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[ecrea] Call for Articles (Dis-)covering ciphers: objects, voices, bodies
Mon Oct 15 20:57:00 GMT 2018
Call for Articles
(Dis-)covering ciphers: objects, voices, bodies.
Deadline for submissions: October 31, 2018
1. a secret or disguised way of writing; a code.
“he wrote cryptic notes in a cipher”
synonyms: code, secret writing.
a zero; a figure 0.
Synonyms: zero, nought, nil, 0; archaic naught
“a row of ciphers”
1. put (a message) into secret writing; encode.
“he left two, as yet uncracked, ciphered messages for posthumous decoding”
To analyze the ways in which cultural objects acquire meaning can also
be understood as looking at the technologies by which those objects have
become enciphered. In this issue of Diffractions we aim to look at the
concept of the cipher in its myriad ways of appearing, be they cultural,
social, political, technological, linguistic or economic in nature.
To give an example of that last category, one merely needs to point
towards Marx’s theory on the fetishization of commodities. There, the
process through which the material existence of products of labor can
become invisible behind their exchange value, is formulated as a process
of hiding what is central to the object; its material existence and its
use value. In other words, the Marxist theory of fetishization can be
understood as the discovery of a cipher, the cipher of exchange value.
But the concept of the cipher travels easily, and can be situated in
many locations. In Adriana Cavarero’s work on the voice, she considers
the ways in which the bodily aspects that are associated with the vocal
are often hidden behind its semiotic, linguistic, and signifying
capacities. That is to say, speech functions as a cipher for the
materiality of the vocal. The vocal needs to be deciphered.
But what is a cipher? And how to know if we are dealing with a cipher to
begin with? The cipher raises questions. In technologico-linguistic
terms, a cipher calls for a key. A password. A way to de-cipher what was
first en-ciphered. Perhaps a text that appears as a cipher is a plain
text after all. The cipher’s call is not always obvious. Ciphers can
conceal their act of concealing; hide not only what they are hiding, but
that they are hiding as well; steganography.
Ciphers cut. And, as Jacques Derrida writes, they produce an inside and
an outside, insides and outsides. In order to protect what is behind
the cipher, the cipher has to function as a passageway, letting some
through while excluding others. In order to be allowed to enter,
something must already be known. The cipher marks the limits of
something hidden. But some measure of knowledge is nevertheless
presupposed. It marks the boundaries of a relationship. It conceals and
shows at the same time. It covers and uncovers.
If, for someone like Marx, the material manifestation of any object
precedes its encipherment, others might submit, instead, that the cipher
operates as the occasion for materialization to first take place.
Mediation comes first, and materializes the body, someone like Judith
Butler would argue. Following such accounts of the performative nature
of subjection, one may suggest that the very materiality of the body is
a product of a process that relies on cultural, linguistic, affective,
and discursive, ciphers. And if the cipher conditions processes of
materialization and subjectivation, one can ask if there is anything
that escapes its logic. Is there an excess of meaning that remains
neither enciphered, nor decipherable? To trace that excess would be to
situate the cipher more precisely. It would be an attempt to recognize
ciphers where they are, and to isolate those places where they remain
For the upcoming issue of Diffractions we would like to make the cipher
speak. To allow it to be heard, perhaps against its will. To ask where
the cipher begins, and what exceeds its limits. In doing so, we aim to
connect the cipher to objects, to values, to voices, and to the body.
Our goal is to investigate the ways in which these concepts can be made
useful for the study of cultural objects. How objects of study might
help us to make the cipher speak, and how the cipher might engage these
objects in return.
~ ciphers and objects
~ ciphers and voices
~ ciphers and bodies
~ ciphers as commodity
~ the fetishization of ciphers
~ ciphers and technology
~ the materiality of the cipher
~ hidden ciphers
~ the social life of ciphers
~ beyond the cipher
~ performativity and the cipher
~ cipher + cyber
We look forward to receiving proposals of 5.000 to 9.000 words
(excluding bibliography) and a short bio of about 150 words by October
31st, 2018 to be submitted at our website:
Diffractions also accepts book reviews related to the issue’s topic. If
you wish to write a book review, please contact us through the e-mail
We aim to be as accessible as possible in our communication. Should you
have any questions, remarks, or suggestions, please do not hesitate to
contact us through the following address: (info.diffractions /at/ gmail.com)
<mailto:(info.diffractions /at/ gmail.com)>.
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