The CUNY Graduate Center ESA Conference: TRANCE, March 5-6th, 2015

This conference seeks to bring together critical and imaginative forms of scholarship, workshops, performance and other creative work around ideas of trance. From the Great Awakening’s irruptive glossalia to the glossed eyes of late capitalist workers, from various manifestations of trance dance to the moving spiral, trance is woven into the fabrics of spiritual, theological, political, and literary histories, texts and methodologies. Trance not only challenges Enlightenment models of knowledge production, but also forces us to navigate extra-linguistic experience, thus destabilizing language as epistemological ground.

Spells, tricks, and questions abound: Is trance out-of-body or emphatically embodied? Is trance inherent to aesthetic experiences? Does trance (d)evolve from boredom or hyper-attention? Is it inherently active or passive? Does trance occasion a rupture in “business-as-usual” or are the predominant forces of media and markets the producers of trance? Beyond these dialectical poles, what other modalities of critical and creative thinking and expression does trance invite? Trance raises questions concerning conceptions of subjecthood, empiricism versus mysticism, and the limits of knowledge and conscious experience. While trance helps us to explore various modes of being and knowing, it also becomes complicatedly racialized, gendered and classed. We encourage work that explores these tensions, asking how the entranced subject is read differently across cultural lines? How does trance act as both a decolonizing and colonizing practice? Attention to trance in academic study demands reconsiderations of the different ways in which modes of (ir)rational experience and altered-consciousness are accessed, coded and perceived.

We believe that a convocation around trance will produce important interdisciplinary connections and inspire further inquiry through and about our own scholarly and creative methods. Given trance’s richly valenced place in poetics, literature, psychological inquiry, religious practice, and sites of cross-cultural exchange, this conference encourages proposals from across a variety of disciplines. We especially welcome proposals for interactive performances and workshops that might engage participants more experientially.

Graduate Center Professors Kandice Chuh (English) and Susan Buck-Morss (Political Science) will participate in the opening panel on the evening of Thursday, March 5.

Professor Wayne Koestenbaum will be our closing keynote speaker the evening of Friday, March 6.

Participant panels, performances and workshops will take place all day Friday, March 6.

Please email proposals by November 3rd to


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