Keynote Speaker: Judith Butler
Theme: Politics of the Sensate Subject
The 5th Graduate Conference in Political Theory of Sciences Po Paris will be held on June 28-29, 2017. Each year, the conference brings together young political theorists representing a variety of traditions and methods to discuss the work of one prominent author. This edition will focus on the work of Judith Butler (Maxine Elliott Professor, UC Berkeley), who will be our keynote speaker.
A well-known public intellectual, Judith Butler has explored the disquieting relationship between subjects and norms through acclaimed books on gender identity and vulnerability. Her more recent works, from Senses of the Subject to Notes Toward a Performative Theory of Assembly, invite us to reconsider in the light of a critique of the subject the ethical and political issues at stake in social relations. By redefining the subject in terms of interdependence, Judith Butler argues for a “social ontology” which grants a central place to the concept of sensitivity.
Sensitivity, understood as the responsiveness characteristic of living beings, refers to both the possibility of being affected by one’s environment (by others, their discourses and their norms), and the ability to react to it. This notion allows Butler to tie together the concepts of normativity, performativity, vulnerability and viability in an original way. Sensitivity allows us to make sense of how the life of individuals, and their potential precariousness, depends to large extent upon the patterns of conduct that are valued in a given society. This approach gives rise to a number of questions that this conference aims to explore. Our guiding question will be the following: Against or beyond liberalism’s classical view, what politics does this alternative conception of the subject yield?
The objective of this conference is thus twofold. First, it aims to reflect upon the principles and modalities of Judith Butler’s arguments about sensitivity. Second, the conference aims to discern the potential consequences and applications of this notion of the subject’s sensitivity to a range of political questions such as:
Only graduate students who have not defended their PhD are eligible. Each two-hours-long session of the conference will concentrate on two to three papers and will be chaired by a Sciences Po graduate student. Presentations will be followed by a Q&A session open to the public.
Breakfast, lunch and refreshments will also be provided for the duration of the conference. Unfortunately, Sciences Po is not able to provide funds for housing and transportation.
For any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at:
For further information on other activities and events organized by the Political Theory Program at Sciences Po, please visit (and like) our Facebook page: Sciences Po, Paris – Théorie Politique.
Author: Andrei Poama, Max Weber Fellow EUI, Florence
Source: Public Reason
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