Humanities and Social Sciences Graduate Students Conference

deadline for submissions: 
January 25, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology Delhi

Exploring Alterity: Self, Identity and the Social


Contemporary politics is rife with questions of identity, making one implicitly familiar with notions of “alterity.” Alterity can be defined as “otherness” or “being otherwise” and at times, is used simply to mean “difference.” This conference intends to unpack varied notions of "alterity" as a conceptual category, broadly understood as "difference" or "variation" within disciplines such as Sociology, Philosophy, Linguistics, Psychology, Literature, and Economics.

The reflexive turn in social sciences, particularly in social anthropology during the 1980s, questioned the traditional practices of knowledge production and of doing ethnography. This engendered the rethinking of conventional sociological concepts such as caste, class, religion, gender, tribe, and community. At the same time, it also lent recognition to the significance of new fields of research such as human-animal relations, science and technology, and globalisation, amongst others. Can we think beyond the eurocentric binaries such as self/other, nature/culture, agency/structure while postulating social theories? In what ways can we understand alterity in light of the emergent debates in identity politics? In what ways is otherness conceived and redefined in contemporary sociology and social anthropology?

In Philosophy, the potential of alterity is best foregrounded in its challenge to ontology. Alterity is a point for philosophy to rethink the question of identity and its relationship with thought. Why should alterity limit itself to negative dialectics or aporetic transcendence? Can alterity be a ground for a new kind of skepticism? Is the non-human a possible locus of alterity, or can it be accessed through an event like death? Furthermore, as argued by Gayatri Spivak, if the subaltern cannot speak, can we rethink alterity conceptually as cultural plurality and diversity, or is it still the "other" carrying the mark of alterity? For instance, the contemporary refugee crises is problematizing the identity of a refugee as a locus of radical alterity. Although, the question of alterity can be explored in various directions, a critical reconsideration of its premise is significant.

Further, psychology as a discipline has emerged out of differing notions of individual and the other. Since its inception, psychology through its different trajectories of psychoanalysis, gestalt, developmental, or cognitive approaches has tried to delve into these issues. Questions of difference in individual attributes, nature/nurture, stigma and mental health have guided the evolution of psychology. Recent developments such as artificial intelligence, behavioural nudges, and gross national happiness have challenged traditional notions of individual and identity. Can the individual be an other? Is psychology ready to deal with the emotional-cognitive challenges that alterity entails for its stakeholders? Are current tools adequate to deal with the challenges posed by alterity?

Additionally, the field of linguistics deals with alterity through various approaches to account for the unique features of human language. Such approaches have undergone a change ranging from behaviorist to nativist and cognitivist ones. One needs to open up the question of "linguistic variation" and the ways in which different theoretical frameworks understand alterity. For instance, under the generative framework, linguistic variation is explained as a constraint-bound, theory-internal phenomenon. Within psycholinguistics, it is accounted through independently-motivated cognitive constraints. Some of the broad questions that we aim to address in the conference are: What is the locus of widespread linguistic variation and diversity? What are the factors involved in language variation? How do language varieties emerge and change? What are the limits of linguistic variation?

We invite critical reflections on the concept of alterity beyond what is already in the domain of dominant conceptual frameworks.


Abstracts are requested in (but not limited to) the following sub-fields:

  • Phonetics and Phonology, Morphology, and Syntax
  • Corpus, Computational Linguistics and Natural Language Processing
  • Psycholinguistics
  • Individual as the Other
  • Identity and Policy Making
  • Otherness and Mental Health
  • Everyday and the Negotiation of Otherness
  • Dalit Assertion and Identity Politics
  • Law and Citizenship
  • Social Movements
  • Literature and Marginality
  • Refugee and Politics of Hospitality
  • Otherness and Popular Imagination
  • Migration, Memory, and Alternative Histories


Please mail your abstracts to Abstracts should not exceed 300 words and must include keywords (maximum five). Please send a short bio in a separate file along with the abstract. Abstracts should not contain the name of the authors or any form of identification.


  • Important Dates:

Last date for the submission of abstracts: 25 January 2020

Communication of acceptance : 25 February 2020

Submission for full paper: 10 March 2020

Conference: 27-28 March 2020