Call for papers: Matter, Life, and Resistance (1st-2nd July 2013)
A two-day international conference in political theory.
Organised by the Centre for Critical Thought, University of Kent, Canterbury, UK.
In the last decade, political theory has highlighted the importance of theories of materialism, vitalism, and resistance as themes in both the history of the discipline and with regards to the challenges posed to it by recent scientific advancements. These new trends in political theory have emphasised similarities in theoretical debates in physics and biology (for example chaos theory, complexity, autopoiesis, advances in the neurosciences) and philosophies from the 1960s-1970s (biopolitics, conceptions of agency, environmentalism, ‘new materialisms’, etc.).
This conference proposes to explore themes around the concepts of matter, life, and resistance that crossover between scientific theories and political thought. From the materialism of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries onwards, political thought has been informed, influenced and shaped by debates and theories in the sciences. Political philosophers such as Hobbes, Locke, Diderot and d’Holbach also played a key role in other sciences, and studying the relationship between their scientific works and their political philosophy is key to understanding their thought and its influence on later thinkers. In the nineteenth century, the question becomes whether Nietzsche’s voluntarist and vitalist philosophy can help us understand the changes in scientific conceptions of life and its evolution. Are Thoreau’s reconceptualisations of nature and the wild acts of resistance?
While poststructuralists have been accused of turning away from politics in favour of discourse and relativism, they have attempted in different ways to take into account the event and difference in dialogue with twentieth century science. Beyond the simple rejection of agency, recent interpretations of poststructuralism and some contemporary philosophers (Malabou, Stiegler, Latour, Bennett) have shifted the debate to plasticity, technical life, and relations to non-humans. What are the political consequences of this shift? What is the place of the concepts of matter, life and resistance for these thinkers?
Possible areas of contribution:
- Reinterpreting the history of political thought: 17th and 18th century materialists.
- Vitalism in the 19th century: life, nature, and the wild.
- What is ‘new’ about new materialism?
- Connecting poststructuralist conceptualisation of life, matter and resistance with biology and the neurosciences (ontogenesis, transductive relations, plasticity, synaptogenesis).
- Consequences of speculative materialism in political theory.
- Can vitalism and materialism be reconciled?
The conference will be free of charge and will have no parallel sessions.
A number of papers will be selected to feature in a special issue of a leading academic journal.
Please send your abstracts to: email@example.com by 5th May 2013.