CFP: MANCEPT 2023 Workshop: Activism, strategies, and social structures

Submission deadline: September 11, 2023

Conference date(s):
September 11, 2023 - September 13, 2023

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MANCEPT 2023 Workshop: Activism, strategies, and social structures

A common complaint made about contemporary political theory is that it is far too focused on describing what a perfect society looks like, or what is wrong with contemporary societies, and not focused enough on exploring the means by which to right these wrongs and move toward the ideal (Mills 2009).

This criticism seems to us to be basically right. But it would not be correct to say that nothing has been said about the means by which to improve society. Political theorists have had a fair amount to say about ‘civil disobedience’ for instance (Rawls 1971). Indeed, in recent years, scholars have increasingly turned their attention to allegedly ‘uncivil’ forms of activism from hacktivism to hunger strikes, rioting to revolution (Smith 2018, Pasternak 2019).

What all of these forms of activism have in common, however, is that they typically have the laws and policies of the state as their targets. And while this kind of activism is of course essential, in this panel we want to draw attention to forms of activism that have social phenomena other than law or policy as their targets: social structures and practices, specifically, with their constituent norms and ideologies, their logics and socialization processes, and their supporting enforcement mechanisms and material conditions (Sewell 1992, Celikates 2016, Bicchieri 2017).

This is important, because while law and policy can of course affect social structures, the relationship between them is complex and bidirectional: structural change is not simply and inevitably downstream from legal change. The relative neglect of contemporary attempts to disrupt prevalent norms, queer social meanings, or sabotage material conditions does a disservice to political theorists aiming to understand – and to participate in – the struggle against the forms of oppression, domination, and exploitation that plague modern societies.

Moreover, when attention is paid to norms and social practices (e.g., Haslanger 2017, Olin-Wright 2019, Lu 2023), much remains to be said about how exactly they are to be changed: not just what is permissible in this regard, but also what is needed (whether it is radical change or something else, and how to prioritize between different ends), what works best (either in general or in the present conjuncture), how to go about it (strategically and tactically), who is responsible for it (morally and/or politically), and how they can become historically efficacious (including through self-transformation and the construction of transnational solidarity).

The aim of this workshop is to move towards remedying these relative neglects by facilitating discussion on activism – whether feminist, antiracist, anticapitalist, environmentalist, or all of the above – that is not (just) directed at law and policy but also targets norms and social structures, with particular emphasis on precise strategies and hands-on tactics.

Submission information

This will be an online only workshop. If you are interested in applying to participate in the workshop, please send an abstract of no more that 500 words prepared for anonymous review to [email protected] and [email protected] by 11:59 BST on Tuesday 30th May. We aim to notify successful applicants by early June. Abstracts should be accompanied by a non-blind cover sheet listing the speaker’s name, paper title, institutional affiliation and contact details. We especially welcome submissions from underrepresented groups. Please feel free to get in touch with us via the email addresses listed above is you have any queries.

This workshop will be part of the MANCEPT conference 2023. The conference will take place from Monday 11th September to Wednesday 13th September 2023. Registration for the conference opens in May. This year’s fees are:

Online attendance:

Academics: £45.00

PG: £20.00

Non-speaker: £15.00

In Person attendance:

Academics: £230.00

PG: £135.00

Dinner: £30

MANCEPT will offer a small number of fee waiver bursaries. The deadline for bursary applications (available to current graduate students only) will be 27th June 2022. Successful applicants will be informed by 11th July 2023. We will send further details if your piece is accepted. We will provide decision notices in time for people to complete bursary applications.

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