CFP: Collectivity Beyond Identity

Call for Papers
“Collectivity beyond Identity”
International conference, June 28-30, 2012

Modes of collectivity play an important role in numerous contexts of our social and everyday lives. Collectives form the basis of political practice and engagement, as well as of economic and labour relations. Collectivity appears to be a particularly important concept to consider especially in areas like feminist theorizing once subjecthood is critically examined, and not construed as sovereign and isolated.

Critical theory, however, has drawn our attention to the fact that collectives, and in particular those derived from attributions of identity, often result in exclusion and even violence. Questions were raised about the ways in which power relations and differences become disguised when groups, like that of women within the so-called second wave feminism, are construed as homogenic. Following such critiques, various attempts have been made to provide more complex analyses of power relations, which also take into account internal group differences. This, however, raises a further issue: how might we rethink community, and how can we conceive of collectivity, when the seemingly crucial aspect of collectivization – identity – has become the object of critical study?

It appears, then, that the problem of plurality cannot be responded to by invoking the notion of collective subjects. In fact, critiques of the notion of the subject have had the result of dissolving it into plural and contextually various notions, which themselves often remain undetermined. Given this, we want to ask further: Which conceptions of collectivity can deal with and survive the critical examinations of subjecthood? How can acting, working and living in concert be analyzed? Which connecting forces remain, when one doesn’t simply gloss over the divisive ones?

The critical tools of feminist theory, and in particular the input from Queer and Postcolonial Studies, point to a productive examination of belonging and (political) community. They may even contribute to visionary suggestions that bear on the general debate about collectives. This is even more so, as these theoretical and critical tools can helpfully examine and analyze the diverse experiences and experimentations of social movements that have already taken place.

The conference, then, asks the following questions (among others):

− On which theoretical and/ or empirical grounds can collectivity be defined?
− What is collective experience, and what generates collective action?
− Which forms of desire and affectivity structure collectives?
− How do questions of power, recognition and identity arise in collective contexts and what are the effects of these questions on gender?
− How, in political and judicial contexts, can we deal with the difficulty of categorization?
− Which conceptions of collectivity can be taken up and developed further in fruitful ways?
− Which experiences and reflections of transnational political collectivity seem promising?
− And what, if anything, would a distinctly feminist perspective be with respect to these questions?

The conference is bilingual (German/English) and transdisciplinary. It is aimed at scholars from all disciplines, whose work deals with the questions (or other similar ones) suggested above. Please send abstracts (one page in length) for papers suitable to be delivered in 20 mins and to be anonymously reviewed to: zentrum AT Please also include a short CV as a separate document with your submission.

The deadline for submissions is 23rd of May, 2011.

Organizers at HU Berlin: Sophia Ermert (Law), Gabriele Jähnert (Gender-Studies), Ina Kerner (Social Sciences), Mari Mikkola (Philosophy), Eva von Redecker (Philosophy).