CFP: [Graduate] Beyond Signification - The Return of Reality and the Crisis of Poststructuralism

full name / name of organization: 
Jan Wopking

Beyond Signification

On the 7th and 8th December the Department of Philosophy at Free University
Berlin will host its second International Graduate Conference for
Philosophy. It addresses the recent comeback of concepts such as substance,
presence and reality in and outside the Humanities and the crisis of
poststructuralism that accompanies it.

Keynotes by:
Elena Esposito
Dieter Mersch
Jean-Luc Nancy

Call for Papers

Beyond Signification

Today a growing number of people in the Humanities suggest that the times
of poststructuralism have come to an end. According to them we concentrated
on symbols, signs and discourse for far too long. Did we not thereby forget
the reality of things? How do we account for the materiality of media,
experiments, and writing? What has happened to reality, substantiality and
presence? This conference aims at discussing this critique of
poststructuralism, its historical conditions, its impact on the present,
and its implications for the future. Does poststructuralism really fail to
acknowledge reality? How do we evaluate the emerging new theories that
challenge poststructuralism? We would like to suggest (but not to
determine!) three main areas for discussion:

1. How important are concepts like "reality" and "materiality" for
contemporary debates in the Humanities? On the one hand there is increasing
demand for the rehabilitation of a non-discursive reality; on the other
hand there is a growing scepticism towards ideas such as the worldmaking
power of discourse or the "free play of the signifyer". In recent years
this led to the development of new versions of cultural materialism. How do
these conceive of culture and reality, of man and the world? What are their
advantages and disadvantges and how big is their impact on the humanities?
Do we witness a lasting turn form poststructuralism to cultural
materialism, from symbol to substance?

2. Is the return of the real limited to academia or is it part of a more
general shift that affects social and politial life as a whole? Outside of
university, various discourses emphasise the constraints of reality.
Consider the threat of global climate change and the diagnosis of a new age
of vulnerability after September 11. Can we identify a turn to materiality
in such fields as politics, society, arts, and science? And if so, is this
just a mere change of zeitgeist or is it a paradigm shift?

3. Is it true that French Theory neglects materiality, and if so, why?
Critics accuse poststructuralism of having forgotten or repressed the
importance of reality and of having discredited thinking and writing about
it. Others claim that these theories propose extraordinarily subtle ways of
conceptualizing reality which are more adequate for an understanding of the
complexities of the present. We would like to discuss various
poststructuralist accounts of reality. And we would like to speculate on
the future of Derrida, Lyotard and Deleuze. Will they play a role in the
debates to come? And what role could that be?

We invite graduate students and young researchers from all faculties to
submit proposals for a 30-minute presentation. Presentations can be given
in English or German; at least a passive knowledge of German is
recommended. Free accomodation will be provided. Please send abstracts of
no more than 500 words, accompanied by some biographical information, to:

Johannes-Georg Schülein ( or
Jan Wöpking (

Deadline for abstracts: 30th August 2007

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Received on Thu Aug 02 2007 - 10:12:04 EDT