New Perspectives on the Problem of the Public – 15/16 May 2014

The Centre for the Study of Democracy is hosting a two day conference, ‘New Perspectives on the Problem of the Public’ in the Board Room, 309 Regent Street, 15-16 May 2014.

This inter-disciplinary conference brings together researchers from communications and media, built environment, education, geography and political theory to discuss the implications of the rise of new strands of pragmatist, complexity and new materialist approaches to democracy and the public sphere.

We will examine how non-traditional conceptualisations of the ‘public’ might be relevant to various fields of practice and policy making. What roles remain for institutions of governance in a complex, fluid, more pluralist world, less amenable to modernist conceptions of power? What are the implications if representation is increasingly understood as a barrier to the emergence of the public, rather than as a means of accessing it? Does it make sense to think about ‘public goods’ such as health and education if the public can no longer be taken for granted? Could understandings of the public in political theory and policy making be enriched and problematised by their conceptualisations in other academic fields?

Guest speakers:

  • Clive Barnett (Professor of Geography and Social Theory, University of Exeter) – ‘Emergent Publics’
  • Andrew Barry (Professor of Human Geography, University College, London) – ‘Material Politics and the Reinvention of the Public’
  • Jon Coaffee (Professor in Urban Geography, University of Warwick) – ‘Citizenship and Democracy in the City 2.0: Balancing the Quest for Resilience and the Public Interest in Urban Development’
  • John Law (Professor of Sociology, Open University) – title to be confirmed
  • Sarah Whatmore (Professor of Environment and Public Policy, University of Oxford) – ‘Experimental Publics: Science, Democracy and the Redistribution of Expertise’

We invite papers and panel proposals on the following topics (and are keen to include a wide variety of academic fields):

  • new representations of the public
  • the public and the role of teaching/knowledge
  • materials and policy-making
  • space and the production of the public
  • crisis, responsivity and resilience

We have some funding to support travel and subsistence for paper presenters. The deadline for abstracts (250 words) is Friday 21 February 2014. Please send abstracts to Michele Ledda, Robert and David Chandler

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