It is assumed that in today’s mass media, “free speech” is everywhere. We have access to an endless stream of images, words, thoughts and ideas on a daily basis. However, these opinions and pieces of news are filtered through official media outlets (trained journalists, career academics) or independently available through social media, without the benefit—or the detriment, perhaps—of professional vetting, thus raising questions about how “free” our access to information actually is. This means that the framing of news stories is all too often problematic, as a single event may be portrayed in irreconcilable ways by ideologically-motivated purveyors of information.
The “free” and often overwhelming proliferation of ideas has been paralleled by expansive moves towards censorship, both institutional and self-imposed, as well as the facile manipulation of information for personal or political gain. We have witnessed intense debate over the right to know and the right to tell paired with tensions between individual rights and state interests, often opposed to those of its citizenry. Among high-profile examples: the prosecution of government whistleblower Chelsea Manning; the continued legal limbo of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange; the exile of NSA trained hacker Edward Snowden; the disappearance of 43 students in Ayotztinapa (Mexico) and conflicting framing and discourse concerning responsibility; the biased or misinformed coverage of the Ebola crisis in African countries; the backlash against public critiques of use of force by police in the United States; the outcry over the flogging sentence of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi and numerous other imperiled Middle Eastern bloggers active during the Arab uprisings; the jailed Al-Jazeera journalists in Egypt; the withdrawal of an employment offer to academic and vocal critic of the Israeli government Steven Salaita, which has starkly divided opinions on campuses; and, most recently, the killing of cartoonists and editors at the French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo.
The Charlie Hebdo tragedy in particular has unleashed vehement discussion over the limits (and inconsistencies) of freedom of speech in Europe and beyond. These debates might be traced back to (post)colonial histories and sensibilities, or policies governing expression in place since the atrocities of World War II. They have been further inflamed by the arrest of several dozen people, including minors, for hate speech in the immediate wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks. Questions about the real and discursive limits of “free” speech recall Judith Butler’s arguments that institutional attempts to curb “illicit” discourse may in fact propagate it (Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative, 1997).
Since the presentation of speech, news, and images cannot be divorced from politics or systems of power any more than the articulation of opinion, we are often tasked with deciphering which speech merits “freedom,” for whom, and in what context. Who determines such a freedom, who guarantees it, and for whom? In today’s interconnected global discursive landscape, what constitutes “radical” discourse and why? How do we react to differences between radical theory, provocation, social critique, treason, and hate speech? Under what circumstances is it necessary or effective to curb discursive acts of aggression? What are the limits to freedom of speech? And finally, how do look at speech as something that occurs in a context, rather than as something that stands by itself?
The Spring/Summer 2015 issue of The Postcolonialist invites submissions that explore, analyze, challenge, and re-stage the complex power dynamics involved in determining “free speech,” “freedom of information,” and “radical speech,” and how these are being continuously redefined in the public sphere. We welcome pieces from across disciplines and critical traditions, and encourage interdisciplinary and intersectional approaches including but not limited to postcolonial studies, media studies, literary studies, critical race and ethnic studies, and gender studies.
For Peer Review: We welcome innovative pieces in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and French between 5,000-7,500 words in length for the standard peer review process. Submissions in Italian will be considered on an individual basis. Academic Dispatch pieces may be between 1,500 and 3,500 words (“conference-length” papers). Full length articles should have an abstract and key words, and be anonymized for peer review. While we have no standard citation format, we ask that each paper adhere to the accepted citation model in the relevant field. Please do not send pdf document submissions that cannot be edited or commented on.
Editorial or Artistic pieces relating to the Spring/Summer 2015 theme are also welcome.
Inquiries and Submissions may be sent to: Editorinchief@postcolonialist.com by April 13, 2015.