Call for Papers
Theme: Conceptualizing 'Difference'
Type: Conference and PhD Summer School
Institution: Centre for Citizenship, Civil Society and Rule of Law
(CISRUL), University of Aberdeen
Location: Aberdeen, Scotland (United Kingdom)
Date: 8.–9.6.2020 / 10.–11.6.2020
The idea of ‘difference’ governs today’s political thinking.
Struggles for equality and justice are generally concerned with
recognizing and protecting differences, not least because varieties
of difference, including gender, sexuality, race, religion and
language are used to justify political oppression, discrimination and
exclusion. Difference has become axiomatic to political debate and
therefore requires further reflection and analysis.
This conference aims to explore and interrogate ‘difference’ as a
political category. First, we aim to map categories of difference
structuring political life, in past and present, and across and
beyond the global North. How and to what effect have categories of
‘difference’ been fostered historically, debated philosophically and
in politics, fought over by social movements, codified in law,
transmitted through education and the media, and lived out in
Second, we aim to explore more meta-level questions about what
‘difference’ means in the first place. How did our modern thinking
about ‘difference’ come about? What roads of political thinking does
it facilitate, and which does it close off? And can we think beyond
In seeking answers to these questions, we intend to facilitate
dialogue between a range of approaches, including but not limited to
liberalism, republicanism, Marxism, de- and postcolonial, feminist
and queer theories. We invite papers on a wide variety of topics,
approaches and disciplines.
Indicative topics include:
- Is it possible to identify a common concept of ‘difference’ across
contemporary debates about recognizing and accommodating difference
(e.g. identity politics, multiculturalism, tolerance, diversity,
- How and when did modern understandings of ‘difference’ come into
existence? How have categories of racial, religious, human and other
‘differences’ related to projects of colonialism, state formation,
Enlightenment thinking, nationalism, capitalism etc.?
- How are contemporary accounts of ‘difference’ influenced by
- How have implicit assumptions about the Orient/Occident,
religious/secular, irrational/rational, conservative/progressive, and
other binaries shaped the conceptualisation and practice of civil
society, democracy and human rights?
- What role does ‘difference’ play in the constitution of identities
and (political) communities?
- How has the recent surge in populism changed the role that
‘difference’ plays in democratic politics?
- What ‘difference’ are salient in law and constitutions, and to what
- What varieties of ‘difference’ and ‘diversity’ are promoted in
educational contexts, including universities?
- How have existing categories of ‘difference’ been problematized and
deconstructed, e.g. in debates about transgender or posthumanism?
- How do concepts like creolization, in-commonness, alterity,
queerness, intersectionality or plurality approach ‘difference’ and
do they offer ways to go beyond it? Can ‘difference’ be theorised in
a way which preserves its alterity or are all such attempts
ultimately limited to the vocabulary of the familiar?
- How do various disciplines presuppose different understandings of
‘difference’ (e.g. theology, anthropology, philosophy, political
science, critical race studies, literature, gender studies)?
Keynotes will include:
- Lewis Gordon (University of Connecticut)
- Sabine Hark (TU Berlin)
- Gupreet Mahajan (Jawaharlal Nehru University)
- Anya Topolski (Radboud University Nijmegen)
The conference at the University of Aberdeen will be followed by a
PhD Summer School at a country house in Aberdeenshire. We will
discuss PhD work in progress as well as foundational texts on
difference. Participants are encouraged to attend both events.
- Prospective conference speakers will normally have a PhD in hand,
and are invited to register here with an abstract of around 200-400
- Applicants for the PhD Summer School should submit their motivation
and a short thesis outline via the registration form here.
Accommodation, lunch and dinners are included for all participants.
Travel funding up to 200£ is included for PhDs participating in the
summer school. Speakers can apply for travel funding up to 250£.
Deadline for submission: 7th February 2020
More information can be found on the CISRUL website.
If you have any questions do not hesitate to contact the organisers,
Anna Sophie Lauwers (sophie.lauwers(at)abdn.ac.uk) and Fredericke Weiner