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2024 Archives of Political Action and Genres of Political Theory

CSPT Conference

Riverside Church, May 22-23, 2024


Political theory is often associated with texts of philosophical reflection, and such standardized forms as the treatise, essay, or dialogue.  But we know that political theorizing — even much of what has become canonical — was and is generated in and through political action and documented in a plurality of genres, including political speech, petition, constitution, manifesto, and communiqué.  How do archives of political rule, communication, competition, mobilization, and organization become sites of political theorizing?  How does political theory shape, animate, and emerge in formal political activities such as policy-making, parliamentary debate, constitutional reform, treaty negotiation, party and church congresses, labor union and trade organization? What are some key concepts and theories that have framed and developed within informal or insurgent arenas of political action, from underground newspapers and secret societies, declarations and manifestoes, to community organizing and protest tactics?


The 2024 CSPT conference explores the relationship between political action and political theory along three interdependent dimensions—media of mobilization, archives of action, and genre.

Media of Mobilization: How does political speech and writing circulate in and support political action?  How does the drafting and distribution of petitions, pamphlets, newspapers, declarations, manifestos, platforms, slogans help movements and parties build constituencies and institutions?  How does the activation and circulation of such texts inform the way we read and understand their political meaning and purpose?  We invite papers to explore the form and function of political media across different historical periods and political contexts.


Archives of Action: How does theory emerge from situated sites of political action?  From constitutional formation and reform, parliamentary debates and party congresses, legal trials and investigative commissions, editorial board meetings, to policy planning, campaign tactics, and mobilization strategies — scenes of politics in action also archive conceptual debate, innovation, and clarification.  As spaces of collaboration, contention, and interaction, political theory and practice come together sharply.  We invite papers to explore these convergences in the canon as well as examining new or overlooked archives of political action.


Political Genre: Political arguments, opinions, and debates have appeared in and as treatise, pamphlet, essay, and manifesto, dialogue, letter, and lecture, film, poetry, tragedy, comedy, aphorism, blog, tweet, and more.  How does genre inform political argument?  How do style and technique shape an argument’s presentation and self-representation?  When and how are arguments structured and amplified, or, alternatively, betrayed and/or subverted by their form?  And how do the appeals of different genres, styles, and techniques to different cognitive and sensory fields affect an argument’s reception, interpretation, and impact?  We invite papers from across the history of political thought -- ancient, modern, and contemporary – exploring how genre, technique, and/or style matter for political theorizing.

Conference schedule and registration are accessible here


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