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CfP: Alterity and the Research Imagination

25–26 January 2018

School of Human Sciences ׀ Universidade Católica Portuguesa in Lisbon

Preoccupation with theories and practices of representation and othering, across the breadth of various genres and disciplines, has moved forward debates about positioning in research and modes of constructing and producing knowledge. In Meatless Days (1989), a vivid memoir of her girlhood in postcolonial Pakistan, Sara Suleri Goodyear deplores being regarded as an “otherness machine”—a concern Kwame Anthony Appiah (1991) shares in his famous critique of postcolonial literature, culture and critical studies. A host of scholars who tend to conflate the post-isms as such contend that postcolonial theory and praxis are embedded in Western institutions that shape the field. Aijaz Ahmad (1992) and Arif Dirlik (1994) have argued that, owing to its reliance on poststructuralist approaches, postcolonial thought excludes questions of economic and political power structures. A staunch Derridean who uses deconstruction to uncover and disrupt such inevitable hegemonic relations of power in the academy or elsewhere, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (1999) has likewise dissociated herself from the postcolonial mainstream. Edward Said (1983), whose groundbreaking book Orientalism (1978) sets out a toolbox for colonial discourse analysis, has grown more and more dissatisfied with the untenable apolitical nature of the theoretical insights of Derrida, Foucault and others. Yet, some scholars, and Said himself, have pointed to the geocultural limitations of his theoretical model. In considering discourses of orientalism and balkanism, for instance, Maria Todorova (1997) argues that, unlike the Orient, the Balkans is a concrete entity that is peripheral, but not completely other, to Europe. Paul Gilroy has challenged the racial and ethnocentric biases inherent within British cultural studies in his first major work There Ain’t no Black in the Union Jack (1987). His discussion of diasporic hybridity (1993), however, has been censured for being gender-neutral. In his seminal essay The New Cultural Politics of Difference (1990), Cornel West locates his polemic on the emergence of the new black (or African-American) cultural worker in a critical historical juncture that might be comparable to what Stuart Hall calls “the end of the innocent notion of the essential black subject” (1988). More recently, Arjun Appadurai (2006) has made the case for research as a human right—an exercise of the imagination that is intrinsic to knowledge citizenship in the era of globalization. This conference considers the theoretical and methodological conundrums researchers and practitioners in the arts, humanities, and social sciences face when encountering sites of alterity.

All proposals that engage with the concept of alterity and subject it to a searching critique through the lenses of multiple disciplines are invited. Themes of interest include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Representations of alterity in film, literature, architecture, the visual and performing arts, etc.
  • Alternative media, politics and creativity
  • Multicultural, intercultural and transcultural communication
  • Critical human geography
  • The everyday—its antecedents and simulacra
  • Sociality and the ethics of care
  • Hybrid modalities of identity and difference
  • Ethnographic translations of radical alterity

The working language of the conference is English.

Please send an abstract (250 words) and a brief biographical note (150 words) to . All proposals should include a title, your name(s), contact details and, if relevant, institutional affiliation(s). The deadline for submission of proposals is 15 September 2017. Notifications of acceptance or rejection will be sent on 1 October 2017. The deadline for registration is 15 November 2017.

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