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Counterculture and its margins

Montréal, Canada
Organization: University of Montreal / McGill University
Categories: Postcolonial, Hispanic & Latino, Comparative, Interdisciplinary, French, Gender & Sexuality, World Literatures, History, Philosophy, African & African Diasporas, Asian & Asian Diasporas, Australian Literature, Canadian Literature, Caribbean & Caribbean Diasporas, Indian Subcontinent, Eastern European, Mediterranean, Middle East, Native American, Scandinavian, Pacific Literature
Event Date: 2018-09-01 Abstract Due: 2017-04-30

Call for articles

La contre-culture et ses marges (Counterculture and Its Margins)

Edited by Simon Harel (Département de littératures et de langues du monde, Université de Montréal)
and Simon-Pier Labelle-Hogue (Département et langue et littérature françaises, McGill University)

Many recent publications have shown both the usefulness and the ambiguity of both the terms counterculture and countercultures (Bennett, 2014). Among them, we notice that the vast majority focuses on the 60s, where counterculture is indivisible from the cultural and social movements of the time (Roszak, 1969; Rochon, 1979; Heath and Potter, 2005; Dogget, 2007; Larose and Rondeau, 2016). Conversely, several researchers treat that phenomenon as plural and transhistorical.

From the latter point of view result two positions. On the one hand, numerous scholars use the plural form to account for the variety of personal interpretations of the movement, as well as the plurality of the social practices that make counterculture a polymorphic object (Bourseiller and Penot-Lacassagne, 2013; Lacroix, Landrin, Pailhes Rolland-Diamond and Landrin, 2015). In 1978 already, Jules Duchastel showed that counterculture puts contrasts forward so as to allow everyone to express their individuality. Monographs on the Québécois (Warren and Fortin, 2015) and American (Saint-Jean-Paulin, 1997; Robert, 2012) contexts rightly demonstrate that the means of appropriation of several social characteristics associated with that movement (pseudonyms, first names, hairdos, clothing, music, etc.) proceed, at least in part, from a collective will to oppose their parents and society in general. In that respect, individuals born during the baby boom wanted to develop a set of codes and practices to confront canonical institutions, which they did in such a way that it draws an breach between gatherings (demonstrations, concerts, large-scale events) and regional ventures (communes), nomad (pilgrimages, road trips) and sedentary (alternative societies) life, new technologies and back-to-the-land initiatives, yippie nihilism and hippie pacifism, underground culture and popular culture, plus many more dyads.

Besides the historical and intergenerational background, the cultural geography and linguistic abilities had a deep impact on the theorization and modelization of countercultures. In many cases, the writings of thinkers such as Aldous Huxley, Marshall McLuhan, Abbie Hofmann, Timothy Leary, Tom Wolfe and Wilhelm Reich were not translated until the 70s. Although some periodicals and organizations, including the Underground Press Syndicate, contributed to the translation and circulation of crucial texts, it entails that a significant number of philosophers or theorists have, in the case of Francophonie at least, been put to contribution. While a “catching up phase, which consisted in […] assimilating the main ideas flowing in the United States before adapting them” (Moore, 1973: 364 [our translation]) took place, writers, artists and other contributors identifying to counterculture consequently used their own references, ranging from philosophers like Bataille, Burroughs, Brecht, Foucault, Marx and Lefebvre to the lyrics of popular music (Beatles, Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, The Doors, Frank Zappa). In other words, we observe the rise of a plural counterculture, at a human scale, which fits the places where it spreads.

On the other hand, a growing tendency is to use a more universal definition of counterculture so as to apply it to historical movements sometimes very distant from the 60s. While Roszak (1969) outlines, in his definition, the importance of technocracy, “a vast cultural imperative opposing the scientific, technical and industrial perception of the world to not only society, but all that we call ‘life’” (Rondeau 2013 [our translation]), and demonstrates that counterculture is better understood as a reply to the issues and debates at play in the United States, a handful of researchers modify the appellation and apply it to any movement or individual with a rebellious attitude, from social movements to hacktivism, avant-garde movements and mythical figures like Prometheus (Jézo-Vannier, 2013). As a result, they entertain a form of confusion already present in Pierre Bourdieu’s writings, where he intermixes counterculture, underground cultures and subcultures: “We should first agree on what we call counterculture, which is by definition either difficult or impossible. There are countercultures: it is all that lies in the margins, outside the establishment, outside Official culture (Bourdieu 2002 [1984]: 11 [our translation]).

As the previous discussion may suggest, we will not take that last definition of countercultures into account in this book, which will focus on the sociocultural configuration that took place in the 60s and 70s, as well as its origins and heritage. The articles will be of variable length: 5000-7500, 10000-15000, 20000-25000 or 35000-40000 characters, excluding footnotes and bibliography, depending on the complexity of the issue presented and the way you design your articles. The main subjects that will be addressed are the following:

- The key concepts of counterculture (anti-Americanism, performance, praxis, road trip, deterritorialization, etc.).
- The philosophical, scientific, literary, artistic, aesthetic, social and historical origins of counterculture.
- Behaviours and practices associated with counterculture (alternative schools, New Age, experiential or transcendental festivals like Burning Man and Tomorrowland), from the 1960s until today.
- The definitions, unified or partial, of counterculture, along with the difficulty of dating the phenomenon.
- The particularities of non-American countercultures (relationship with American counterculture; comparative analysis; social, political and artistic specificities; theoretical and critical references; local practices).
- The links uniting or dividing countercultures and the movements that pre-existed them, or accompanied them over the course of their evolution (structuralism, feminism, civil rights).
- Local and international influence networks between different countercultures, in the fields of literature, culture and politics.
- Testimonies and biographical sketches.

We nevertheless remain open to all aspects of counterculture, although unusual and original – in both senses of the term – interpretations are particularly welcome. Research subjects not previously mentioned are hence not excluded.

The proposals, which can be in either French or English, must be sent to Simon-Pier Labelle-Hogue (simon-pier.labelle-hogue@mail.mcgill.ca) by April 30, 2017. Their approximate length will be around 250 words, and they will include a bio-bibliography of about 150 words and a bibliography of 5 to 10 titles. To ease the evaluation process, we would like each proposal to line up with this format:

Name of the author:
Email address:
Bio-bibliography (about 150 words):

Length wanted (500-7500, 10000-15000, 20000-25000, 35000-40000 characters):
Proposal (about 250 words):

Bibliography (5-10 titles):

To insure that things go smoothly, we also want to inform you of the editorial calendar:
Deadline for sending proposals: April 30, 2017
Completion of primary evaluation: May 12, 2017
Deadline for the first draft: August 18, 2017
Completion of the first review:
September 29, 2017
Deadline for the final draft: December 3, 2017
Completion and sending of the manuscript to the Presses de l’Université Laval (Québec):
January 8, 2018
Book launch: Fall 2018

Please not that the acceptance of your proposal does not equal an acceptance of your paper, due to peer review. Considering the many possibilities, the committee will keep in mind both the quality of the papers and the unity of the book.

Simon Harel
Département de langues et de littératures du monde
Université de Montréal
C.P. 6128, succursale Centre-ville
Montréal (Québec), Canada, H3C 3J7

Simon-Pier Labelle-Hogue
Département de langue et littérature françaises
Université McGill


Bennett, Andy. 2012. Pour une réévaluation du concept de contre-culture. Volume! (9.1): 19-31.
Bourdieu, Pierre. 2002 [1984]. Questions de sociologie. Paris: Éditions de Minuit. 2002.
Bourseiller, Christophe and Olivier Penot-Lacassagne (eds). 2013. Contre-cultures!. Paris: Éditions du CNRS.
Dogget, Peter. 2007. There’s a Riot Going On. Revolutionaries, Rock Stars and the Rise and Fall of ‘60s Counter-Culture. Edinburgh/New York/Melbourne: Canongate.
Duchastel, Jules. 1978. Théorie ou idéologie de la jeunesse : discours et mouvement social. Ph.D. thesis. Montréal: University of Montréal.
Heath, Joseph and Andrew Potter. 2005. La révolte consommée. Le mythe de la contre-culture, trad. Michel Saint-Germain and Élise de Bellefeuille. Montréal/Paris: Trécarré/éditions Naïves.
Jézo-Vannier, Steven. 2013. Contre-culture(s) : des Anonymous à Prométhée. Marseille: Le Mot et le Reste. Lacroix, Bernard, Xavier Landrin, Anne-Marie Pailhes and Caroline Rolland-Diamond (eds).
2015. Les contre-cultures. Genèses, circulations, pratiques. Paris: Syllepse. Larose, Karim et Frédéric Rondeau (eds). 2016. La contre-culture au Québec. Montréal: Presses de l’Université de Montréal.
Moore, Marie-France. 1973. Mainmise, version québécoise de la contre-culture. Recherches sociographiques (14.3): 363-381.
Reid, Malcolm. 2009. Notre parti est pris. Un jeune reporter chez les écrivains révolutionnaires du Québec. Québec: Presses de l’Université Laval.
Robert, Frédéric. 2012. De la contestation en Amérique : approche sociopolitique et contre-culturelle des Sixties. Rennes: Presses universitaires de Rennes.
Rochon, Gaétan. 1979. Politique et contre-culture. LaSalle: Hurtubise HMH.
Rondeau, Frédéric. 2014. Contre-culture. In Anthony Glinoer and Denis Saint-Amand (eds), Lexique Socius [online]. URL : http://ressources-socius.info/index.php/lexique/21-lexique/60-contre-culture
Roszak, Theodor. 1969. The Making of a Counter Culture. New York: Anchor Books.
Saint-Jean-Paulin, Christiane. 1997. La contre-culture. États-Unis, années 60 : la naissance de nouvelles utopies. Paris: Éditions Autrement.
Warren, Jean-Philippe and Andrée Fortin. 2015. Pratiques et discours de la contreculture au Québec. Québec: éditions du Septentrion.


Simon-Pier Labelle-Hogue