Cogut Institute for the Humanities

Political Concepts releases call for proposals for February 25-26, 2022 conference.

The Spring 2022 conference will have no organizing theme, but will feature Brown University faculty. The event will seek to renew our sense of an intellectual community of engaged scholars and foreground our commitment to critique as a mode of being together and shaping the commons.

The conference is organized as part of the Political Concepts initiative at the Cogut Institute for the Humanities. It will take place on Friday and Saturday, February 25-26, 2022.

The Spring 2022 conference will have no organizing theme. Instead, we would like to foreground the present historical moment and a shared ambience marked by radical divisions, both local and global. Planning for an in-person event, we are thinking about the conference as a space for reflection on our strange times, the dramatic and traumatic events of the last year, and their repercussions, from the intimacy of our homes, to our shared workplace, to our country and planet. We envisage next year’s event as an opportunity to renew our sense of an intellectual community of engaged scholars, and our commitment to critique as a mode of being together and shaping the commons, as we are being shaped by it. In this spirit, next year’s conference will be an all-Brown event.

The Political Concepts Initiative has always operated under the assumption that our era needs a revised political lexicon that would help us better understand the world in which we live and act, and that the humanities can and should contribute toward such a revision. This is all the more urgent today. We are inviting proposals from all Brown University faculty members for presentations of a single concept that might be revised (or deconstructed or created) in light of our historical experience and what this has revealed about our society, institutions, us, them, the earth we share and the future of this sharing, and time itself. The scope is wide open; the perspective must be grounded in the present and recent past; and the method should be some form of conceptual thinking.

More generally, the goal of the Political Concepts Initiative is to experiment with modes of concept analysis as a tool for enhanced critical questioning of the political, in the widest sense of this notion, and to create a framework for an ongoing interdisciplinary conversation. The Initiative offers a platform for exploring the political dimensions of the way concepts work, are used and disseminated. The conceptual work may be geared toward revising concepts, deconstructing them, or creating new ones. Participants are usually invited to re-think and re-articulate a single concept they are working with or to construct new ones that seem necessary for their work.

This year, however, we call for work on concepts that seem necessary for a critical reflection on the present, or which must be urgently revised (or dropped) to make such critical reflection possible. Participants are encouraged not only to revise key political concepts but to demonstrate the political work done by everyday terms and common nouns that are not usually considered “political.” Think, for example, about “base,” “viral,” “fact check,” “matters,” “essential,” “social distance.” Finally, we urge our participants and authors not to be content with a concept's history. We do so with added volume this year.

If you are new to the format, you may take a look at videos from previous conferences or at the online journal where some of the papers have been published.

Brown University faculty should plan to submit a 300-500 words abstract before June 15, 2021. Please present your concept and the rationale for choosing it. The proposals will be presented anonymously to the political concepts team. Please write to the organizing committee with any questions.

Questions? Email