Call for Papers: Intersectional Selves: Feminist Self-portraiture

by: , September 7, 2023

© Photo by Cassils

Self-portraiture can encompass many forms (Borzello 2016; Battista 2019), from embodied and participatory practices (Luciano & Chen 2015; Hogue 2016; Zivkovic 2022) to disembodied, abstract data (Johnstone & Imber 2020; Piper-Wright 2022). It keeps raising questions concerning the politics of representation and representationalism (Barad 2007).

For example, Susan Morris’ self-tracking self-portraits Medication and Mood Swings (2006) present the self-abstracted in a ‘double condition of standardization and opacity’ (Newman 2020: 54). They are non-representational portraits that use a standardised format and do not express narrative information or the likeness of the individual but project information about specific aspects of Morris’ life over a period of time.

Elsewhere, transgender artist Cassils uses their body in hybrid works that employ performance, sound, sculpture and photography. Their Becoming An Image (2012 onwards) offers a visceral experience in illuminated glimpses of the artist at work during which they beat a mountain of clay in darkness, exerting themself into being to a soundtrack of slaps and grunts.

Bobby Baker’s practice of self-portrayal employs drawing, performance, and installation. Her recent piece, Drawing on a (Grand) Mother’s Experience (2015-2021) wittily revisits a work made a generation ago that takes a feminist view of motherhood. Dressed like a cross between a laboratory technician and a nursery nurse, Baker’s performance draws upon her experiences Laying a sheet on the stage and applying to it the produce of sustenance (tins of tomatoes, cold roast beef, flour), she describes the messiness of motherhood in a performance that culminates by cloaking herself in the drawing to applause.

While self-portraiture in photography has been widely discussed, the last 20 years have left a void regarding reflection in other visual arts, moving images, text, performance, etc. We wish to add to the literature and push the boundaries of what a feminist self-portrayal could be.

Our Focus Issue of MAI will centre on contemporary self-portraiture using feminist, new materialist, queer, crip, critical race theory, and other theoretical approaches to present the diversity of ontological approaches within contemporary self-portraiture. Critically, we aim at pushing the boundaries of what constitutes a self-portrait. Considered art forms and media can include video, performance, painting, sculpture, new media, photography, audio, and text.

We particularly welcome submissions that ask, but are not limited, to the following questions:

  • How can self-portraiture uniquely respond to a contemporary environment characterised by ecological disaster, racial violence, erosion of women’s rights and hostility towards trans and non-binary people?
  • Can self-portraiture challenge or evade the binary gendered, idealised, and commodified body ubiquitous in neoliberal networked societies?
  • How might self-portraiture enact a multi-species, tentacular entanglement (Haraway 2016), a horizontal people-thing assemblage of mutual exchange (Bennett 2010), or a ‘care web’ that enables ‘co-constituted, interdependent subjects to repair, rebuild, and cultivate resilience in the midst of, and in the aftermath of, experiences of overwhelming negative affect’ (Malatino 2020: 43)?
  • How might a practice of self-portrayal become a means of repair, redemption, or reclamation by the wilful assertion of the subject (Ahmed 2014)?

We welcome proposals in the following formats:

  • academic research/critical reflection articles (6000-8000 words)
  • interviews (1000-3000 words)
  • creative writing (poems, short stories, creative responses, max 3000 words)
  • video essays (5-10 min + a brief supporting statement 800-1000 words)
  • photographs, visual/audiovisual or interactive art with critical reflection as written commentary

Other types of submissions may be considered at the discretion of MAI editors.

Any questions regarding the format or type of your prospective submission should be sent to Please read MAI Manifesto before sending us your work.

All submissions should follow MAI formatting guidelines: Submissions.

MAI only publishes work that fits into its feminist and visual culture remit.

Focus Issue Guest Editors

  • Lizzy Orcutt (Leeds Arts University, UK)
  • Dawn Woolley (Leeds Arts University, UK)

Proposal Submission

Your proposal should consist of:

Please use this subject title in your submission email: ‘Proposal: Intersectional Selves’.

Deadline for Proposals: 30 November 2023

Authors will be notified by 15 January 2023.

Full Submissions Deadline: 17 June 2024 (subject to prior proposal acceptance)

Proposed Publication Time: Spring 2025


Barad, Karen (2007), Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning, Durham: Duke University Press.

Battista, Kathy (2019), ‘Revisiting Feminist Artworks and Re-envisioning a Feminist Practice for the Twenty-first Century’, in New York New Wave: The Legacy of Feminist Art in Emerging Practice, London, New York, Oxford, New Delhi & Sydney: I. B. Taurus

Bennett, Jane (2010), Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. Durham: Duke University Press.

Borzello, Frances (2016), Seeing Ourselves: Women’s Self-Portraits, London: Thames & Hudson Ltd.

Braidotti, Rosi (2013), The Posthuman, Cambridge &Malden, MA, Polity.

Brown, Bobby (2015), ‘Drawing on a (Grand) Mother’s Experience’ [Performance]. Available at:’s-experience (last accessed 4 September 2023).

Cassils (2012), ‘Becoming an Image’ [Performance, Photography, Sculpture and Sound]. Available at: (last accessed 4 September 2023).

Haraway, Donna J. (2016), Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene, Durham & London: Duke University Press, 2016.

Hogue, Simon (2016), ‘Performing, Translating, Fashioning: Spectatorship in the Surveillant World’, Surveillance & Society, Vol. 14, No. 2, pp. 168-183.

Johnstone, Fiona & Kirstie Imber (eds), (2020) Anti-Portraiture: Challenging the Limits of the Portrait, London: Bloomsbury.

Luciano, Dana & Mel. Y. Chen (2015), ‘Has the Queer Ever Been Human?’, GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, Vol. 21, No. 2-3, pp. 183-207.

Malatino, Hil, (2020), Trans Care, Minneapolis & London: University of Minnesota Press, 2020.

Newman, Michael (2020), ‘Decapitations: The Portrait, the Anti-Portrait … and What Comes After?’, in Fiona Johnstone and Kirstie Imber (eds.), Anti-Portraiture: Challenging the Limits of the Portrait, London: Bloomsbury.

Mock, Roberta (2013), Walking Writing and Performance: Autobiographical Texts by Deirdre Heddon, Carl Lavery and Phil Smith, illustrated edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Piper-Wright, Tracy (2022), ‘To See and Be Seen: What Can a Woman Do with a Camera (Phone)?’, MAI: Feminism & Visual Culture, 9 (Photography & Resistance). Available at: (last accessed 4 September 2023).

Smith, Sidonie, (2003), Interfaces: Women, Autobiography, Image, Performance, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Zivkovic, Alex, (2022),  ‘Joan Jona’s Ecological Portraits’, Afterimage, Vol. 49, No. 1, pp. 63-87.

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The team of MAI supporters and contributors is always expanding. We’re honoured to have a specialist collective of editors, whose enthusiasm & talent gave birth to MAI.

However, to turn our MAI dream into reality, we also relied on assistance from high-quality experts in web design, development and photography. Here we’d like to acknowledge their hard work and commitment to the feminist cause. Our feminist ‘thank you’ goes to:

Dots+Circles – a digital agency determined to make a difference, who’ve designed and built our MAI website. Their continuous support became a digital catalyst to our idealistic project.
Guy Martin – an award-winning and widely published British photographer who’s kindly agreed to share his images with our readers

Chandler Jernigan – a talented young American photographer whose portraits hugely enriched the visuals of MAI website
Matt Gillespie – a gifted professional British photographer who with no hesitation gave us permission to use some of his work
Julia Carbonell – an emerging Spanish photographer whose sharp outlook at contemporary women grasped our feminist attention
Ana Pedreira – a self-taught Portuguese photographer whose imagery from women protests beams with feminist aura
And other photographers whose images have been reproduced here: Cezanne Ali, Les Anderson, Mike Wilson, Annie Spratt, Cristian Newman, Peter Hershey