Conference Theme

This conference calls together scholars to discuss how we might think creatively about vulnerabilities that clash: in relation to resources such
as recognition, environmental protection, political engagement,
affective sympathy, and economic support.

Clashing Vulnerabilities

A major advance in social and cultural theory during the past twenty years has been a frank recognition that the prototypical human being is not best thought of as the free, equal and independent subject so beloved of Enlightenment philosophy. Environmental degradation, burgeoning economic disparities, the COVID-19 pandemic, the ongoing war in Ukraine, and the call to arms of activist movements such as Black Lives Matter or #Metoo demand a fundamental rethinking of what it means to be alive in the world today. Instead of independence and freedom, theoretical and empirical work in a wide range of disciplines has highlighted relations of intertwinement and dependency. 

Vulnerability has emerged as a key trope in this ongoing reconfiguration of how we might approach our world. The new approaches to vulnerability have moved away from regarding vulnerability as a condition or state to be liberated from or empowered to leave. Instead, vulnerability is increasingly perceived as a productive force that makes things happen.

These new approaches have opened up refreshing and respectful ways to think about interdependency, but they tend to approach the topic either very generally (“We are all vulnerable”) or extremely specifically (“Group X is vulnerable to exploitation by Group Y”). Much less common are considerations of what happens when different vulnerabilities clash. How might we approach situations in which the vulnerabilities experienced by one person (or set of people), or one non-human being (or set of non-human beings), are in blatant conflict with one another? The entitlement of tigers to live in the wild vs. villagers who live in the same area and who risk being hunted and eaten by the tigers, or displaced to create a game reserve for the tigers? The desperation of farmers to earn a living by depleting natural resources they fully realize are dwindling? The human rights of migrants and refugees in relation to the economic, cultural and social effects on the communities that receive them? The clashes that occur within groups made vulnerable by neoliberal policies and the aggressiveness of global capital?

This conference calls together scholars to discuss how we might think creatively about vulnerabilities that clash: in relation to resources such as recognition, environmental protection, political engagement, affective sympathy, and economic support.

How might we adjudicate between positions or states of vulnerability in conflict? From what position – and with what approaches – can we determine or acknowledge conflict? How might we adjudicate between positions or states of vulnerability in conflict? Is there a metric we might use to decide who or what is “most” vulnerable? What difference would such a judgement make? Who gets to make such a decision? What consequences might such a perspective have for both theories of vulnerability and effective engagement with the world?

The conference seeks to address this challenge not just by highlighting complexity, but by taking the bull by the horns and addressing it directly. The panels and keynotes ask how we might acknowledge that vulnerability itself is a contested term, one that can be wielded for both progressive and retrogressive ends. It is associated with a variety of rewards – and risks. How can we think imaginatively and concretely about who or what is vulnerable, and what that means when different vulnerabilities clash?

Topics that might be addressed include the following:

  • Improved (or, alternatively, decreasing) standards of living vs. degradation of the environment
  • Clashes regarding gender, sexuality, race (#Metoo; activism around trans issues, calls to Defund the Police)
  • Life vs. economy in a pandemic
  • Wildlife protection vs. populations displaced to provide land for environmental reserves, or prevented from exercising traditional activities such as swidden agriculture or hunting whales
  • Clashes regarding welfare distribution among different groups
  • Digital freedom vs. digital terror (revenge, shaming, etc.)
  • Rights of caregivers vs. entitlements of those who receive care
  • Economic, social, cultural and political conflicts between peripheries and centers
  • Freedom of speech vs. the protection of individuals and minorities from threats and abuse (hate speech)
  • How accommodation or acknowledgment of vulnerability can produce further insecurity and vulnerability
  • The temporality of vulnerability and how ageing or changes of status contribute to new relations of conflict or competition with others

Call for Papers & Panels

The Clashing Vulnerabilities Conference invites abstracts for papers and panels. Abstracts should be no longer than 200 words. If possible, title the paper or panel with a concise description of the relevant clash: “Tigers vs. People”, “Trans activism vs. Feminism”, “Economic Development vs. Elderly Lives During a Pandemic” are examples of ideal titles.

Sessions will be two hours long, with four 15–20 minute papers, a 5 minute discussion after each paper and a 15 minute general discussion at the end of each session.

Panel proposals should include a title for the panel, a list of presenters with their academic affiliations and four abstracts (see above).

All abstracts will be reviewed by the conference reviewer board. You will receive notice whether your abstract/panel proposal has been accepted for presentation at the conference no later than February 28, 2023.

Please note that participants are expected to fund their own costs for travel, accommodation and conference fee.

The registration fee includes:

  • participation in the conference
  • participation in the evening mingel on 14 June
  • Lunch on Wednesday 14 June and Thursday 15 June, as well as refreshments in the breaks

There will be a conference dinner on Wednesday 14 June, which participants may register for and pay separately from the registration. The conference dinner will cost €40. Registration and payment will be possible from 1 March 2023. The deadline for payment of the conference fee will be March 25, 2023.

Registration fees

University-affiliated participants: €150

Participants from lower-middle-income countries and low-income countries (based on the World Bank Classification): €100

Independent scholars: €100

PhD students: €100

Timeline

January 28, 2023: Deadline for paper and panel proposals

February 28, 2023: Conference acceptance letters are sent out

March 1, 2023: Registration opens

March 25, 2023: Deadline for registration and payment of the conference fee

May 20, 2023: Conference schedule will be published

June 14–15: The conference takes place at Uppsala University, Sweden.

Contact

If you have a any questions, please send an email to admin@engagingvulnerability.se

Keynote Speakers

Lucas Bessire is professor of anthropology at the University of Oklahoma. His work focuses on politics, environment and media in the Americas. His most recent book, Running Out: In Search of Water on the High Plains, was published by Princeton University Press in 2021.

Link: https://lucasbessire.net/

Laura Kipnis is a cultural critic/essayist and former video artist whose work focuses on sexual politics, aesthetics, shame, emotion, acting out, moral messiness, and various other crevices of the American psyche. Her latest book is Love in the Time of Contagion: A Diagnosis (Pantheon, 2022).

Link: https://laurakipnis.com/

Yamini Narayanan is Senior Lecturer in International and Community Development. Her work is part of the rapidly emergent field of South Asian Animal Studies. Her book Mother Cow, Mother India: A Multispecies Politics of Dairy in India will be published in 2023 by Stanford University Press.

Link: https://www.deakin.edu.au/about-deakin/people/yamini-narayanan

Timeline

January 28, 2023: Deadline for paper and panel proposals

February 28, 2023: Conference acceptance letters are sent out

March 1, 2023: Registration opens

March 25, 2023: Deadline for registration and payment of the conference fee

May 20, 2023: Conference schedule will be published

June 14–15: The conference takes place at Uppsala University, Sweden.

Venue

The Conference will be held in the Humanities Theatre, at the English Park campus, Uppsala University.

Klick here or on the map for Google Maps

Uppsala is easily reached by train in just 38 minutes from Stockholm and 18 minutes from Arlanda Airport. From the airport, you can continue to Uppsala comfortably by both the airport buses and direct train, with departures from SkyCity. During the day, buses and trains depart twice an hour. And it is just as easy to travel between Uppsala and Stockholm.

The Humanities Theatre
The Humanities Theatre
English Park Campus – Centre for the humanities
Museum Gustavianum
Uppsala Cathedral and the Fyris river