding will be notionally divided between co-authors but you may be asked to review two per author.

* Review of DRAFT chapters and feedback to authors by 1 June 2019

* Submission of FINAL chapters: 1 August 2019

* Submission to publishers: 1 October 2019

* Expected publication date: January 2020

Please send your abstract to Naomi Barnes n3.barnes@qut.edu.au by the due date. We are more than happy to discuss ideas in advance.

Looking forward to hearing your ideas.

Naomi, Amanda and Shirley

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