CFP: A Foucault for the 21st Century

Call for Papers:

(NB this overlaps with the AAG conference in Boston so AAG attendees may want to also submit to this or to pop in to see some of the papers.)

April 16 and 17, 2008
University of Massachusetts Boston

A Foucault for the 21st Century: Governmentality, Biopolitics and Discipline in the New Millennium

Keynote speakers include:
James Bernauer (Boston College)
Charles Lemert (Wesleyan University)

How relevant is Foucault’s social thought to the world we inhabit today?

Foucault is best remembered for his historical inquiries into the origins of “disciplinary” society in a period extending from the 16th to the 19th centuries.

Today, however, under the conditions of global modernity, the relevance of his contribution is often called into question.

With the increasing ubiquity of markets, the break up of centralized states and the dissolution of national boundaries, the world today seems far removed from the bounded, disciplinary
societies Foucault described in his most famous books.

Far from disciplinary, society today is “post panoptic,” as Nancy Fraser has argued — in a move which seems to confirm Jean Baudrillard’s demand that we “forget Foucault.”

Yet in recent years, it has become apparent that Foucault’s thoughts on modern society have not been exhausted, and, indeed, that much remains to be explored.

While ripples from his initial impact on English speaking scholarship are still evident in such areas as the study of discourse, sexuality, the body and institutions, it is undeniably the case that new threads of Foucauldian influence have also become available.

For example, his reflections on “governmentality” have by now garnered a rich scholarly focus on the conditions of personal life under the economic liberalism. His work on “biopower” has opened new terrain for political and activist discourse on globalization and population.

His accounts of panopticism and surveillance have proven relevant to the study of
contemporary policing practices in a post 9/11 world.

Indeed, it could be argued that, in the new millennium, new threads of Foucauldian thought have emerged, enabling richer understandings of power and subjectivity under uniquely contemporary conditions.

The aim of the Fifth Annual Meeting of the Social Theory Forum, to be held on April 16-17, 2008, at the University of Massachusetts Boston, is to weigh in on the relevance of Foucault’s ideas in the context of a new millennium, and to reassess Foucault’s contributions to contemporary social theory in light of these developments.

We invite papers from any disciplinary or interdisciplinary perspective, addressing the contemporary application of Foucault to contemporary social life and social theory.

Topics might include, but are not limited to:

Governmentality and Neo-liberalism
Political Spirituality and Contemporary Religious Movements
Biopolitics, Globalization and Populations
Race, Genetics and the Politics of Life
Ethics, Biopower and the Politics of Consumption
Panopticism and Surveillance in a Post 9/11 World
Governmentality, Biopower and the Politics of Risk
Subpolitics, Life Politics and New Social Movements
Foucault and the Left in a Global Context
Foucault and the Penal-Industrial Complex
Ethics, Identity and Individualization

The conference will feature both invited and submitted papers and presentations, as well as audiovisual materials. Please send a one-page abstract or proposal as email attachment (MS Word Format) in duplicate to and, by January 11, 2008.

Proceedings of the conference will be peer-reviewed by anonymous referees for possible publication in a special issue of The Discourse of Sociological Practice, the printed and online journal of the Department of Sociology at University of Massachusetts Boston.

Jorge Capetillo-Ponce (initial contact for inquiries)
Assistant Professor of Sociology, UMass Boston

Glenn Jacobs
Associate Professor of Sociology, UMass Boston

Panagiota Gounari
Assistant Professor of Linguistics, UMASS Boston

Siamak Movahedi
Professor of Sociology, UMass Boston

Samuel Binkley
Assistant Professor of Sociology, Emerson College

About the Social Theory Forum

Department of Sociology, University of Massachusetts, Boston

Histories of sociology tell us how the discipline was formed in the nineteenth century struggles to understand the combined upheavals of socio-political revolutions and the industrial revolution that gradually expanded throughout the world. These events radically changed the established order and posed various questions that are still with us today: questions about class, race, community, gender, the nature of social integration, and processes of social change, among others. But as we all know, the world again changed radically during the twentieth century, with great implications for social theory.

The Social Theory Forum (STF) is an annual conference organized jointly by the sociology and other departments, interested faculty and students at University of Massachusetts Boston, in order to creatively explore, develop, promote, and publish cross-disciplinary social theory in an applied and critical framework. STF offers faculty and students of UMass Boston and other area colleges and universities an interactive medium to discuss various aspects of the way in which particular theoretical traditions can be relevant to present everyday issues, as well as to the current state and the future of social theory.

STF’s goals are:
To critically engage with and evaluate classical and contemporary social theories in a cross-disciplinary and comparative cross-cultural framework in order to develop new integrative theoretical structures and practices; To foster individual and collective self-reflexivity in exploring social theories in global and world-historical contexts to aid people effectively address social problems; To foster an interactive and dialogical learning experience and research in theory within and across faculty, students, and community divides on and off campus; To foster exchange of ideas open to constructive and integrative exploration of diverse and conflicting viewpoints, modes of thinking, and world-views; To foster theoretical education and research within a praxis-oriented and applied sociological framework capable of addressing concrete issues arising from intrapersonal, interpersonal, and global contexts; To foster theoretical education and research as practices of freedom in favor of transformative and emancipatory personal and global experience.

Correspondence address
Attn.: Social Theory Forum
Department of Sociology
University of Massachusetts Boston
100 Morrissey Boulevard.,
Boston, MA 02125

(via here)


One Response

  1. […] Behrent’s paper analyzing Foucault’s account of liberalism, which was given at the UMASS conference earlier this year, receives some comments at this […]

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