CFP: Levinas and the Political (1/15/06; 5/12/06-5/14/06)

full name / name of organization: 
Sol Neely
contact email:

Scholars across the disciplines are pleased to announce the formation of The
Levinas Society. Inspired by Lithuanian-born Jewish philosopher and Talmudic
commentator Emmanuel Levinas (1906-1995) and contemporary Levinas scholarship,
we propose developing a formal society to coordinate and enhance critical work
and collaboration across the academic disciplines. The goal of this society is
to facilitate a broad and dynamic community of persons working toward effecting
the ethical in political, feminist, religious, critical, literary, pedagogical
and philosophical realms.

As new generations of young scholars continue to comment on Levinas' insights
and develop the work of his translators and exegetes, the need for a broad
society aimed at coordinating the important work occurring throughout the
Americas is clearly evident. The past decade has witnessed a prolific interest
in the work of Levinas, generating a Levinas Center at the University of North
Carolina at Charlotte, a Levinas Studies Journal from Duquesne University
Press, and numerous academic and graduate conferences. The burgeoning North
American Levinas Society hopes to open the necessary space for continuing
collaboration between the generations of Levinas thinkers and to draw together
those working on seemingly disparate projects into a more robust community.

We propose an inaugural meeting to take place at Purdue University on May 12-
14, 2006. The multiple purposes motivating this initial meeting will be (1) to
assemble an organizational structure for the purposes of coordinating society
activities; (2) to hold the first society conference organized around the broad
theme of “Levinas and the political”; and (3) to bring generations of Levinas
scholars face to face with one another in a mutually edifying and social
atmosphere—which is to say, to bring students, young faculty, and more
established scholars together in the hope of invigorating our shared

For more information on joining the North American Levinas Society, please
visit the society webpage:


The North America Levinas Society invites submissions of individual paper
proposals and panel proposals for the inaugural meeting to be held May 12-14,
2006, at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. In an effort to draw
together the widest interests for this inaugural meeting, we are accepting
proposals for papers and panels on any topic related to Levinas. Still, we
propose generally organizing the conference around the broad theme of “Levinas
and the political.”

As interest in Levinasian scholarship continues to develop, one of the more
urgent and controversial areas concerns the political. As Simon Critchley has
stated, politics is Levinas’ Achilles heel, but what does this mean for
developing a general ethical critique of social relations, organizing community
through the imperatives of justice, or effecting a shared sense of the
transcendent that we can employ as a means of addressing global injustices—if
such a program is even possible, or indeed even desirable, in light of the
ethical priorities of Levinas’ work?

Additionally, the same concern for the political accompanies an admonishment
against Levinas scholars not to become too enamored with the thinker at the
risk of foreclosing debates and critical assessments of Levinas’ sometimes
conflicting political pronouncements. It is with this critical attitude in
mind—one which keeps us from contributing to a certain idolatry of Levinas—that
we propose opening the inaugural meeting and conference of the North American
Levinas Society with the broad theme of “Levinas and the political.”

Does Levinas understand liberal democracy as an end or as a means? What is the
status of an(-)archy in Levinas’ theories of justice and the political compared
to his understanding of an-archy in the ethical sense? How does Levinas’ work
contribute to developments in feminisms, or reciprocally how do various
feminist concerns critique and develop Levinas’ works in important ways? Where
does Levinas stand with regard to (Post)Zionism? What is Levinas’ attitude
toward utopian traditions? What is the meaning of finding an “enemy in
alterity”? In what important ways is Levinas’ work developed by liberation
theology? In what ways is Levinas’ phenomenology political? How do Levinasian
concerns for the ethical intersect with a Marxist critique of political
economy? Can there be a secular critique of violence vis-à-vis Levinas, or is
any critique of violence already religious? How does Levinas’ turn toward the
general economy of being develop or respond to other important theorists of
general economy? Or, how can Levinas’ articulation of ontology as war respond
to pure war theorists such as Paul Virilio, Giorgio Agamben, or Michel
Foucault, and how is Levinas’ ontology as war different from the ontologizing
of war? How do Levinas’ considerations of time—such as diachrony,
messianicity, or a phenomenological horizon of time—provide means for a more
invigorated political critique? What is the political status of hostage,

This inaugural meeting and conference hopes to bring together Levinasian
scholars from a wide range of interests, positions, and institutional
affiliations; as such, we again emphasize that the theme of “Levinas and the
political” is to be interpreted in the very broadest sense. Indeed, all
Levinasian scholarship is political in some sense.

Individual paper proposals: Individual abstracts should be 200-300 words for a
20 minute presentation. We will assess and organize individual papers into
panels of three or four.

Panel proposal: Panel proposals should be 500 words for an 1 hour-15 minute
session. Please include the session title, name of organizer, institutional
affiliation, discipline or department, along with the chair’s name and
participants’ names in addition to brief abstracts detailing the focus of each

The deadline for submissions is January 15, 2006.

Society Webpage:
Please direct all proposals, questions, and concerns to:

Sol Neely

Or, Michael R. Michau

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Received on Wed Nov 16 2005 - 10:25:58 EST

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