Virtual Conference on Theory and Activism

deadline for submissions: 
January 20, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
CHRIST (Deemed to be University)

The Department of English and Cultural Studies, School of Arts and Humanities, CHRIST (Deemed to be University), Bannerghatta Road Campus, Bangalore, India, invites papers for an annual postgraduate conference on Theory and Activism: Can the twain meet? on February 2nd & 3rd. 

Concept Note:

Mikhail Epstein advances a pertinent question in the opening pages of his book, The Transformative Humanities: A Manifesto: “Do you really believe that the Humanities have a future?” The broader question from this argument would be to ask, “Is Humanities as a discipline in a crisis at the face of a world of inquiry that is largely quantitative, ‘data-istic,’ empirical, institutional, technologically ridden, pragmatic and predominantly funded?” The question carries more repercussions than what a cursory contemplation would reveal. The Humanities stand in stark contrast to the current tendency to root disciplines in ‘scientificity,’ and thereby locate its validation on empirical data, institutionalized and funded enquiry, profitability and technology-assisted objectivity. Engaging with effects, experiences, memories, histories, narratives and a whole lot of abstract derivations from these, Humanities finds itself trapped in theories that fail to find adequate ‘technologies’ to reach and affect public life on an immediately palpable and verifiable plane.

Looking at technology as a general dimensional supplement that is essential to every contemporary epistemic domain, the central concern and aim are to deliberate and postulate how Humanities and its technology can be redesigned to encompass and consciously effectuate its transformative potential so that its inquiry can be more guided and focused, more palpable and timely, and more attuned to ‘lived experience’. The task at hand, which is also the theme of the conference, is exploring this transformation and the possibility of ‘reaching out. Vachana 2022 is envisioned to be a space where theory, often understood as mere 'reflection,’ taken up within the comfort of privileged existence, becomes a counterforce to power. As the French director and activist, Frank Barat said, ‘we do not become activists; we simply forget that we are.’

In considering some of these older questions pertaining to the Humanities, one needs to take into account more recent phenomena mobilised by the internet and the hashtag ecology of digital and online activism. Do a click and a tweet make a difference in real life, or does it merely add data for the determining algorithm? Has the ‘armchair politics’ of earlier times now morphed into ‘slacktivism’? The urgent question for our times lies in how the Humanities can gather their potentially transformative force in a way that transcends mere theorising or critique, and effects a change in the social world, via what may be seen as action, or activism.

Through this symposium, our aim is to put to scrutiny dominant theories about gender, sexuality, caste, class, language, and culture by reflecting upon them from the ground, and by drawing upon lived experience. In particular, we wish to launch this inquiry from our locus in South Asia; not as a post-colony, but as a region that requires to urgently rethink fundamental questions around identity, history, transnationalism, cosmopolitanism, tribalism, diversity, difference, and collective futures.

We seek to leverage this through multiple disciplines (Cultural Studies, Literature, History, Anthropology, Archeology, Philosophy, Sociology, Media Studies etc), addressing all forms of scholarly, creative and interventional practice. Activism is transformative, and its scope is beyond the label of ‘academia’, however, it often does not have the opportunity to pause and reflect, in the quest for change. The objective of this conference is to bring together activists, creative practitioners and academics, to attempt to form a bridge between radical theories and their trans-academic social impact,  and to weave solidarities that can more robustly tackle exploitative power, collapsing institutions, totalising discourses, justifications of violence, and exclusionary demands of belonging.

We seek papers that offer new imaginations of what we propose to call “actus-demia”: a space and method that brings together the beautiful groves outside which Plato taught in Athens (and from which the word Academy originates), with the driving impulse of actus, or action. 

Indicative Topics  (including but not limited to):

The creative arts and social change

Radical aesthetics

Censorship and freedom of expression

Politics of global resistance

Intersectional resistance

Grassroots activism and transforming resilience

Theorizing activism

Correlation between social movements and democracy

Activism as performance 

Space in resistance

Resistance as a public/private act

Journalism as activism

Legal activism

Geopolitics and biopolitics

Please note the following important dates and details:

  • Abstract Submission: 20th January 2021 - Abstracts of 250 words along with a short bio should be emailed to vachana@conference.christuniversity.in. Kindly ensure that the subject line of the abstract submissions mentions ‘Vachana 2022’. 

  • Notification of Acceptance: 23rd January 2022. 

  • The conference will be held in online mode on 2nd & 3rd February 

  • Registration Fee: INR 500 for those in employment; INR 250 for students. A limited number of fee waivers will be available for those in need of financial assistance (whose papers have been accepted).