Radical ventriloquism: Acts of speaking through and speaking for
Stream Organisers: Lee Campbell and Christabel Harley 

Saturday 6th July
Goldsmiths,University of London

Ventriloquism, in its most common usage, refers to a form of popular entertainment consisting of performers giving voice to inanimate objects through a careful interplay between what is heard and what is seen. The beginnings of ventriloquism can be cited in the jester’s scepter. The jester gained power by not using his own voice. He spoke through the voice of his scepter—a miniature representation of his own face. Similarly, ventriloquists speak through their puppets as a way of “distancing” themselves from criticism.

This stream explores expanded forms of ventriloquism and asks: ‘What may constitute a radical ventriloquism?’ and explores the possibilities of ‘radical ventriloquism’ and its potential as useful and applicable to enabling important discussions about what it may mean to ‘speak through’ and ‘speak for’ others/objects/things across a range of artistic/creative disciplines. Whilst recognising that ‘in Nietzsche’, as suggests David Goldblatt, ‘the artist allows certain forces which he designates at will, to move and speak through him.’, this stream includes presentations from individuals and groups from beyond arts and humanities to explore how, for example, a scientist would conceptualise ‘radical ventriloquism’?

Leading on from the previous quote, Goldblatt, in Art and ventriloquism usefully goes on to remind us that, ‘in Foucault, while certain persons speak for things (art and nature), persons also speak for other persons, those muted in the social Diaspora such as the mad, the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned.’ Disability is often presented and represented by abled-bodied medics and others. This aligns with Linda Alcoff’s assertion in The Problem of Speaking for Others (1992) that ‘privileged authors who speak on behalf of the oppressed is becoming increasingly criticized by members of those oppressed groups themselves’. In response, presentations theorise, articulate and demonstrate how radical ventriloquism nudges at these crucial debates: ethics/politics of representation / giving voice to those ‘marginalised’.

We shall question who gets to (and who should) speak for whom. We are most interested in receiving submissions that reflect upon how radical ventriloquism may be understood in critical pedagogy terms in relation to, for example, decolonizing the curriculum. What does it mean for a white person to be lecturing on postcolonial theory, a white man teaching feminism, or, as Calvin Thomas explores in Straight with a Twist (1999), a straight man lecturing on queer theory?

Further information:
Dr Lee Campbell, University of Arts London
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Christabel Harley, University of Arts London
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