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Conceptualising Community

May 30, 2022 @ 9:00 am June 2, 2022 @ 5:00 pm

Conference & PhD summer school

Keynote speakers: Gerald Taylor Aiken (Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research), Dilar Dirik (University of Oxford), and Bonnie Honig (Brown University)

Applications now open until 15 February 2022. Please click here for more information about this event.

Community is among the foremost political concepts. Coexistence, human or otherwise, inevitably raises questions about how this togetherness should be conceptualised and how the politics of community is or should be carried out. 

Questions regarding the ways in which communities are formed, who is included or excluded by them, and what rights or access this allows or curtails, remain central to many of the experiences and struggles that dominate today’s social and political landscape. Indeed, political struggles are often if not always concerned with communities who share experiences of oppression, contesting exclusion from a wider dominant community, or pushing for the creation or recognition of alternate communities. Given the centrality of community to politics across the world and throughout history, the concept is in continual need of critical analysis, reflection, and (re)thinking. 

This conference aims to bring together scholars from a wide variety of disciplines to critically explore, question, and interrogate ‘community’ as a political concept, including how it is used by people all over the world in structuring their lives. How, on what basis, and to what effect do different understandings of community inform politics and contemporary political struggles? Are communities always constituted by exclusion, and to what extent is this justified? What role has community played in current global experiences including the COVID-19 pandemic and climate and ecological crises? What role does or should community play in every facet of social and political life, including education, media, religion, law, and social movements? And vice versa, how do these aspects inform and create new forms of community and new ways of sharing coexistence? With this in mind, this conference aims to explore not only political communities, but also other forms of community, including but not limited to religious and moral communities, as well as how these interrelate. 

We also intend to explore the concept of community on a more abstract theoretical level. What does ‘community’ mean in the first place? To what extent does the concept of community presuppose sameness, and what degree of difference can it accommodate? How did contemporary philosophical understandings emerge historically, and to what extent is community still a useful concept for contemporary politics? How does community relate to, or oppose, other concepts (for example, society)? To what degree are mainstream understandings of community Eurocentric?

We welcome conceptual and empirical submissions from a multitude of disciplines, including but not limited to philosophy, sociology, politics, international relations, anthropology, law, de- and postcolonial studies, feminism, critical theory, education, and media studies.

Practical information and how to apply:

The conference will be held at the Old Aberdeen campus of the University of Aberdeen. This will be followed by a PhD summer school at The Burn, a country house in Aberdeenshire, where PhD work in progress as well as key texts on community will be discussed in a more informal setting. Wheelchair access will be available at all venues, and where possible we will endeavour to facilitate online participation for those who are unable to attend in-person for accessibility reasons.

* To apply for the conference: Prospective conference speakers are invited to submit an abstract of 200-400 words to present a paper.

* To apply for the summer school: PhD candidates are invited to submit a 1-2 page letter in which they describe their thesis and, where appropriate, its relevance to ‘community’, along with their motivation for attending the summer school. 

PhD candidates can choose to apply to either or both events, but are expected to attend (if not present at) the conference if they are applying to the summer school. All submissions should be sent to conceptualisingcommunity@abdn.ac.uk by 15 February 2022. Please include your name(s), affiliated institution/organisation, and where appropriate, the title of your paper. PhD candidates should also indicate their status, and whether they are applying to one or both events. 

Accommodation, lunches and dinners are included for all participants. Travel funding of up to £250 is included for PhD candidates. Speakers can apply for travel funding up to £250. We encourage travel to Aberdeen by other means than flying where possible, whether for all or part of your journey. Should the default funding be insufficient to cover travel to Aberdeen by rail, bus, or other forms of public transport, successful applicants are invited to get in touch so requests can be considered on needs-based grounds.

View the Facebook event here. Image © Elise Boyle Espinosa

This event is organised by Maxim van Asseldonk and Elise Boyle Espinosa (contact: conceptualisingcommunity@abdn.ac.uk). It is hosted by the Centre for Citizenship, Civil Society, and Rule of Law (CISRUL) at the University of Aberdeen, as part of the European Union Horizon 2020 Research & Innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No. 754326. Previous CISRUL conferences include ‘Conceptualising Difference’ (2021), ‘Decolonising Political Concepts’ (2019), and ‘Conceptualising Political’ (2019).