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Legacies of the Enlightenment Workshop

CFP - Legacies of the Enlightenment

We are now accepting proposals from graduate students who wish to participate in the inaugural Legacies of the Enlightenment Workshop, to be held on the campus of Michigan State University October 5-7, 2018.

Your research does not have to focus solely on the period of the Enlightenment, but it should address in some form how the Enlightenment continues to exert an influence on our social, political, cultural, and ideological landscape into the present. We are pleased to offer some financial assistance for travel to accepted participants.

Topic of our workshop:

At least since the last century, philosophers and the public have turned to the Enlightenment, as a way of navigating moments of social and political crisis. For example, in the wake of the terror attacks committed at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris in January 2015, French citizens turned to the philosophers of the Enlightenment, and most importantly to Voltaire, to foreground a collective commitment to ideals of reason and tolerance. After the attacks, copies of Voltaire’s 1763 Treatise On Tolerance were virtually flying off the shelves of libraries and bookstores. According to French magazine Le Nouvel Observateur, in this time of upheaval, Voltaire represented to the French a stronger, and more reliable support and companion than twentieth-century philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre . Yet, the period of the Enlightenment caused or even justified violence and the denial of difference, by propagating ideologies linked to colonialism, imperialism, and oppression that continue to haunt us today.

In order to better examine the legacies of the Enlightenment, we are organizing a graduate student-faculty workshop, which will examine how and why we continue to practice and embody the legacies of the Enlightenment. Graduate students will present and receive feedback on works in progress from faculty working in a variety of disciplines both nationally and internationally.

Some possible topics include (but are not limited to):

  • The evolution of social and political relations (different forms of violence and discrimination, abuse of power, slavery, corruption, etc.)
  • Theories of climate, as well as the relation between the natural world, the human, and society
  • The nature of matter and objects
  • The structures of authority and institutions
  • The questioning of accepted notions of race, class, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and citizenship
  • Political upheavals and natural catastrophes
  • How diverging notions of embodiment are crucial for understanding the origins and the continued presence of racism and sexism
  • What are the limitations of Enlightenment thought from non-Western epistemologies
  • How taxonomic practices influence relationships among humans, as well as between humans and other forms of life

Format of the workshop

We invite graduate students specifically to participate in this workshop in order to feature their research in a welcoming, friendly, and collegial environment. We aim to generate constructive feedback on graduate student research, with the goal of enabling student participants to develop or finish a dissertation or book chapter, and/or to revise an article for submission.

The panels of our workshop are related to five categories that are featured on our website, enlightenmentlegacies.org : materialisms, disciplines, upheaval, in-between, climate.

We have assembled a team of faculty participants who include leading scholars in the disciplines of cultural and literary studies, philosophy, feminist theory, history and historiography, and other fields. They will be presenting an overview of their research in a roundtable format.

This presentation will be followed by a Q and A session, and then by a graduate workshop. Each student will speak for about 5-7 minutes, focusing on the main points/questions/struggles of their research (an article they want to publish, a dissertation/book chapter they want to start or complete), followed by a hands-on workshop and feedback.

Students will submit to their groups an essay of about 5 to 8 pages (double-spaced) that outlines the main elements of their research. Each presenter will receive individualized feedback. We aim to facilitate an inclusive, generative discussion of the legacies of the Enlightenment today.

Please send a 300-400 word abstract, including contact info, to legaciesoftheenlightenment@gmail.com under the header “Graduate Workshop Proposal.” Please submit your abstract before June 1, 2018. In your proposal, please list, in order of relevance, each of the 5 groups (materialisms, disciplines, upheaval, in-between, climate) that your paper is suited for. 

If you are requesting travel funding, please also include separately aa budget, indicating any other sources of funding available to you.