Natura 2018: Illegitimate Knowledges

deadline for submissions: 
December 1, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
Natura: The Science and Epistemology Working Group
contact email: 

Illegitimate Knowledges

A Graduate Conference in Science and Epistemology
Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey

February 16, 2018

Keynote Speaker
Banu Subramaniam
(University of Massachusetts, Amherst)

Hosted by Natura, A Rutgers University Interdisciplinary Graduate Student Working Group focused on critical perspectives of Science and Epistemology, the 2018 Natura Conference seeks papers on the topic of illegitimate knowledges: scorned, discarded, amateur, illogical, and discredited methods of understanding the world.

Conspiracy theories, fake news, and alternative facts are all species of knowledge that are in some way illegitimate or suspect. This conference seeks to ask to and for whom knowledge is declared legitimate or illegitimate. What sociological, political, economic, scientific, and historical conditions create processes of legitimation and illegitimation? Under what circumstances are illegitimate knowledges desirable, provocative, engaging, and charismatic?

Simultaneously, indigenous and subaltern epistemologies are devalued, discarded, or mined for facts congruent with Western knowledge systems that are then separated from their contexts. What are the power relations that enable these strategies of partial or total illegitimation? When do Western knowledge systems render themselves illegitimate? How are epistemologies of the past understood without presentism, progressivism, or illegitimizing teleologies? When is illegitimation actually an appropriate and productive strategy? What methods and strategies can grapple with inappropriate, illegitimate knowledges, while remaining attentive to disparities in power and influence, in the pursuit of just and expansive scholarship? After a period of numerous critiques of critique such as Bruno Latour’s 2004 “Why Has Critique Run Out of Steam?,” is there a new necessity for skepticism, precision, and expertise? How are these new critical discourses themselves legitimated?

Potential topics may include (but are not limited to):

– Anonymous knowledge transmission (leaks, internet anonymity, memes)
– Conspiracy theories
– Fake news, alternative facts, and political strategies of knowledge
– Academia, periodization, and field boundaries
– Feminist, decolonial, and postcolonial theories
– Indigenous epistemologies, folk traditions, and cosmopolitics
– Past, present, and future epistemologies
– Climate change and the Anthropocene
– Fiction and fantasy
– Amateurs, hobbies, and casual knowledge

The conference will take place on Friday, February 16, 2018. Natura invites 250-word abstracts for 20-minute talks on any topic examining the role of illegitimate knowledge in the sciences and humanities. This event is open to graduate students and scholars working in any area of the arts, humanities, or sciences. Interested faculty or post-doctoral researchers are welcome to contact us about potential roles as panel organizers, moderators, or discussants. Send proposals or requests for more information to rutgersnatura@gmail.com; proposals should be sent by December 1, 2017.


Natura: The Science and Epistemology Working Group is a graduate student working group within Rutgers University that serves as a forum to foster critical interdisciplinary conversations about the history, cultures, places, and theories of science, epistemology, and knowledge production. Natura 2017-2018 organizers are based within the English and History Departments at Rutgers University. We are generously sponsored by the Rutgers British Studies Center, the School of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Office, and the Graduate Student Association.