“Home” – postgraduate CFP


UCL Society for Comparative Cultural Inquiry

Fifth Annual Postgraduate Conference

26th-27th October 2017

‘It is part of morality not to be at home in one’s home’ wrote Theodor Adorno in Minima Moralia.

For Adorno, dwelling was impossible and the private life indecent following the violence of twentieth century totalitarianism and the rise of capitalist consumer culture. At the same time, Hannah Arendt distinguished the public life of the polis, characterised by speech and action, from the private life of the oikos, related to labour, the domestic and the body, or what Arendt termed the ‘dark background of mere givenness’. Historic and ongoing feminist struggles over housework and wages have exposed the political stakes of precisely this ‘background’. Indeed, the contemporary significance of the home, and homelessness, is acutely apparent at both a local and global level.

So, what is it to be at home and what does one have when one has a home? Home is a space of rest and refuge, but also a place of discomfort and disquiet. If there is home then there is also the unheimlich, the uncanny element that, like Kafka’s Odradek, unsettles any intimacy. Home is where we recover when we are ill, and when we are not home we get homesick. We associate home with security and sanctity, but to be at home is not necessarily to be free from violence, intrusion or oppression. It may even be because home is imagined as an apolitical place that ideology is able to take root in it.

This interdisciplinary conference invites 15-20 minute papers from all disciplines that explore the concept of ‘home’ as a site of contention, transformation and social reproduction, as a space in which different forms of agency are both made and revoked. Questions papers might like to consider are: How is home imagined and to what ends is it evoked? How are the thresholds of privacy regulated, and to whose exclusion? Is home in crisis? How might we re-imagine or re-work the home?

Proposals for panels, performances, installations and workshops are also welcome, as well as creative critical work. Topics could include but are not restricted to:

  • Philosophical approaches to home: ethics, ontology, the influence of philosophers’ domestic life on their work
  • The nation as home: nationalisms, sovereignty, postcolonialism, liberation struggles
  • Gender and sexuality at home: family, domestic and affective labour, the public/private divide, power dynamics
  • Refuge, exile, migration, displacement, diaspora
  • Representations of the home in film, theatre, television, literature
  • Architecture of the home: experimentation, innovative solutions to changing lifestyles
  • The place of home in different religious faiths and practices
  • Capital at home: contemporary politics and economics, gentrification, the housing crisis, austerity, Occupy, homelessness
  • Academic homes/homelessness in interdisciplinary work
  • Historical and cultural specificities: the changing nature and understanding of the home across time and cultures (e.g. in Antiquity, the Early Modern period, the Victorian period)
  • Psychology and affect of/at home: boredom, claustrophobia, loneliness
  • Care/Health at home: adapting homes for disabled people, end of life care
  • Alternative homes: institutions (prisons, hospitals, care homes), communes, kibbutzim, squats, foster homes, nomadism

    We invite submissions from all disciplines, including but not limited to:

    Anthropology; Sociology; Gender studies; Architecture and Town Planning; Literature; Critical theory; Film Studies; Photography; Politics and political theory; Economics; History; Modern Languages; Philosophy; Art; Psychology and Psychoanalysis; Cultural Studies; Translation Studies; Health and Medical Humanities.

Please send abstracts of no more than 300 words, plus 5 key words and a short biographical statement (50 words), to culturalinquiry.ucl@gmail.com by Friday 21st July.


How to stop being boring in conference papers

I’ve not been going to conferences all that long: I’m only a first-year PhD student. However, in the short time I have been attending and speaking at conferences, I’ve already become a pretty vehement opponent of a certain way of presenting. You probably know what I’m talking about – the kind of conference paper where someone reads out an extract from an essay or article in a monotone, barely lifting their eyes from the page.

Now, when I’ve talked about this to people, they sometimes draw a dichotomy between reading a paper like this, and presenting in an improvisational, ad hoc style – the idea being perhaps that they have to read their papers, because they’re not able to present just from notes or slides. This is a false dichotomy! And I think it’s quite a damaging one, because it means people fall back on the monotone paper-reading because they don’t feel able to improvise. There’s absolutely a middle ground, though. I’d love to be able to present my work just from notes, but right now I don’t have either the confidence in my material or the skills at timing to do it. So I do use a script for my papers. But I don’t just cut an extract from previous work and read it out; instead, I edit it to make it more conversational in tone, and I try to present in an engaging way. In this post, I want to offer a quick guide to presenting a paper with a script, but without being…well, boring and difficult to follow.

Continue reading “How to stop being boring in conference papers”