Postcolonial Bauman: 10th Anniversary Conference, September 2020

‘To be sure, dialogue (not to mention the polylogue) is a difficult art. It means engaging conversationalists with an intention to jointly clarify the issues, rather than to have them one’s own way; to multiply voices, rather than reducing their number; to widen the set of possibilities, rather than aiming at a wholesale consensus […] to jointly pursue understanding, instead of aiming at the others’ defeat; and all in all being animated by the wish to keep the conversation going, rather than by the desire to grind it to a halt’ –Zygmunt Bauman, 2011

Postcolonial Bauman: 10th Anniversary Conference

University of Leeds, September 3-4 2020

KEYNOTES: Etienne Balibar; Carlo Bordoni and David Lyon (others TBC)

One of the most prominent and influential intellectuals of our times, Zygmunt Bauman envisaged and practiced sociology as a dialogical activity.

Jointly held by the Bauman Institute – celebrating its 10th anniversary – and the Postcolonial Intellectuals and their European Publics Network (PIN), this transdisciplinary conference proceeds in this spirit by inviting a dialogue between Bauman and postcolonial studies.

Though he is better remembered for being a postmodern than a postcolonial figure, the conference seeks to turn the tables by asking what Bauman might have to offer postcolonial studies, and by corollary what postcolonial critics, who have only rarely engaged with Bauman, might have to say about his work.

The conference is organised around four overlapping strands, each of which reflects on the composite figure of ‘postcolonial Bauman’:

Postcolonialismand Postcommunism

We invite papers that engage with Bauman’s relatively neglected discussions of European colonial expansion and decolonisation; that assess his socio-political writings on communism and its aftermath in central and eastern Europe (especially Poland); and that use both of these bodies of critical work to consider the relationship between postcolonialismand postcommunismin the dual context of the dissolution of the Soviet empire and the rise of ‘new imperialisms’ in Russia and other parts of the contemporary globalised world.

Postcolonial Europe

We invite papers that consider Bauman’s wide-ranging reflections on Europe from a postcolonial perspective. Topics here might include: the historical and contemporary status of European migrants and refugees; the idea of Europe and the ideology of Eurocentrism; the camp as a phenomenon of global modernity; the perils and pitfalls of European and other nationalist populisms; and the multiple connections between western (European) modernity and western (European) colonialism, seen as both modernity’s frequently imagined opponent and its often unacknowledged collaborator, its ‘dark side’.

The Intellectual as Outsider

We invite papers that situate Bauman as part of a generation of central and eastern European Jewish intellectuals exiled by Nazi and Soviet totalitarianism; but also as part of a global cadre of twentieth-century émigré intellectuals, many of them with profound experience of the ‘imperial present’ as well as the colonial past. Other topics to consider here might include: ‘otherness’ and genocide; the mutuality of colonial and other racisms; and the gendering of the postcolonial intellectual, whose authority is often implicitly –sometimes explicitly –coded as ‘male’. Papers are also invited here that compare Bauman to other twentieth-and twenty-first century intellectuals, both within and beyond Europe.

The Intellectual as seen from the Outside

We invite papers here that reflect on the intellectual, either as a threatening oppositional figure or as a would-be accomplice in ongoing attempts to fight for equality and freedom in a deeply divided world. This strand potentially includes the reception of Bauman’s work outside of Europe, in countries with as varied histories as Australia, Brazil, and China, as well as the application and adaptation of Bauman’s ideas and theories to disciplines other than his own.

Taken together, these strands aim to stimulate new reflections on Bauman’s work, but also to produce a suitably nuanced reconsideration of the function of postcolonial intellectuals at a time when the idea of intellectual labour is increasingly democratised but democracy itself––not least in Europe––is increasingly seen as being at threat.

For more information please follow this link to the Bauman Institute website

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