HomeSpeaking as the 'Other': Coloniality, Subalternity, and Embodied Political Articulations (late 18th - early 20th centuries)

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Speaking as the 'Other': Coloniality, Subalternity, and Embodied Political Articulations (late 18th - early 20th centuries)

CALLIOPE (Vocal Articulations of Parliamentary Identity and Empire) International Conference

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Published on Thursday, October 22, 2020 by Elsa Zotian


This multidisciplinary conference seeks to examine performative, embodied and acoustic histories of articulating political representation and colonial ‘otherness’. To that end, we intend to extend the focus of the conference beyond established Anglophone analyses of the metropole and colony, and indeed, beyond the disciplinary pre-eminence of Anglophone postcolonial studies.


The conference is planned to be held live at Metsätalo Lecture Hall 4, Unioninkatu 40, University of Helsinki, and online on the 10-12 May 2021


This conference aims to examine performative, embodied, and acoustic histories of articulating colonial ‘otherness’. By doing so, it seeks to explore alternative colonial histories of political representation, as (re)imagined, (re)configured and provincialized by the non-European other. To that end, we intend to extend the focus of the conference beyond established Anglophone analyses of the metropole and colony, and indeed, beyond the disciplinary pre-eminence of Anglophone postcolonial studies. We would thus encourage proposals which:

  • provide alternative perspectives on indigenous/marginalised voices in the British colonies;
  • engage with non-Anglophone histories of European imperialism (e.g. with colonial/peripheral speech and performance in the French, German, Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, or Danish empires);
  • or comparatively reassess the embodied political legacies of the colonised other’s inter-imperial encounters with Anglophone and/or other European powers.

Alongside the foregoing concerns, we are interested in scrutinising the manifold power hierarchies inscribed within the subjective registers of the indigenous colonial voice. It is worth noting here, that it was often the embodied articulation of the indigenous male elite that was heard or construed by European imperial authorities as the representative voice of the colonised ‘other’. The vocal and political performances of the gentrified bhadralok intelligentsia in colonial Bengal and their concomitant interpretations by British officials in Westminster and India could be cited as a relevant instance in this regard. In nineteenth-century French-Algeria, for example, so-called ‘Arab bureaus’ appointed and employed indigenous chiefs to act as intermediaries between the colonial administration and the Muslim population. To what extent then, was the voice of the colonised non-European other that of an indigenous subaltern subject?

In response to this question, our conference re-evaluates Gayatri Spivak’s interrogation of the subaltern’s ability to speak, in order to prise open the intermediate agency of the subaltern’s ‘in-between’ space in the social structures and performative traditions of the colonised other. We thereby propose to offer a broader perspective on colonial subalternity, by considering, for example, the political performances of indigenous subjects and marginalised actors with different degrees of powerlessness, who lacked an ‘effective’ voice or leverage in society, but tried to compensate for the same through informal communication channels. The idea that subalternity is not a permanent state of oppression, but a sliding scale, showing people’s attempts to emerge from their subaltern position, is one that we wish to explore further at this conference. We seek to scrutinise how the ‘floating buffer zone’ of the subaltern, in Spivak’s terms, challenges the linear binarism of the centre-periphery discourse to problematise the epistemic remit of an Anglocentric approach to the study of colonial histories and cultures.

For this purpose, we not only intend to re-evaluate the research undertaken thus far, on anticolonial protests and demonstrations, but also make room for adequate scholarly attention to subaltern modes of gossiping, singing, debating, reciting, preaching, etc. What did the non-European other sound like? What were the acoustical characteristics of indigenous elite and subaltern voices (their pitch, tone, volume, rhythm, timbre)? Additionally, and more broadly, how was political power organised and performed in indigenous societies in different European colonies?

Furthermore, we are interested in examining how these performances came to be intertwined with the politics of audibility modulating the imperial European ear. Thus, the question of how diverse indigenous performances in the colonies might have been perceived by European imperialists and colonisers, emerges as a significant one. How did European colonisers and empire-builders, in various linguistic, cultural, and/or empirical contexts, ‘hear’/ ‘listen’ to indigenous elite and subaltern voices? Which audible cues for anticolonial freedom struggles may have been recognised, (dis)missed, (mis)interpreted, or (in)validated? Which indigenous voices may have been ‘silent to’ or ‘silenced by’ the European ear? Which indigenous voices may have managed to engage in inter-imperial dialogues, travel outside the colonies, and get transferred to the colonisers’ political modes of communication?

We welcome proposals for papers, panels and/or roundtables from different geographical areas, and different fields, including history, political science, literature, cultural studies, sound studies, anthropology, sociology, and the digital, medical, and environmental humanities. Proposals may take into account some of the following themes:

  • Performances of race, ideology, and/or gender in the colonies
  • Colonial speaking practices and non-Anglophone histories of European imperialism
  • Articulations of political representation, othering, and resistance in the colonies
  • Indigenous speech, audibility, and the imperial ear
  • Embodied vocalisations of national, regional, and/or inter-imperial identities
  • Indigenous elites, anticolonial nationalism, and the subaltern voice
  • Subaltern discourses and access to power
  • Histories of silence and ‘silencing’ the subaltern
  • Political transfer and hybridisation of knowledge

Submission guidelines

Please submit abstracts of no more than 300 words for 20-minute individual papers, and 500 words for panels or roundtables, along with a brief biographical note of participants (2-3 sentences max), via the following link:

The deadline for the receipt of abstracts is 21st November 2020

Candidates will be notified of the outcome of their submissions by 16th December 2020.

For further information about the conference and the programme, please visit the conference website :

Or contact us at:

We encourage scholars from all over the world to respond to this call for papers.

Practical informations

Owing to the current world health situation and the limitations it has imposed on international travel, the conference will be inevitably held partially online. Selected participants who are able to travel to Helsinki are strongly encouraged to do so, though scholars who are not sure if they can physically join us for the conference, are still invited to send in a proposal. Online presentation arrangements will be made for those speakers who are unable to come down to Helsinki in May 2021, due to potential travel restrictions in their country of residence and/or in Finland.

For further details, including the full text of the Call for Papers, please have a look at the conference website:

Confirmed Keynote Speakers

  • Arthur Asseraf (University of Cambridge), Barnita Bagchi (Utrecht University), Ananya Jahanara Kabir (King's College London), and Sophie White (University of Notre Dame) 

Special session

  • 'Le Thinnai Kreyol': Ari Gautier in conversation with Ananya Jahanara Kabir

Musical intermezzo

  • Sergio Andrés Castrillón A. (University of Helsinki)

Contact Info

  • Esha Sil and Karen Lauwers

CALLIOPE: Vocal Articulations of Parliamentary Identity and Empire', Department of Cultures, University of Helsinki, Finland

Contact Email:


Organisational and scientific committee

The scientific committee of the CALLIOPE International Conference thus far includes the members of the CALLIOPE team at the University of Helsinki’s Department of Cultures:

  • Josephine Hoegaerts (Principal Investigator, Assistant Professor)
  • Esha Sil (Postdoctoral researcher, lead organizer of the conference along with Karen Lauwers)
  • Karen Lauwers (Postdoctoral researcher, lead organizer of the conference along with Esha Sil)
  • Ludovic Marionneau (PhD-student)
  • Liesl Yamaguchi (Assistant Professor, Fulbright Finland Foundation Fellow and Visiting Researcher with CALLIOPE for the 2020-2021 academic year)


  • Metsätalo Lecture Hall 4 - Unioninkatu 40 (University of Helsinki) and online
    Helsinki, Finland (00014)


  • Saturday, November 21, 2020


  • colonial history, subaltern studies, imperial history, European history, African history, Asian history, American history


  • Karen Lauwers
    courriel : karen [dot] lauwers [at] helsinki [dot] fi
  • Esha Sil
    courriel : calliope2021 [at] helsinki [dot] fi

Information source

  • Karen Lauwers
    courriel : karen [dot] lauwers [at] helsinki [dot] fi

To cite this announcement

« Speaking as the 'Other': Coloniality, Subalternity, and Embodied Political Articulations (late 18th - early 20th centuries) », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Thursday, October 22, 2020,

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