Call for workshop papers and summer school applications – funding available
Academic workshop, followed by PhD summer school
Authority in the Name of Community
hosted by the
Centre for Citizenship, Civil Society and Rule of Law (CISRUL)
University of Aberdeen
Academic workshop: Tuesday 24-Wednesday 25 June 2014
PhD summer school: Thursday 26-Friday 27 June 2014
Academic coordinator: Trevor Stack (email@example.com)
Logistical enquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please join our Political Community email discussion list
Following our successful Political Community workshop in June 2013 (summaries online) CISRUL is inviting:
1. abstracts for an academic workshop on 24-25 June that will allow us to develop our understanding of political community
2. a PhD summer school on 26-27 June at which PhD students will present and discuss their work on the topic.
The deadline for both is 28 February.
We confirmed in the June 2013 workshop that the term “political community” was appropriate for identifying a core set of issues that interest us at CISRUL, even though it was evident that no term will ever carry all the right connotations and none of the wrong ones.
Though we each have our own preferred approach, reflecting the wide range of perspectives in CISRUL, several of us are using the term “political community” for one whose members feel somehow represented within its structures of authority, and thus somehow obliged to their fellow-members to follow its norms and accept its decisions. A political community could also be termed a democracy but we prefer to use the term “democracy” for a form of government; our focus is more on the link between authority and community than on the precise structure of government. In a political community, authority is exercised in the name of some kind of community of members – this is the point on which for the most part we converge.
That said, we understand both “authority” and “community” in a variety of ways. We are interested in:
- established political institutions but also less formal and/or emergent structures of authority
- nations as the (arguably) paramount political communities of the contemporary world but also other forms of political community: pre-modern cities are obvious examples, but we are open to the possibility that there are political communities other than nations in the present day, even if these may be linked to or embedded within nations.
We prefer, on the whole, to reserve the term “political community” for those that claim a degree of self-sufficiency (or self-determination) and we distinguish political communities from political collectives such as trade unions or churches which see themselves as players in a broader arena. However, we are still very much interested in how authority is exercised internally in the name of members of such entities, as well as in how they position themselves in relation to the political communities that host them. We acknowledge, too, that political communities such as nations also see themselves as players in a broader, international arena.
We are open to a full range of topics but are particularly interested in:
- how political communities compare to communities that we might consider less or non-political, such as kin groups or cultural associations:
- is it the case, for example, that what we are calling “political community” is a community only because it has a political authority which rules in the name of the members?
- is it really possible to form a “political community” of people with no common worldview and who disagree about issues and priorities or simply don’t like each other?
- how one might differentiate between forms of political community, including that of nations:
- how the largely involuntary nature of membership in nations conditions the structures of authority that we know as states (for example, where it leaves those who are citizens but do not identify with the nation), and how this compares to other forms of political community in which membership may be more voluntary
- whether and how one can differentiate between stronger and weaker forms of political community:
- nationalism generally entails strong community bonds which support the strong claim to authority known as national sovereignty – do weaker community bonds make for weaker claims to authority, and if so, to what effect?
- by what criteria might one consider some communities more political than others, and how might one account for the difference?
- the role of international law in the contemporary world in shaping political community, primarily by recognizing the self-determination of “peoples”
- for example, how successful have indigenous peoples been in challenging the virtual monopoly of nations on self-determination?
- the relation between electoral democracy as a form of government and political community as authority in the name of community
- for example, how has the recent “transition to democracy” in many countries affected the shape of political community?
- how political community relates to 3 other key concepts that CISRUL has examined since 2009:
- citizenship: understood both as formal membership with rights and obligations and as a broader set of commitments to others within and beyond the political community
- civil society (topic of our 2012 workshop): a concept whose analytical value is debatable but which remains an important source of political legitimacy in the world today
- rule of law: if political community is about authority exercised in the name of community, how does it relate to the idea of authority being subject to law?
- in relation to CISRUL’s ongoing research projects:
- what is the role of education (historically and in the present) in shaping senses of political community in young people (see below our Sense of Political Community project)?
- what are the dynamics of political community when valuable resources (such as oil and gas) are at stake (see below our Energy Politics Forum project)?
- the significance for political community of minority nationalism, multiculturalism, indigenous rights movements, urban citizenship, cosmopolitanism, global civil society, etc.
- the extent to which recent socio-political movements such as Occupy or the Indignados are proposing alternative forms of political community, as well as whether the European Union (and other such arrangements) represents a new departure in political community.
As in all CISRUL activities, our approach is fully inter-disciplinary and our interests include but go beyond contemporary Europe and North America. To give an idea of our range of interest, speakers at our June 2013 Political Community workshop presented on 18th-century Ireland and on contemporary Argentina, Mexico, Israel-Palestine and Canada, as well as on political community in theology, philosophy, post-colonial studies, and constitutional and international law.
We welcome your comments on the CfP and other thoughts on the topic – the best way is to contribute to our Political Community email discussion list.
Location and travel
The workshop will be held at the beautiful Old Aberdeen campus of the University of Aberdeen on Tuesday 24th and Wednesday 25th June. It will be followed on Thursday 26th and Friday 27th June by the PhD summer school, which for a change of airs will be held at a country house set in a magnificent rural estate near Aberdeen.
Aberdeen is unusually well-served for travel because it is a global hub of the oil industry. There are regular direct flights to Aberdeen from most UK cities (British Airways, BMI, Easy Jet, Eastern Airways) and from Paris and Amsterdam (Air France/KLM). There is also a very frequent train and bus service from England.
1. For prospective workshop speakers
Prospective speakers are invited to email abstracts of around 200-400 words, together with a CV, to email@example.com by 28th February 2014.
We ask that you read the online summaries of our June 2013 workshop prior to submitting your abstract.
Speakers will have up to 15 minutes. We are not necessarily looking for polished research papers but for provocative responses to our questions that will help to spark energetic discussion among a very diverse group of participants from across the humanities and social sciences. It is anticipated that the workshop will push speakers beyond their previous work and that papers may thus be somewhat speculative. At least half the workshop time will be set aside for discussion.
Accommodation will be provided for speakers, once accepted, but please indicate if you also wish to apply for funds to cover travel costs. We would normally expect you to obtain some funding of your own, but we can often provide the first £250 of travel costs for accepted speakers. For information about travel and about the city and region, see http://www.abdn.ac.uk/maps/index.php
NB We normally expect funded speakers to stay for the two-day PhD summer school, which will be held immediately after the workshop, on Thursday 26th and Friday 27th June, at The Burn, a country house set in a beautiful estate in rural Aberdeenshire. In previous years we have enjoyed presentations by a select group of outstanding PhD students from across Europe. The summer school doubles as an opportunity to reflect further on the workshop themes.
We encourage you to join our Political Community email discussion list.
2. For prospective PhD summer school participants
The summer school is intended to give PhD students the opportunity to:
- relate their research to broader, inter-disciplinary debates on citizenship, civil society and rule of law, with a view to rethinking and developing their arguments
- present their research in a supportive setting and receive feedback on the content and form of their presentation
- discuss their research informally with scholars and with other PhD students – we recognize that PhD students are sometimes relatively isolated
Successful applicants will attend the workshop on Tuesday 24th and Wednesday 25th June, and then participate in the PhD summer school on Thursday 26th and Friday 27th June:
- on Thursday morning, students will reflect on the workshop with several of the speakers, followed by discussion on Thursday afternoon of a set of related readings
- on Friday morning and afternoon, students will draw on their PhD research to address the topic, receiving feedback from the workshop speakers as well as their fellow-students.
The fee for attending the workshop will be waived. Successful PhD applicants will also receive board and lodging for the duration of the workshop and summer school, as well as the first £200 of their travel expenses. In return we ask that you commit to:
- preparing a 10-minute presentation, drawing on your PhD research to address the topic
- after your presentation you will receive questions and comments from the scholars and other PhD students
- you are also expected to pose questions and comments about the presentations of your fellow PhD students
- doing the selected readings in advance of the summer school, with a view to discussing them in the Thursday afternoon session
- contributing where possible to the 2-day workshop as well as taking notes on the workshop to discuss in the first session of the summer school, which will reflect on the workshop
We anticipate that admission will be competitive, because we will cap the number of summer school students at 15 to allow time for full discussion of all presentations and for enough personal contact between PhD students and the scholars present.
Summer school applicants should complete and submit the following information, together with your CV, to the summer school administrator, by 28th February to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Name of summer school applicant:
Address Line 1:
Address Line 2:
Expected Date of Completion:
Do you have any special needs or dietary restrictions?
Give a brief description of your PhD research (300-500 words: expand space as needed):
Explain how you expect your PhD research to benefit from a PhD summer school on this topic (200-400 words: expand space as needed):
Hosting of workshop
The workshop and PhD summer school are hosted by the Centre for Citizenship, Civil Society and Rule of Law (CISRUL), whose mission is to produce conversation across the social sciences and humanities on key concepts of the modern polity. Citizenship, civil society and rule of law are three such key concepts, all three of some pedigree but enjoying a new lease of life, prescribed by bodies such as IMF and United Nations, championed by social movements, and debated in the media and in academic research, although we are also interested in related notions such as democracy, human rights, multiculturalism and pluralism. We are distinguished by:
- our conceptual approach, which contrasts with the often uncritical adoption of citizenship, civil society and rule of law as catch-all slogans or as fix-all solutions; instead we ask searching questions about the concepts themselves, less to define them more clearly than to consider how they get deployed in practice
- our serious inter-disciplinary commitment, which goes beyond occasional encounters to aim at full engagement between up to 8 or 9 disciplines, in which we take time to learn the premises of each other’s disciplines in order to understand each other
- our global and historical reach that includes but goes beyond the usual focus on contemporary Europe and North America, looking at medieval and early modern Europe but also a range of contexts across Latin America, Africa and Asia.
We also offer PhD studentships and would be grateful if you could draw them to the attention of promising, inter-disciplinary Masters students. Further information is available at www.abdn.ac.uk/cisrul
Our interest in political community runs through two other CISRUL activities which are detailed on the website:
1. Sense of Political Community research project
CISRUL’s project on local schools began with our “Citizenship Education” forum in March 2013. Making “responsible citizens” is a core objective of the Curriculum for Excellence, which is being rolled out in schools across Scotland. Speakers at the forum noted, however, that the Curriculum for Excellence gives little emphasis to the political awareness of pupils, and also that teachers across Scotland are notoriously wary of “political” agendas in the classroom. The apolitical ethos of Scottish schooling may accentuate what education researchers have found across the world: pupils complain of feeling disenfranchised because they are unable to vote until they are 18. Yet in September 2014 16- and 17-year old pupils will vote in the Scottish Independence Referendum. We are looking at whether this will lead pupils to pay more attention to politics and, if so, how long it lasts and what the consequences are. They have begun with focus groups and interviews in a sample of local schools, starting with general questions such as “Beyond your family, who makes rules for you to follow, and do you think it is right that they make the rules?” and leading on to questions like “For those of you who will be eligible to vote in the Referendum, how confident do you feel about making the right decision?”
2. Energy Politics Forum
In May 2013 we held a major public conference on “Politics of Oil & Gas in a Changing UK” which focused on the politics of oil and gas but which has at its heart difficult questions about political community. To begin with, Scottish voters’ understanding of the political economy of oil and gas is likely to play a significant part in how they vote in the 2014 Independence Referendum. But Scottish independence – with its obvious ramifications for political community – is only one of many decisions to be made about the future of hydrocarbons, and whether Scotland is independent or not, they are decisions that need to be taken. Public debate of the many aspects of this looming future is scarce, almost as if the future was inevitable or we were unable to influence it. Many decisions are being left to lawyers, government, experts or the market. To build on the conference, we intend to launch an Energy Politics Forum which would host debates between a similarly broad range of academic and non-academic participants. As well as staging public debate, the objective is reflect further on the dynamics of political community when valuable resources are at stake.
Information about all our activities, including our PhD studentships, is available at www.abdn.ac.uk/cisrul