Call for Papers
Theme: Failing Identities
Subtitle: Identification and Resistance
Type: International Conference
Institution: University of Liège
Location: Liège (Belgium)
This conference aims to scrutinize, clarify and elaborate upon the
concept of identity, which ranks among the most (ab)used concepts in
the humanities since the end of the 20th century.
The popularity of the concept is, first and foremost, to be situated
in the aftermath of the linguistic turn, which led to identity being
conceived of as the product of discursive interpellations. This
theoretical reframing of the subject constitutes the theoretical
basis of multiple strands of discourse theory and analysis, and of
various types of (post)poststructuralist theory.
The pervasive presence of identity as an object of study is, however,
and to an even greater degree, also explained by the postmodern
critique of universality and the concomitant deconstruction of the
universal subject as a fiction subservient to particular (masculine,
white, western, heterosexual...) interests. It is precisely this
critique that drives the various forms of progressive identity
politics that are so conspicuously present today.
To put it simply and provocatively: where do we go from here?
This fundamental question translates into a wide range of more
specific questions, such as:
- Is what (post)structuralism calls the decentred subject a mere
passive recipient of discursive interpellations, or does it resist
and, if so, in which way(s)? How should this resistance be understood
– as an inability or rather as a refusal to accept discursive
interpellations? As a rearticulation and ‘slanting’ of a given
discourse? As a form of more or less subtle and agile negotiation
with hegemonic pressures? As the articulation of a counterhegemonic
- How paradoxical and/or ambivalent are identification processes? If
a seemingly official and explicit refusal often hides a more
fundamental implicit identification (‘I am no racist, but...’) and
vice versa (‘We are determined to tackle tax evasion’), how do both
levels interact with one another and what audiences are they intended
for? How can identificatory acts and utterances be construed as
positioning the subject within the conflictual and dialogic contexts
from which they emerged?
- How easy is it to cancel or replace identifications? Have
‘postmodern subjects’ really become fluid and endlessly malleable in
a ‘liquid modernity’ (Zygmunt Bauman), or are they tough, inert and
persistent? Do they have ‘hard kernels’ and, if so, what would be the
nature of these? How important is the impact of discursive
sedimentation on individual subjects, cultures and societies? How do
deliberate or involuntary cancellations of identifications affect the
subject? Are they emancipatory or destructive – or both?
- Does the postmodern critique of the universal subject not in fact
continue to refer to a universal horizon of equality and justice?
Should this critique be maintained or should it give way to a
dialectical vision of the opposition between the universal and the
- Are ‘progressive identity politics’ more needed than ever or are
they at risk of becoming essentialist and unbearably reductionist
- Are ‘progressive identity politics’ genuinely progressive or do
they allow the researchers involved to view themselves as
‘progressive’? What makes them superior to traditional, conservative
identity politics? Do they hamper attempts to unite progressive
groups and efforts, uniting only ‘deplorable’ antiliberal,
reactionary forces, as is argued by such varied authors as Eric
Hobsbawm, Terry Eagleton, Slavoj Žižek, Vivek Chibber and Mark Lilla?
- What are relevant methodological underpinnings of research on
identity and identification? Which linguistic means can be observed
to index identity (as one of their multiple functions), and how can
we classify them meaningfully? For example, how can such phenomena as
taboo expressions, metaphors, language varieties (e.g. sociolects and
slang), language contact and learner languages enhance our
understanding of identity and identification? What about language
policy and (official and unofficial) puristic movements?
Proposals will be judged on their ability to address theoretical
issues and methodological questions, or the latter’s application to
concrete cases and corpora.
Since the conference is interdisciplinary in nature, we welcome
proposals from the fields of literary studies, linguistics,
translation studies, cultural studies, communication studies,
political studies, social sciences, philosophy and history.
Abstracts (in English or French) should not exceed 300 words and be
submitted along with a brief biobibliographical note (100 words max.)
by 1 April 2018 at the latest to the following address:
Participants will be notified by 1 May 2018.
Papers may be delivered in Dutch, English, French, German and
Spanish, with discussions taking place in English and French.
Vivek Chibber (New York University), Philippe Hambye (UCLouvain) and
Marc De Kesel (Radboud University Nijmegen)
Kim Andringa, Lieselotte Brems, Louis Gerrekens, Maxim Proesmans,
Laurent Rasier, Erik Spinoy, Kris Steyaert, An Van linden, Marie
Viérin, Patricia Willson (ULiège)