11th Annual Graduate Student Research Conference of the Department of Sociology and Equity Studies i

Venue: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto

Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Event Date/Time: Apr 04, 2009 End Date/Time: Apr 04, 2009
Abstract Submission Date: Jan 23, 2009
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Eleventh Annual Graduate Student Research Conference
Department of Sociology and Equity Studies in Education
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT)

The Fecundity of Recognition
The Self/Other in Politics, Sociality, Ethics, and Critique

“Politically speaking, it is insufficient to say that power rand violence are not the same. Power and violence are opposites; where the one rules absolutely, the other is absent. Violence appears where power is in jeopardy, but left to its own course it ends in power’s disappearance. This implies that it is not correct to think of the opposite of violence as nonviolence; to speak of nonviolent power is redundant. Violence can destroy power; it is utterly incapable of creating it.” (Hannah Arendt, from On Violence)

“‘Before the face of the other’, I have said. Can one, properly speaking, use the preposition “before” [devant] here? Have we not, in speaking thus, confused the meaning of the face, with plastic forms of representation that already mask it, whereas the face, in its formal nakedness, or stripped off form, expresses morality and signifies a commandment? Have we not already failed to recognize the incessant surplus of meaning that undoes these plastic forms? A surplus that cannot be represented – cannot be presented – but that signifies the imperative with authority or glory.” (Emmanuel Levinas, from Alterity and Transcendence)

“Man is not merely a possibility of recapture or of negation. If it is true that consciousness is a process of transcendence, we have to see too that this transcendence is haunted by the problems of love and understanding. Man is a yes that vibrates to cosmic harmonies. Uprooted, pursued, baffled, doomed to watch the dissolution of truth that he has worked out for himself one after another, he has to give up projecting onto the world an antimony that coexists with him.” (Frantz Fanon, from Black Skins, White Masks)

Saturday, April 4th, 2009 – 8:30am to 5:30pm

We find ourselves in an in-between geography, flanked between a transcendental possibility to separate inherited – historically, politically, socially – subjectivities from the power that binds itself to them and the immanent struggle to negotiate within and across that power. We find ourselves, as well, amidst the uncanny geography of lost objects, recaptured desires, and violative engagements with one another, both in our everyday social and political terrains. The impulse to imagine such a metaphorical or allegorical geography or, let us call it another word, landscape, finds itself nestled, unsettlingly, in the realm of what one might be bequeathed to call, invoke, and name as the possibility or impossibility of/for recognition – the violent look, the lascivious gaze, the at-once both recuperative and destructive knowledge of the encounter between self and other, within the ever traducing logic of a power that is both evaded and restored in these encounters. Ultimately, we might charge “recognition” – the moment of the encounter or the instance of power – as that which allows us to think carefully about discursive politics, complicated terrains of sociality, ruptured yet rapturous ethics, and a critique yet-to-happen.

The purpose of this conference is to address, therefore, the productive, generative, and non-productive utterances and tendencies that exist in the moment of the encounter – whether we are to consider it in light of Hegel’s age-old dialectical encounter between the master and the slave or Fanon’s re-working of Hegel’s age-old dialectical encounter by inserting, necessarily so, the question of race and gender into that meeting between self and other, or again, perhaps our consideration might lead us to Levinas’s ethics of the other where we are to learn from the possibilities and impossibilities inscribed in the act of responsibility as we know it that may or may not be arrived at in the encounter between self and other, or yet again, we might be entering into the terrain of Ahmed’s unsettling of Levinas through an addressing of what it means to engage in strange and uncanny encounters where we claim to be responsible and ethical, but fall short on this task, necessarily and inevitably so – an important point to contemplate upon. In all these and several other moments of theoretical incursions, we are called upon to understand how recognition, both in its tacit and its explicit permutations and formulations, allows us to have a better understanding of political subjectivity, social existence, psychic disillusionments, and ethical quandaries.

Another moment for us to pause and take stock of recognition causes us to enter that heady – no irony or pun intended, here – terrain called the “body”. What happens to the body in such encounters? How do we take account of moments such as empathy, anger, or vulnerability in the context of how it affects a body in the moment of being recognized as either “normative” or otherwise? Where do we go from here – politically or otherwise – when we address the world of law, the world of psychic struggles, the harsh ways in which we are forced to separate mind and body, to become or be named as falling either in the category of a “rational” subject or an “irrational” aberration? In turning our attention toward theories of recognition, what this conference, amongst the several other aspirations it might have, hopes to address is the split between rationality and irrationality, the rupture between mind and body, as though these things exist outside of one another. The rupture needs to be unearthed, addressed, and troubled – both its violence and its purpose. We are attempting here to link embodiment with theories of recognition as has been done in the realm of critical social theory within the place of, to name a few, feminist theory, queer theory, critical race theory, critical disability studies, Marxist theory, psychoanalysis, Foucauldian instigations that examine power and discipline, law, ethics, and political philosophy. When, in the final analysis, perhaps, does the body become accounted for, if ever in the act of recognizing other as “other”, wholly other or absolutely other – either by state-sanctioned violence or in the everydayness of discriminatory practices that prevent subjects from merely being?

It is with these concerns and considerations in mind that the Graduate Student Conference Committee of the Department of Sociology and Equity Studies in Education at the University of Toronto invites you to submit either single paper or panel presentations on the broad topic of recognition, as has been outlined here. The Committee will consider some of the following expansive spaces of inquiry as relevant to the overarching concerns of the conference, but, please also note that the list below is by no means an exhaustive or conclusive one:

• Recognition in Space, Place, and Time
• Recognition and Racial Subjectivity
• Recognition and the Engendering of Gender
• Recognition in Queer Theory
• Recognition and Bodily Subjectivity in Critical Disability Studies
• Recognition of the Labour of the Classed Other in a time of Capital
• Gaze, Discourse, and the Other – Anthropology and Sociology Revisited
• Recognition and the Body, both proper and general
• Writing Recognition and Alterity in Literature and the Literary
• Recognition and the possibility of/for the Social and the Political
• Theorizing Recognition
• On a Violence borne of Recognition
• Annihilation of the Self
• Recognition at the borders of the Nation-State
• Recognition, Performance, and Performativity
• Psychoanalysis and Theories of Recognition

Abstract of no more than 300 words should be sent to seseconference@oise.utoronto.ca by Friday, January 23rd, 2009. Graduate students from various disciplines, including but not limited to, Comparative Literature, Sociology, Philosophy, Political Science, Cultural Studies, Film Studies, Anthropology, Education, History, and other fields within the realm of the Humanities and the Social Sciences are highly encouraged to apply. Please observe the following procedures to enable blind peer-review:
1) Attach a short biographical note on a separate page.
2) Do not include your name on the same page as the abstract.
3) Type “abstract” in the subject line of your email.
Papers may be given in English or French, with citations in any language.

Organizing Committee
Ricky Varghese, PhD. candidate (Chair, 2005 – Present)
Anna Kim, PhD, candidate
Laura Thrasher, PhD. candidate
Jijian Voronka, PhD. candidate
Ahmed Ilmi, M.A. candidate

References
Arendt, H. (1970). On Violence. New York: Harcourt Brace and Company.
Fanon, F. (1967). Black Skins, White Masks. New York: Grove Press.
Levinas, E. (1999). Alterity and Transcendence. (M. B. Smith, Trans.). New York: Columbia University Press.

Venue