Shadows of the Social. The imaginaries of otherness, of the invisible, of silence

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Shadows of the Social. The imaginaries of otherness, of the invisible, of silence

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Im@go. A Journal of the Social Imaginary
Call for papers n.24 (December 2024)
Shadows of the Social. The imaginaries of otherness, of the invisible, of silence
Editor: Antonio Camorrino and Nicola Pannofino

If, as Nina Edwards argues in Darkness: A Cultural History (2018), «darkness nourishes the imagination», at the same time, imagination, etymologically, equates to the creation of reflections, ghosts, appearances, thus shadowy substances that refer to the real in an opaque way. Sociology has traditionally favoured a “diurnal” representation – analogous to the diurnal regime of the imaginary described by Durand (1960) – of its object of study for which the multiple forms of action unfold in an atmosphere of visibility that makes them observable and analysable. Despite this representation, every society is inevitably confronted with its own shadow zones, with a backstage (Goffman 1959) in which silences, taboos, collective traumas, forgetfulness, fears, abandoned territories lurk. That a hidden aspect is woven into the social is recognised by Simmel (1906), according to whom the secrecy, constitutive trait of personal identity and information exchange, «offers the possibility of a secondary world, alongside the manifest one». This umbratile imaginary has accompanied the entire course of civilisation in the West (Flanagan 2016), testifying to the irruption into the socially shared order of an otherness, under the veil of the forbidden (such as the secret, which must not be said because it is known only to a few), the unspeakable (the mystery, which cannot be said because it is unknown to all) and the implicit (the common sense, which is not said because it is taken for granted as it is known to all). This Call for Paper invites reflection on the shadows of the social, that is, on the imaginary through which a culture elaborates, experiences and communicates the dark dimension that constitutes, undermines and haunts it. Borrowing from the language of optics and art in which a distinction is made between cast shadows (projected by an object exposed to a source of light) and self shadows (the unlit part of an object), social shadows can be traced back to two types of configuration – putting in the shadow and being in the shadow – respectively, consisting of cultural practices, epistemologies, worldviews and power relations that, as a whole, outline the hidden and less familiar side of our society. The shadow, metaphorically and physically, is the unavoidable counterpart of the modernisation project. From the introduction of public illumination that disenchanted the night in 19th century metropolises (Schivelbusch 1988) – think of the gas lamps in the passages and streets of Paris which, for Benjamin (2006), have emptied the sky of its stars – to the more recent electronic devices of a 24-hour society (Kreitzman 1999), today’s culture is marked by an oculocentric ideal that privileges the sense of sight, pursuing the imperative of transparency (Fan and Christensen 2023; Lord 2006) and the need for online visibility (Luhtakallio and Meriluoto 2023). In ousting the shadows of the past, this path has, however, generated new shadows: it is the ubiquitous diffusion of an imaginary that popularises aesthetics, narratives and symbolism linked to the dimension of mystery, the unknown and what escapes ordinary perception (Hill 2010; Partridge 2013) and that is inscribed in a broader process of nocturnal re-enchantment of contemporary society (Camorrino 2021).

Deadline: Abstracts submission: 15 June 2024
Notification of acceptance of abstracts: 15 July 2024
Submission of articles in final form: 15 October 2024
Final revision (based on the outcome of the peer-review): 15 November 2024
Publication of the issue: Dicember 2024

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