CFP: The Sovereign Erotic

42ndAmerican Indian Workshop in association with Transmotion journal

12-17 July 2021

Conference to take place online

Proposals are invited for the 42nd annual AIW conference, organized by European University Cyprus in association with Transmotion journal, to be held from 12-17 July 2021. Following the conference, a special issue of Transmotion will be dedicated to articles developed from papers presented at this event.

This iteration of the Workshop is inspired by the increasing numbers of American Indian and First Nations thinkers and creative artists who are centering ideas of sexuality and eroticism in their work. Whether in the form of Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm’s anthology Without Reservation: Indigenous Erotica (2003), Brent Learned’s 2017 exhibition Native American Body of Art, or the Edmonton-based ongoing “sexy performance laboratory” Tipi Confessions, not to mention the landmark 2011 collection Sovereign Erotics, after which the conference is titled, Indigenous artists have clearly found a powerful sense of sovereignty in the erotic.  This has been accompanied by much academic work, particularly from Two-Spirit thinkers, into the history and ethos of tribal understandings of gender and sexuality. Such moves take on all the more force in a context too often dominated by trivializing, distorting, and demeaning settler concepts of sex and sexuality, in which many Native women, children, and LGBTQ2IA+ individuals carry a heavy burden of abuse. However, the decolonization of the erotic is anything but straightforward, raising questions of the body’s interaction with tradition, modernity, gender, and sexuality. This conference will therefore consider questions of, and interdisciplinary approaches to, sex, sexuality, and gender, broadly defined. Questions that could be considered include:

  • Reclamations and celebrations of the erotic as life-force in Indigenous literature, film, music and other arts
  • Pre- and post-contact Indigenous cultural understandings of sexuality and the erotic
  • Indigenous futurist eroticism
  • Relationships between Indigenous and other ethnic minority theorizations and experiences of the erotic
  • The intersections of rape culture and settler colonialism
  • Ecosexuality in Native American and First Nations cultures
  • Narratives of personal erotic self-discovery
  • Alternative Indigenous narratives of gender
  • Questions of shame and courage in reservation, urban, and other Indigenous societies
  • Depictions of intimacy in Indigenous arts
  • Two-Spirit and other LGBTQIA+ Indigenous lives in settler societies
  • Pornography, human trafficking and the commoditization of Native bodies
  • Attempted cultural appropriation of the erotic self
  • Erotic interactions in digital Indigenous communities

As is always the case with the AIW, any topic in any discipline may be proposed for discussion. The major focus of the conference is on the Indigenous cultures and peoples of North America, but comparative global work is also welcome. However, distinct priority will be given to:

  1. Proposals for papers/panels/roundtables/workshops that speak to the conference theme
  2. Proposals on other themes for full panels or roundtables (i.e. with multiple participants)
  3. Proposals that offer original ways to work with the online environment

Proposals for individual papers that are not relevant to the conference theme are less likely to be accepted.

The conference will take place online using the Zoom platform. This decision was made during the covid-19 pandemic, but we also welcome the potential for an academic meeting with a lowered carbon footprint, and one that allows for greater participation by postgraduate and international researchers.

We are planning various modifications to the normal physical conference programme in order to recreate the atmosphere of the normal Workshop in digital spaces. Participants will be asked to make 10 minute presentations of their papers, the better to facilitate group discussion and knowledge exchange. We also would like to strongly encourage presenters to consider alternatives to the standard academic paper. Examples might include:

  • Focussed roundtables
  • Pre-scripted multiple-participant discussions
  • Discussion of pre-circulated longer works and reading groups
  • Pedagogical workshops
  • Network meetings / discussion of new research nodes and funded projects

Recognizing that participants will likely be coming in from a wide range of time zones, and also that online participation makes additional demands on the audience, the conference is planned to take place over a full week in a narrower time band (likely 15:00-21:00 CET): participants from the Western United States should therefore expect an early morning event, while participants in the Middle East and Asia will need to be prepared to attend late in the evening or early morning. There will be a conference fee of €30 (€20 for graduate students, independent scholars, and retired faculty).

Abstracts of not more than 300 words should be submitted to conference organizer James Mackay at, by January 8th, 2021. Please include the words “AIW 2021 submission” as the subject line.