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Refract Call for Papers: Volume 4 "Document/ary"

Deadline February 22, 2021

Refract’s fourth volume seeks to explore the entanglements between the document and the documentary as sources of information and forms of visual culture. Etymologically, document/ary derives from the Latin docere, to teach. The document is therefore a pedagogical tool. It can also be a disciplinary measure, a literary and legal form that ascribes value to people and property and gives shape to cultural beliefs called laws. And yet, the document defies boundaries–it is at once literary, visual, sociological, scientific, and historical. The aesthetic elements of the document/ary–its materiality, age, iconography, site(s)–are designed to facilitate the recording of information, providing authenticity and legitimacy by appearing to (re)produce, or provide evidence of, “the real.”

The document/ary can be read within a longer history of creative expression invested in the representation of reality or “truth.” Scientific illustrations, cartography, and portraits all construct and communicate evidence about the world. The invention of photographic technology in the 19th century ushered in the idea that a direct representation of reality was possible, a genre which formalised in the 20th century as the “documentary.” Outside of dominant western cultures, methods of truth-telling take on very different forms–such as oral histories and genealogies, non-logographic writing systems and records, and non-human knowledges–which have often been devalued, destroyed, or overwritten by imperial epistemologies. 

This volume of Refract asks: how has evidence as a material form shifted over time/space? How do we assess what is real and true? What can the document/ary as a visual form teach us about how truth value is constructed? If we must accept that the document/ary is not neutral, how does the perception of “truth” aid in the construction of specific narratives that may uphold or devalue certain histories, empires, or political positions? What do these mediations reveal about the way power/history/narrative is constructed?

Topics can include but are not limited to:

  • Scams, fakes, tricks, forgeries
  • Fictionality, parafiction, autofiction, realism, alternative realisms
  • Post-truth, “alternative facts,” “fake news,” journalism, news/social media, citizen journalism
  • Evidence, ownership, provenance, legal systems, legislation, law, surveillance 
  • The repertoire, the body as record, the nonhuman
  • Un-documented, ephemera, the “non-document”
  • Indigenous documentary practices
  • Records and record-keeping, journals/diaries, travel logs, archival collections and objects  
  • Materiality, palimpsests, digitalization, augmented reality, meta-data, PDFs, spreadsheets

Refract invites new approaches to visual, sensorial, and material cultures from diverse histories and geographies. Contributions from graduate students, artists, faculty, and independent scholars across the humanities, including visual studies, art history, anthropology, literature, and history are welcome. Although Refract primarily publishes in English, we invite submissions in other languages. In addition, we encourage media submissions such as film, photography, and audio, as well as collaborations that address the theme.

Submission Guidelines
Please send full-length submissions to by the deadline of Monday, February 22, 2021 with the subject heading “Refract Journal Submission.” Please note, only one submission per person will be considered.

  • Papers should range from 6,000-10,000 words in length.
  • Written submissions should follow Chicago Manual of Style 16th Edition guidelines for Humanities.
  • Submissions will be evaluated on relevance to themes, depth of research, completeness of work, and in accordance with Refract’s engagement with diverse geographies and histories.
  • We reserve the right to edit submissions selected for publication. Late or incomplete submissions will not be considered.
  • For submissions in languages other than English, please also include a translation of the piece into English for review purposes.

Reviews and Interviews
Refract seeks reviews as another avenue for critical engagement that grapple with the topics and questions raised above.

  • Reviews on books, exhibitions, and films should not exceed 1,000 words in length.
  • Written submissions should follow Chicago Manual of Style 16th Edition guidelines for Humanities.

Alternative Media
Refract encourages submissions in alternative media that address the themes described above.

  • Alternative media includes but is not limited to painting, photography, drawing, film, collaborative reviews, and digital projects.
  • Submissions should be accompanied by an artist statement no longer than 2 pages.
  • We encourage contributors to contact Refract before the submission deadline for customized instructions.
  • JPEG, PDF, and MP4 are preferred formats.

Inquiries should be sent to


PDF icon Volume 4 Call for Content220.78 KB