UCL Anthropology


Call For Papers. The War of Worlds: Self and Society in Social Movements

21 January 2015

The War of the Worlds

'Ambiguous Vase', Design by Paul Baars. Photo by Ton Rijswijk.

This conference will be held on the 4th and 5th of June 2015, in the Department of Anthropology at UCL.

H. G. Wells' science-fiction classic, The War of the Worlds, a parable of nineteenth-century British imperialism, imagined southern England under deadly and devastating attack from Mars: a threat personified entirely by a technologically superior and brutal Martian 'Other'. This two-day conference at UCL, The War of Worlds, drops the definite article to explore relations of domination and resistance in the twenty-first century. Today transnational corporate cartels have brought formerly imperial relations of domination 'home' to the West: as their sovereign populations are economically abandoned, digitally surveilled, and opposition suppressed through an increasingly militarized police. As a result we might begin to think globally about the way perceived threats to architectures of domination once personified by the 'Other', have turned to new threats posed by what Povinelli terms the 'otherwise': alternative ways of being alive in the same territories which propose that - in the words of the World Social Forum - 'another world is possible'.

Much recent work on social movements - partly a consequence of the anarchist-inspired actors they investigate - has pursued what Juris calls a 'practice-based approach', documenting the ongoing processes through which movements pursue alternative projects. This conference adopts a slightly different posture, inviting participants to reflect instead on the alternative selves and societies that movements envisage, those not necessarily concentrated in collective process, but which lie in a total reconfiguration of the everyday. In this sense we welcome a broad definition of what a social movement might be.

We would like to invite applicants to submit 200-300 word paper proposals with titles, which address the theme of the conference and any of the following questions:

  • What kinds of ethical selves flourish within particular social movements?
  • If resistance and domination are always in some form of reciprocal relation, how far do elite models of selfhood delimit those assumed by those who resist them?
  • As most of the movements examined by anthropologists are ideologically and strategically non-violent, on what other planes is the war of resistance waged: for example through the symbolic reworking of language, image, space or material culture?
  • What alternative visions of society do social movements seek to propagate? These can include (but are not limited to) relationships to property, governmentality, the environment, natural and cultural resources, and the public sphere.

Confirmed speakers and discussants include:

Angelique Haugerud (Professor at Rutgers University and author of No Billionaire Left Behind: Satirical Activism in America)

Sian Lazar (Lecturer at Cambridge University and author of El Alto: Rebel City)

Maple Razsa (Assistant Professor at Colby College and author of Bastards of Utopia: Living Radical Politics after Socialism)

Pnina Werbner (Professor Emerita at Keele University and editor of The Political Aesthetics of Global Protest: the Arab Spring and Beyond).

Jarrett Zigon (Associate Professor at the University of Amsterdam and author of several articles on 'worlding' and the war on drugs)

The deadline for proposals is 1st February 2015 and all applicants will be informed of the outcome shortly afterwards.

Please send paper proposals along with a short author biography to vita.peacock@ucl.ac.uk


This conference is funded by