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Reworking Political Concepts II:
A Lexicon in Formation

Second Floor Common Room, Heyman Center, Columbia University
Friday and Saturday, February 3 and 4, 2012

Click here to view the conference schedule.

This conference is free and open to the public. No registration or tickets necessary. Seating is on a first come, first served basis. Photo I.D. required for entry.



Adi Ophir
The Cohen Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas
Tel Aviv University

Hagar Kotef
Society of Fellows, Columbia University
Ann Stoler
Department of Anthropology, New School


Gil Anidjar, Columbia University
Ariella Azoulay, Tel Aviv University
Claudia Baracchi, University of Milano-Bicocca
Anat Biletzki, Quinnipiac University & Tel Aviv University
Susan Buck-Morss, City University of New York
Alice Crary, The New School
E. Valentine Daniel, Columbia University
Stathis Gourgouris, Columbia University
Ranjana Khanna, Duke University
Hagar Kotef, Columbia University
Jacques Lezra, New York University
Uday Mehta, City University of New York
Adi Ophir, Tel Aviv University
Oded Schecter, Princeton University
Ann Stoler, The New School
Neferti Tadiar, Barnard College
Robin Wagner-Pacifici, The New School


This conference is part of the early stages in the formation of a lexicon of political concepts. It will be the 6th in a series of conferences started in Tel Aviv University, and the second to take place in New York City. The project is guided by one formal principle: we pose the Socratic question "what is x?", and by one theatrical principle: the concepts defined should be relevant to political thought and, more broadly, to thinking about the political. The questions--what is political thought and what is the political-- are not predetermined here. They are open for renewed study and debate. This conference is therefore a part of an ongoing attempt to redefine both the boundaries of the political (and with them, the disciplinary boundaries of political philosophy or theory) and the elements included within these boundaries.

Each paper will focus on a single concept. This may be a common concept, whose meaning is presumably known to all, or a less common concept, that describes something familiar and exposes new links between phenomena hitherto deemed unrelated. It may be a concept situated within the core of political philosophy, or a concept whose political attributes are precisely what the contributor seeks to expose. We do not seek answers reconstructing and summarizing the history of the use (philosophical or mundane) of the concept in question, or answers presuming to seal and secure this use and this history. We rather invite explorations which move between different perspectives, which bring together conflicting interpretations, and which seek to surface disciplinary and cultural differences.

We therefore invite each contributor to address his/her question as though asking it for the first time, even if she has in fact been pursuing and pondering the question for years. In other words, this is a call to form an index, an order: to distinguish and differentiate indeed to define an x (a concept, a matter at hand). At the same time, this is a call to disrupt this very order, to propose answers refusing the pretension of containing meaning within the boundaries of a rigid definition (refusing, to put it differently, the order encapsulated by the question). This duality is maintained at the level of the project itself, which seeks to open the discussion launched by the Socratic question rather than to bring it to an end. Even if at times the lexical writing pretends to hold the authority of providing a final word, this pretence is no more than a discursive strategy, an effort to amass authority or wield it; it is, in other words, itself always also political.

Funding generously provided by:
The Society of Fellows in the Humanities
The Heyman Center for the Humanities
The New School for Social Research
The Institute for Research on Women and Gender
Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Barnard College

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