Symposium: Pushing Culture into Politics

28 June 2022, 10am-6pm, The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama

Call for contributions

The humanities in UK universities have been the subject of a sustained and growing attack from the government and its outriders in the media for the last five years. Cultural theory has been vilified, and its teachers and researchers dismissed as a ‘woke brigade’ intent upon de-platforming exponents of the legitimate concerns of the moral majority. This Gramscian war of position clearly has the twin goals of shifting ‘common sense’ decisively to the right and either capturing and reconfiguring or generating powerful alternatives to institutions of civil society, including universities. Prominent liberal figures within such institutions have deprecated this assault on formerly treasured sites of cultural power, but a more radical standpoint would see the current ‘culture wars’ as a particularly violent skirmish in a longer campaign not only against the proto-fascism of authoritarian populists, but also the progressive neoliberalism of extreme centrists. Radical voices therefore find themselves openly targeted both by the Telegraph and the Guardian and – within universities – are frequently excluded from the mainstream political disciplines. This day-long symposium will offer an opportunity to hear from postgraduate and senior researchers working at the intersection of the humanities and social sciences who are refusing to accept this doubly marginalised position, but are making concerted efforts to push radical cultural projects into the political arena. Coming together as the neoliberal era reaches what may well be a terminal crisis, we will ask what role can research in the humanities play in shaping and propagating radical alternatives?

More specific questions addressed by this gathering may include:

  • How can cultural projects and humanities research play a role in both fighting emergent forms of proto-fascism and hegemonizing radical political projects from a green new deal to trans liberation and beyond?
  • What are the possibilities (intellectual, methodological, practical) for researchers at the intersection of the humanities and social sciences to develop politically engaged projects across disciplinary boundaries?
  • How can researchers in the humanities use their platform and position to make interventions both into capitalist realism and the broader liberal common sense that dominates the political disciplines?

Keynote Speaker: Gargi Bhattacharya (Professor of Sociology, University of East London)

To submit a proposal for this symposium, please email by 5pm on 3 May 2022 with a summary (max 300 words) of your proposed contribution. We can accommodate all forms of contribution – a talk, workshop, practice intervention, panel discussion – so please feel free to suggest what you would like to do. Please also note that as we are limited to one day and aim to give time to a wide variety of voices and to enable discussions to develop both formally and informally among participants, we anticipate favouring focused and relatively brief contributions.

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