Re-imagining Communities and Civil Society (October 25-27, 2013)

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University of Guelph
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University of Guelph International Conference:
Re-imagining Communities and Civil Society
Conference Dates: October 25, 26, and 27, 2013

Languages of the conference: English, French and Spanish

Papers will be considered for publication.

Guelph is 80 km from Toronto, 50 km from the Toronto airport.
Keynote Speakers: James F. English, John Welsh Centennial Professor of English and Director of the Penn Humanities Forum, Judith Adler Hellman, Professor, Coordinator of Latin American and Caribbean Studies Program, York University, Philip Oxhorn, Professor, Founding Director of the Institute for the Study of International Development, McGill University

By engaging in the formation of a new civil society, which is defined as the nongovernmental space between the government and the people that makes associational life possible, how do artistic groups, intellectual associations, voluntary associations and social and political movements map and mediate power relations? This conference hopes to address this question by expanding the disciplinary boundaries of the idea of civil society to include the humanities and re-examining the concept of civil society in the social sciences in light of the changes occurring in Latin America and Europe. Furthermore, this conference seeks to examine how recent global, social and political protests are changing the notion of civil society, and how technology is assisting in the formation of international civic communities. While political analysts consider the 80s and the 90s as a special period of democratization involving the formation of civil societies, we encourage people to examine as well civil society from a broader historical perspective.

Please see the proposed panel descriptions below. We invite additional panel proposals and encourage papers that address the theme of the conference but may not fit the themes of the proposed panels. These panel and paper proposals should be sent to Prof. Gordana Yovanovich,

Panel Descriptions

Social Protest and Democracy

This panel hopes to explore the question of how social protests are realigning politics around the globe. The objective is to advance our understanding of not only the causes of societal mobilization, but also its consequences for politics and society. The panel expects to bring together emerging scholars and senior researchers in the field of contentious politics to analyze the relationship between protest and democracy. The global protests of 2011 offered us a rare glimpse into the articulation of new issues, ideas, and desires that may have a profound impact on future political contests worldwide. They may also be the harbinger of things to come. The papers in this panel will address theoretical and methodological debates concerning civil society protests, key themes for analysis, and case studies in an effort to construct a new framework for studying protest politics.
Paper proposals for this panel should be sent to Prof. Roberta Rice,

Civil Society, Democracy, and Social Service Provision

This panel will explore tensions and connections between the rise of civil society and transformations of democratic practice through a series of place-based case studies of social service provision in Europe and the Americas. While civil society has traditionally been understood as a democratizing force in society, transfers of social services and attendant administrative decision-making to civil society actors may represent a significant shift in local democratic practices. The meaning of "democracy" may therefore be changing, and the particular contexts of such changes are diverse (e.g. the influence of development NGOs on local democratic processes in the Global South as per Mercer 2002, or the changing context of representative democracy and civil society representation in the European Union as per Greenwood 2007). In some cases, the shifting of responsibilities previously administered by governments to community organizations has reduced the transparency of policy-making and decision-making processes. In other cases, community service provision and decision-making mechanisms have been heralded as a resurgence of grassroots democracy. Themes and topics that may emerge in this panel include (but are not limited to) the following: grassroots decision- and policy-making, government service retrenchment, neoliberal governance mechanisms, exercises in participatory democracy, shifts in service provision models due to austerity measures, privatization vs. communitarianism, the role of charities in public service provision, and the role of international NGOs in local democratic practice.
Paper proposals for this panel should be sent to Prof. Kate Parizeau,

Art in the Era of Civil Society

This session focuses on creative activities that address broad social groups, engage audiences, are carried out in public, in the institutional sphere, or have a "bottom-up" quality. In the visual arts, "civil society" is associated with, but distinct from, "social art", "activist art" and "public art." The related term "creative participation" primarily refers to socially engaged art projects or experimental works that respond to audiences or catalyze public contexts. It embraces, but is not limited to a range of activities from civic education and artistic installations to the revitalization of urban spaces. Arguably, the ultimate end of all these projects is social benefit, but is this always the case? This session seeks papers on art and activism, participatory art praxis, relational aesthetics, new genre public art, tactical media, and institutional critique among other related topics.
Paper proposals for this panel should be sent to Prof. Susan Douglas,

Communities and Cultural Institutions

Cultural institutions (academies, literary and artistic prizes, cultural festivals, etc) play an important role in the creation of new communities which may unite through their participation in mainstream cultural events or may be brought together in reaction to a real or perceived exclusion from these. In recent years the roles of cultural institutions in the creation of communities has become further complicated as European and North American multinational, cultural and philanthropic institutions have begun to identify artists from marginalized groups or postcolonial nations to include in their global pantheons. This cannot be done, as James F. English has noted, without imposing "external interference on local systems of cultural value" (2005: 298). This panel will examine the results of external institutional interferences, it will study how the creation of a community can increase a previously disenfranchised group's access to cultural power, it will explore how artistic and cultural communities have come together in Europe and the Americas, and what collaborations or exchanges have taken place between groups on both continents. What are the relationships between cultural institutions and the communities they are intended to serve?
Paper proposals for this panel should be sent to Prof. Margot Irvine,

Myth, Community and National Identity
This session seeks to explore conceptualizations of the role of myth and myth-based artistic works in forging a sense of community and/or national identity. We are seeking paper proposals exploring such questions as: the opposition of community and state in social and political thought; theories on the role of myth in forging communitarian or national identity; manifestation of the above ideas in music, art and literature.
Papers proposals in any discipline on this topic should be sent to Prof. Paola Mayer,

Civil Society and Language

This session seeks to examine the role that language plays in civil society and its interface with issues of race, language policy, linguistic rights, language revitalization, and identity. In particular, it seeks to examine the roles of marginalized speech communities in the construction of a civil society and language as a mediating factor that brings communities together or separates them.
Paper proposals for this panel should be sent to Prof. Rosario Gomez,

Narrating Civil Society: Literature's Role in Shaping Our Ideas of Associational Life

Civil society is the nongovernmental space of associational life. As Philip Oxhorn, author of Organizing Civil Society, explains, civil society is composed of groups that "simultaneously resist subordination to the state and demand inclusion in national political structures" (252). These groups can be grassroots political associations, church groups, bowling leagues, book clubs, etc. "Civil society" is a familiar term in the social sciences, but its application in the humanities has been limited. This panel seeks to expand the disciplinary boundaries of the term by exploring the connections between civil society and literature. How does literature narrate civil society and associational life? How does literature help us imagine the contours, promises, pitfalls, and goals of civil society? What is the role of literature in shaping our ideas of civil society? We are especially interested in papers that focus on Latin American, European, and/or Latina/o literature.
Paper proposals for this panel should be sent to Prof. Pablo Ramirez,

Local Communities and Global Powers

This session expects to discuss what is lost with the disappearance of old communities in the time of globalization and it intends to explore what elements are involved in the building of modern global communities? What is the nature of ¨cloakroom communities,¨ as Zygmunt Bauman calls them, or communities that are created for the duration of a performance or a project? What power do these new communities have in dealing with global influences? Another question posed by this panel is if the protection offered by communities is needed at the time of individual human rights? Are these questions relevant for literature?
Paper proposals for this panel should be sent to Prof. Gordana Yovanovich,

One page proposals to be submitted by May 15, 2013
$125 Registration Fee, Student Fee $60