The Popular Culture Association’s annual conference is divided into sub-areas representing different areas of scholarship. The Romance Area of PCA has become a regular gathering point for many emerging and established popular romance scholars.
Romance Area Conference of the Popular Culture Association (PCA/ACA)
April 5-8 2023 – San Antonio, TX
Body Politic/Body Politics
The body politic (n.): A nation regarded as a corporate entity; (with the) the state. (OED)
Body politics (n): 1. The intersection of state interest with the bodies of its subjects (esp. marginalized subjects); state attempts to regulate those bodies. 2. The study of the ways in which marginalized bodies are a subject of state interest.
The twentieth-century Western romance narrative involved a fertile, able-bodied, cis-gendered heterosexual couple committing to a permanent heteronormative reproductive partnership sanctioned by church and state. This normative expectation was seldom questioned. As Waylen et al. have noted, “Seemingly personal issues associated with the body—such as rape, contraception, hair and clothing styles, pregnancy, or sexual harassment—were not traditionally seen as ‘political’”
(Waylen et al., 2013). Such “personal” issues have long been central to romance narratives.
Since the 1970s, this consensus view of romantic love has eroded, and romantic popular culture is now less univocal in its depictions of body politics. Can a “good” heroine have sex out of wedlock? With someone she doesn’t plan to marry? Can she use birth control? Can she find happiness if she isn’t white, or straight, or monogamous, or able-bodied, or cis-gendered? What kinds of authority do protagonists have over their own bodies? What types of state intervention must they submit to or fight? The diversity of opinion showcased in today’s romantic narratives makes it more challenging for readers to ignore the body politics in a book. In fact, one could argue that choosing a subgenre (such as inspirational romance or erotica) is already an expression of a reader’s body politics.
As Romance Area chairs preparing for our PCA meeting in San Antonio, Texas, body politics is on our minds. Texas is at the forefront of rolling back abortion rights as the country wrestles with the rollback of the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v Wade case (which also originated in Texas). But Texas is only one piece of the bigger picture. Elsewhere, state legislatures are fighting over the rights of people with non-conforming gender or sexual identities. The entire nation is and always has been embroiled in body politics, from the forceable relocation of Indigenous Americans, the enslavement of African-Americans, and decades on intense government oversight of where, how, and if BIPOC people were allowed to live, reproduce, attend school, shop, enjoy leisure time, and enjoy state-sanctioned romantic relationships. All of these seemingly private choices lie at the very heart of the romance narrative.
The theme of the PCA Romance area in 2023 is the body politic/body politics in romance and romantic media. We encourage you to define this theme broadly, and to think not just about specific texts but also about their authors, writers, and publishers, to understand the broader discussions in which these texts are implicated. How can we most productively think through the entanglements of bodies and politics?
Possible topics on this theme could include:
- Pregnancy, birth control, and marriage in rom-coms
- Love, Black bodies, and state power in popular culture
- Naked Attraction and the rejection of shame
- Beyond cis-gendered body: happy endings for non-binary, gender-queer, and trans protagonists
- Sci-fi erotica and the rejection of human men (Ice Planet Barbarians, anyone?)
- Sex on screen in Love Island
- Politically mobilized romance authors
- Pre-“Fantasy Suites” sex and slut-shaming in The Bachelor
- Audio erotica and sexy consent
- Experimental subjects and the trope of the secret government project in paranormal romance
- Stacy Abrams/Selena Montgomery: the romance writer as politician
- The intimacy coach as intermediary in Daria’s You Had Me at Hola
- Safe spaces and cottagecore romance
- Presidents and Prime Ministers and Princes: eroticizing politicians’ bodies in film
If none of these suggestions appeal, or you simply want to pursue your own intellectual passion, you are very welcome to do so.
Waylen, G., Celis, K., Kantola, J., & Weldon, L. (Eds.). (2013). The Oxford handbook of gender and politics. Oxford University Press.
Who we are
The Romance Area of the PCA is deeply interested in popular romance both within and outside of mainstream popular culture, now or in the past, anywhere in the world. Scholars, romance writers, romance readers/viewers, romance industry professionals, librarians, and any combination of these are welcome. You do not need to be an academic or have an institutional affiliation to be part of the Romance area. Undergraduates sponsored by an academic mentor are also welcome (please see the Romance area on the PCA website for our policy for undergraduates).
The Romance area invites any theoretical or (inter)disciplinary approach to any topic related to romance. Past presenters have drawn on methods from literary studies, history, library sciences, sociology, film studies, and creative writing, to name the most common approaches—we’ve even had a presentation with puppets (you know who you are). We’ve loved all of these. We would also like to emphasise that you do not need to write about romance novels to participate in this area (although that is obviously welcome!). The Romance area is open to engagements with all forms of media and culture that are concerned with romance, including, but not limited to, the following: art; literature; philosophy; radio and audio media; film and television; comics and graphic novels; videos, webzines and other online storytelling; and apps, including dating apps.
As the global pandemic continues, plans may change. You can check the PCA website for updates. We will also send updates to our Romance Area mailing list. If you are not on the mailing list and wish to be, please contact us.
Submit 250-word abstracts to pcaaca.org by November 30, 2022. One of us will review them within two weeks or so and notify you about our decision. You’ll hear more from us as the date approaches.
Please feel free to forward, cross-post, or link to this call for papers.
If you have any questions at all, please contact the area chairs:
Dr. Heather Schell
George Washington University
Dr. Jodi McAlister