ACLA 2018: Divided Public(s): On the Intellectual Vocation

deadline for submissions: 
September 23, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
Robert Ryan, University of Illinois-Chicago
contact email: 

In his contribution to an anthology of keywords for American cultural studies, Bruce Robbins registers an ambivalence at the heart of the term “public.” This ambivalence, Robbins writes, stems from the fact that the term’s “claim to represent the social whole has continued to bump up against evidence that large classes of people have been omitted from it.” Indeed, “public,” as a terminological category, requires universality. But in our contemporary historical situation – due to enduring social antagonisms, increasingly uneven distributions of resources and power, and ever-lengthening histories of exclusion and oppression – the fault lines of this never-universal are showing with renewed clarity, even as globalization continues to demand thinking in terms of “the world at large, all of humankind.” What sort of “public intellectual” emerges, then, between a universal (the public) that nevertheless excludes, and discrete identities (publics) that affirm universal democratic inclusion? This panel invites papers that address the relationships between publics and intellectual work and suggest modes of public engagement that think against (even beyond) institutional norms and constraints. Proposals for papers that discuss concrete social action with rigorous theoretical clarity are especially encouraged.


Abstracts due by Thursday, September 21 at 9am EST through the ACLA website portal: