The 2025 Telos Conference: China Keywords / 中国关键词

March 21, 2025 - March 22, 2025
The Telos-Paul Piccone Institute

New York
United States

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The 2025 Telos-Paul Piccone Institute Annual Conference

March 21–22, 2025

New York, NY

China Keywords / 中国关键词

About the Conference

The 2025 annual conference of the Telos-Paul Piccone Institute will culminate the first year of a five-year program—the Telos China Initiative—that has aimed to set Telos on a distinct intellectual course.

The Telos circle falls outside many conventional intellectual categories. During the Cold War, this quality enabled us to form a bridge between Eastern Europe and the Anglosphere. We fostered work by Soviet-bloc intellectuals, helping Western readers understand the ideological dynamics at play behind the Iron Curtain; we supported a wide variety of dissidents in their opposition to bureaucratic centralization, as we have likewise for opponents of bureaucratic governance in the West; and we brokered an encounter between Marxism and phenomenology that was vital for critical thinkers in the Soviet and the liberal democratic world.

We believe that the future of the TPPI now lies in a parallel reciprocal engagement with China, to which we have given steadily increasing focus for the past ten years in our annual conferences. These meetings have laid the basis for seven special issues of the journal Telos, as well as numerous individual articles in the field. With the Telos China Initiative, we seek to become a key bridge for a mutually regarding, critical discussion of social and political theory between China and the West, well beyond the circles of East Asia specialists.


Our 2025 conference will cap the first year of this initiative, during which we launched our webinar series "China Keywords." Taking broad inspiration from Raymond Williams's Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society (1976), each webinar critically explores a single concept essential for understanding contemporary Chinese social and political theory, illuminating these concepts with an eye toward non-specialists in the West, while also addressing deep contestations of interest to experts in the field. Our conference takes the name of this webinar series and seeks to build on its themes. We expect the conference to result in a special issue of Telos.

We seek proposals for individual papers and full panels focused on, or that take as their starting point, a single keyword important for critically understanding the political-theoretical dynamics of contemporary China, which include its ideologies of global order and Chinese mission. These keywords may change meaning based on where one is standing—and they are, therefore, key points of contention. Some examples include:

  • tianxia (天下)
  • wangdao (王道)
  • Wealth and power (富强)
  • The party-state
  • Socialism with Chinese characteristics (中国特色社会主义)
  • Cultural Self-Confidence (文化自信)
  • New Confucianism (新儒家)
  • Mr. Democracy (德先生)
  • Reform and Opening-Up (改革开放)
  • River Elegy (河殤)
  • Sinocentrism (中国中心主义)
  • Neo-imperialism (新帝國主義)
  • The China Model (中国模式)
  • Community of Common Destiny (人类命运共同体)
  • The New Era (新时代)

We are also open to considering papers that examine keywords or concepts from the West as they may apply to China and its place in the world, such as: authoritarianism, New Cold War, liberal world order, Leninism, and illiberal globalization.

Papers or panels that illuminate the possibilities for critical theoretical dialogue between China and the West are most welcome, as are those from specialists that focus on intellectual debates within China. Likewise, contributions are welcome from specialists in Western theoretical traditions who seek to make a bridge to Chinese discursive communities—for instance, through the work of Carl Schmitt or the tradition of Critical Theory, with which the Telos circle has long been interested—as are papers that, fitting with the traditions of our circle, oppose any authority, East or West, that limits the possibility of individual emancipation within the telos of politics and of humankind.

Submissions Guidelines

Presentations at the conference should be no more than 15 minutes long, between 1500–2000 words. Our conference has a two-stage process for acceptance: first, submission of a presentation proposal and, second, submission of a presentation draft. Both stages must be completed for final acceptance to the conference.

Presentation proposals should describe the topic of a talk or of a full panel in 100–250 words. They should be made by September 1, 2024. Proposals for full panels, which can include up to four presenters, should include proposals for all presentations as well as for the panel as a whole.

With each proposal, please include the name and institutional affiliation of each presenter, as well as a curriculum vita or resume. In addition to established university faculty, independent scholars, students, and individuals working fully outside university circles are warmly invited to submit proposals.

Review of proposals will be conducted on a rolling basis until the September 1 deadline, with final notification by September 15. Successful proposals will be invited to submit a presentation draft.

Presentation drafts are due by November 15, 2024. A presentation draft need be only 1000 words long and need not be polished, though submission of full presentations is strongly encouraged. Final notification of acceptance will take place by December 1. Feedback on drafts will be provided by the organizers to ensure an excellent conference event based with a fruitful exchange of competing and complementary ideas.

Please note that TPPI is not able to provide travel or accommodation funds, that there will be no option to present via Zoom, and that there will be a conference registration fee. Past registration fees for non-student members of TPPI have been about $300. These fees provide not only for conference attendance but also for a celebratory conference dinner, lunches, and refreshments.

Submit proposals or inquiries to [email protected].

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January 1, 2025, 9:00am EST

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