Sixth International Political Anthropology Workshop in Ireland
Call for Papers: 13th January 2013
Sixth International Political Anthropology Workshop in Ireland on
Poesis: The ambivalent creation of the truth.
Waterford Institute of Technology
Organised by the Department of Applied Arts, Waterford Institute of Technology, the Journal
International Political Anthropology, and the School of Sociology & Philosophy, University
Tom Boland (Sociology, WIT, firstname.lastname@example.org,) and
John O’ Brien, (Sociology, WIT, email@example.com,)
There is nothing more poetic than the sense, or even the sensation, of moving beyond fiction towards the truth. As Nietzsche pointed out, all of our truths are fictions which we have ceased to recognise as creative poesis: the foundational concepts of philosophy, theology and all the modern disciplines emerge from stories. Inevitably – whatever our scientific or critical impulses – we live culturally within one fictional world or another or even in many worlds that overlap in complex ways. And, of course, we are ambivalent about this poesis: Whose fiction is it? Does fictional mean false, ideological and erroneous? And what might happen if the fiction starts to wear thin – will there be disenchantment, alienation or renewal?
The intersections of culture and society are no narrow specialism, but increasingly
a concern common to many disciplines. Cultural anthropology, at least since Geertz, has
taken the meaning making practices of human societies as a central area of inquiry. Cultural
sociology has grown from a minor field to a central paradigm. Literary and performance
theory, musicology and cognate disciplines have become increasingly concerned with culture
and context, from new historicism to reader response theories. This conference will bring
together papers concerned with poesis and culture from all of these areas which engage with
the ambivalent status of truth after the cultural turn, the historical turn and the performative
turn. How can we turn to the question of meaning and truth again? And how could we not?
Complicating the ‘ancient quarrel’ of poetry and philosophy, Socrates does not simply
denigrate poetry, but seeks to purify it into contemplation of the true, then famously launches
into the ‘cave myth’. This passage from the cave of illusions into the real world of the forms,
with the sun posited as the good, is mediated through metaphor. Why doesn’t he just explain
it theoretically? One may as well ask; why can’t we just stare into the sun? The arduous task
of leaving the cave is akin to the difficult work of interpretation. The works of theory and of
poesis are equally liminal trials, to find meaning, to find truth.
By no means can the question of poesis and truth be confined to the sepulchral realms
of high art or the distracting froth of popular culture. Despite the dominance of technocratic
discourse, the political world is animated by fictions, from universalising utopian visions
to images of the nation. Ultimately politics is a contest over meaning. Similarly that thing
which we sometimes call ‘economic reality’ is also a storied world, with confidence, booms
and busts the material of our contemporary morality tale. The tale of technological world
domination, the bildungsroman of entrepreneurial success, the Faustian pact of progress and
the carnival world of the market are all fictions. And of course, culture is now an industry, so
that tourism, advertising and education are sites of the production and consumption of poesis
However, this brings us to problems of distinction: Are all societies alike in creating
meaning? Modernity is associated with a dearth of meaning, a decline of poesis and truth
becoming singular and univocal – but is this our near-sighted parochialism? Are all elements
of society meaning-making? Every human action exists in a nexus of meaning, but it is hardly
an undifferentiated continuum, and surely there are particular sources of meaning which
deserve academic attention, from poetry, to religion, to authority, to ritual and beyond.
We invite plenary and session papers on:
- Poetry and truth, theory and meaning.
- Society as a fictional world: in modernity and beyond.
- Politics as the contested field of meaning.
- Poesis and everyday life.
- The marketplace for meaning and productive poesis.
Deadline for abstracts is Friday 13th of January 2013.
Feel free to contact the convenors earlier for consultation and information