CFP: An Uncomfortable Conversation

Three of my colleagues are organizing what looks like a super conference to be held here in Miami on November 14-15 (just a week after the Jotwell conference about which more soon).

An Uncomfortable Conversation: The Universal and the Particular — Vulnerability and Identities II” is organized as part of series of workshops on ‘Vulnerability and the Human Condition’. The full call for papers is online and responses are due by July 28. Here’s part of the CFP:

In recent years, key legal decisions in voting rights, gay marriage, and affirmative action have destabilized the identity-based anti-discrimination frameworks long used to pursue equality and social justice in the United States. The Supreme Court, for example, has been deregulating race, declaring in Schuette and in Shelby that the state’s involvement in the eradication of racial inequality and the protection of marginalized identities is now less imperative. Moreover, the Court seems reluctant to use the language of identity, instead framing gay and lesbian claims in the language of privacy, liberty and dignity. Yet, popular arguments for redistributive and reparative public policies remain steadily focused on traditional identity categories. For example, The Atlantic magazine has featured a series of essays on racial reparations to Blacks. Similarly, the #YesAllWomen twitter trend has drawn attention to normalized violence against women, even as the hashtag #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen created virtual space for feminists of color to question what they perceive to be the dominance of white feminist voices in mainstream culture and gender politics. Amidst these complex legal, social and political changes comes a shift in academic discourse as well, with some critical theorists suggesting that “traditional” identity categories based on individual characteristics, such as race or sex, are inadequate to capture social problems that transcend such categories. Instead, they argue that focus should rest on paired social identities, such as employer/employee or parent/child – categories or statuses that are forged in social and institutional relationships and convey the allocation of legally sanctioned and shaped power and privilege.

These legal and social developments highlight the importance of building on the first Vulnerability and Identities Uncomfortable Conversation to further consider and assess specific identitarian frameworks (including both traditional and social identity formations) as well as more universal paradigms, such as human rights or vulnerability. This second conversation continues an investigation of the relationships between particularity and universality, with an emphasis on the ability of concepts like vulnerability and identity to deepen existing critiques of legal liberalism and advance our understanding of substantive justice. Central to this investigation is an evaluation of the impact of critical theory on understanding the state and its institutions, particularly their role in promoting human resilience through the provision of education, employment and training, healthcare, family structure, cultural recognition, and social welfare more broadly. In considering both the universal and identitarian approaches, we ask how they differently frame systemic disparities in access, opportunity and resources.

I wish I had time to do a paper for this based on my ongoing research on regulation of identification, but what with the Jotwell conference being a week earlier, realistically it’s not going to happen. I’m definitely going.

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