Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)


Appropriating Forms - Theory, Practice, and Reflection

11 June 2024–12 June 2024, 10:00 am–6:00 pm

SELCS CMII PGR conference

Participants are invited from a range of fields and disciplines to attend this two-day PGR conference at SELCS and CMII, an interdisciplinary hub of UCL.

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to







Yichun Zhang


Lecture theatre G22
North-West Wing (to the left as you enter UCL from Gower St)
UCL, Gower St, London
United Kingdom

A seed, a pyramid, a sentence structure, a political system, a social network... Forms are big and small, concrete and abstract, rigid and dynamic, appearing and disappearing. In the history of ideas, forms are conceived as permanent and persistent, or mutable and contingent. They both contain and confine, include and exclude. In theorizing about forms, we interrogate their twofold qualities: modality and plasticity, stability and mobility.

In practice, forms can do many things. For Caroline Levine, they constrain, differ, overlap and intersect, travel, and do political work in particular historical contexts. Following Levine, we ask: what happens when literary, linguistic, material, spatial, and social forms meet? How do different forms collide, overlap and intersect in interesting ways? How do they travel across territories, spheres, disciplines, time and space? How do we make and unmake, embrace and resist them?

The appropriation of forms can be empowering or harmful, conscious or unreflective. Through forms we might reflect on our need for order and configuration, as well as our obsession with reformation and change.

We invite participants from a range of fields and disciplines to our two-day PGR conference at SELCS-CMII, an interdisciplinary hub of UCL. The conference consists of two parts:

Part 1: Presentation panels (15min presentation + 5min Q&A) discussing topics including but not limited to:

•    Forms in critical theory and philosophy, new criticism, formalism, structuralism, poststructuralism, new formalism.
•    Forms and textuality in language and literature, genre studies, creative critical writing.
•    Formal (im)mobility in space, architecture, infrastructure and literary geography.
•    Forms of power in history and political philosophy, reformation and revolutions.
•    Formal coalitions and collisions in art, film, media, theatre and performance.
•    Forms in cultural studies, gender and sexuality studies, postcolonial studies.
•    Forms of thesis and interdisciplinary research.
•    Forms and (post)humanity in psychology, anthropology and theology.

Part 2: Two roundtable discussions (45min discussion+15min Q&A) 

The roundtables feature four keynote speakers, Dr. James Kneale (UCL Geography), Prof. Jane Gilbert (UCL SELCS), Prof. Gregory Thompson (UCL Anthropology), Prof. Tim Button (UCL Philosophy) and others tbc, who we have invited also to chair our presentation panels. The four speakers are all experts working on the idea of forms in their own research fields.

Other than talking about forms in relation to their research, the speakers will also be invited to comment on the two following topics: 

(1)    A critical reflection on the conventionalized and institutionalized academic forms in the university context. Questions we plan to discuss are: What are the pros and cons of conventional and canonized forms of academic research, writing and publishing? What are some emerging, innovative forms in our globalized and digitalized academic landscape? How much are they affected by the neoliberal turn and the pressure of marketization?

(2)    A critical reflection on multicultural and interdisciplinary research. As interdisciplinarity and multiculturalism invite decentring, border-crossing and collaboration, we will discuss whether they assert new centres, instal new borders, and advance new dialectics? What kind of communities are we building, and who are we excluding and why?

The dialectics of forms will shed new light on these fundamental questions that concern researchers and students interested in interdisciplinary research and multicultural studies. The conference committee, four PhD students, Chan Du, Michael Protheroe, Zhang Yichun and Sarah Wright, will also participate and chair these discussions, each drawing on their own interdisciplinary research at SELCS.

Please send a biography (name, academic affiliation, contact information) + paper title + a 150-word abstract (or a few sentences of description) to formsconference2024@gmail.com by April 28th. We look forward to seeing you soon.

edited Octagon logo
For further information on the conference: PGR Conference 2024: Appropriating forms - theory, practice, reflection (pdf)

This conference is generously funded by the IAS Octagon Small Grants Fund