Call for Abstracts


Taboo Conference 2022 Rome

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Maximum length of abstract: 300 words

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Taboo in language, culture, and communication

Rome, Italy – September 28 – 30, 2022

In a world that seems continuously to be stretching the line of what is acceptable to the inhabitants of specific linguistic and cultural contexts, this interdisciplinary conference acknowledges the importance of investigating taboos and their reinforcement/breaking in various areas of language, culture, literature and society, and across different cultures. We propose to explore the delicate balance and subtle boundaries between the need for inclusion and respect for different ethnic, religious, sexual backgrounds – which seem to be at the basis of modern multicultural societies – and a conscious (or unconscious) push towards the breaking of existing taboos, for example for shock value, as in the case of comedy and art. In such contexts, investigation of the linguistic, cultural, social, institutional and personal implications of taboo reinforcement/breaking appears of extreme value.

For its 5th edition, the Taboo Conference series will specifically address the intricacies of taboo in language, culture, literature and communication in its various occurrences from the points of view of production, performance, and perception/reception. The subject of taboo in language, culture, literature and communication seems to have become especially relevant in the last few years, in which political correctness at both the institutional and individual level has been seen, on the one hand, as a crucial tool in protecting people from verbal abuse and in preventing the reinforcement of stereotypes and, on the other, as a set of measures and a way of thinking which significantly curtail free speech in many aspects of the public sphere.

The 2022 conference seeks to explore the shifting boundaries of the acceptability of taboo in their various incarnations as produced and perceived in today’s multicultural society, from cinema and television, to news, videogames, literature and different kinds of online content. The study of taboo in the past, for example through the medium of literature, is also relevant to the conference. Possible areas of inquiry include, but are not limited to, political orientations and political satire, identity and gender politics, ethnic stereotypes, different kinds of non-normative behaviour, political correctness and the discourse surrounding it, wokeness and free speech, taboos in pandemic times, and the debate between real and perceived offense through comedy.

We welcome individual proposals or pre-organized panels from different disciplines pertaining – but by no means limited – to the following thematic areas and their intersections in various mediatic forms:

  • Sex and sexuality (e.g. nudity, non-normative sexual practices, pornography)

  • Racism and sexism (e.g. white supremacy, gender discrimination, transphobia)

  • Death and dying (e.g. mortality, aging, funerals and burials, fatal accidents)

  • Sickness, disability, and deformity

  • Scatology (e.g. excreta/effluvia)

  • Politics (e.g. political corruption, political incorrectness, prejudice, gender discrimination)

  • Religions and blasphemy (rituals, prejudice, afterlife)

  • Addiction

  • Money (greed, graft, exploitation, waste, extravagance, poverty)

  • Changing social attitudes towards violence, exploitation and abuse (prostitution, slavery, trafficking, rape, children’s rights)

  • Censorship, reactions to it, and its effects.

The Conference will be held at University of Rome, Tor Vergata. The working language for the conference is English. Each paper presentation should be scheduled for 20 minutes to be followed by 10-minute question time to the panel.