CfP for Workshop: ‘What does Aesthetics Want?’


Workshop sponsored by the BISA Art & Politics Working Group and organized in conjunction with the Warwick Performance and Politics Network
1-2 September, 2014, Department of Politics and International Studies, University of Warwick

Confirmed speakers (more to come!):
Roland Bleiker (University of Queensland, Brisbane)
Kyle Grayson (University of Newcastle)
Debbie Lisle (Queen’s University Belfast)
Shirin Rai (University of Warwick)

Deadline for abstract submission is Monday, 23rd June 2014. Please send abstracts of 200-300 words by email to and . Alternative paper formats – such as photography, artwork, film/video, performance – are welcome. Notifications will be sent out by 30th June.
***We strongly encourage early career and graduate students to apply and are able to offer limited travel and accommodation bursaries to support their attendance. To be considered for a bursary please send us a separate email providing a brief description of your circumstances.***

Shine Choi (Seoul National University) and Erzsebet Strausz (Warwick)

Call for Papers

When WTJ Mitchell (1996, 2004) posed this question in relation to pictures he questioned the very terms of critical interrogation that privileges the human, the masculine self, the sovereign order and the disciplinary gaze. By turning the subject-object hierarchy on its head, the question ‘What does a picture want?’ playfully opens out questions about desire, representation and power in a way that privilege the agency of the object, i.e. the other. Two decades of International Relations scholarship on issues of representation, culture and art has culminated in the ground breaking rethinking of the very parameters of engaging the ‘international’. This workshop seeks to explore further the potentials and possibilities opened up by the turn to ‘aesthetics’ in International Studies by refocusing on inescapable gaps between representation and the represented, and more generally, between what can be sensed and what can be said. This interest in gaps and what lies in between draws from as well as puts under interrogation poststructural, postcolonial, feminist and cultural turns in IR and their engagements with the questions of otherness and aesthetics.
We call for contributions that turn these disjunctures and in-between moments into productive sites of critical investigation by attending to the multiplicity of practices, relations, subjects and subjectivities that challenge the epistemic conditions of Western modernity. Asking what aesthetics wants from us and IR puts into spotlight those very mundane and everyday practices in academic inquiry, bureaucratic protocols and popular imagination that make, sustain and reinforce the subject-object distinction and with that, the hegemony of a particular ‘sovereign’ knower over the ‘object’ known and acted upon. Its positive formulation also invites gestures, movements and creations towards alternative practices, imaginations and even perhaps protocols that shift away from these hegemonic distinctions.

We look for collaborators to expose, explore and experiment with the role of senses and sensations – ways of seeing, feeling and hearing as well as worlds of colour, sound and taste – in the construction of the ‘international’ and as potential sites of resistance. The workshop is a joint effort to think through what ‘aesthetics’ might ‘do’ as method, lens, perspective yet also as a form of of lived experience of both being in the world and studying it. We invite contributions to explore what taking aesthetics seriously may require from both the researcher and the discipline, and how it might reshape our understanding of political action and the political.

Key questions and themes we pose are:
1. Researching aesthetics and aesthetics as research method
What is aesthetics? What are the ways in which aesthetics can be thought, explored and put into use for critical intervention?
In what specific ways and levels does attending to aesthetics open up new spaces of inquiry and how are these different from other forms of critical engagement (interpretive, hermeneutical, analytical etc.)?
What kinds of research ethics and research outputs does taking aesthetics seriously produce?
What kinds of conceptual tools and research methods do we need if we are to attend to intercultural dimensions of subjectivity and aesthetics? What kinds of sites do we need to enter to acquire these tools and develop our methods?
What does aesthetics require from the researcher? How do we write, picture, think, feel, touch, listen to aesthetics?

2. The politics of aesthetics and aesthetics as political intervention
How do aesthetic images, objects, subjects and practices challenge and, potentially, subvert disciplinary imaginations of self, other and world?
What kinds of everyday, scholarly or artistic practices allow the ‘aesthetic’ to emerge and how might practices themselves become aesthetic?
What are the political implications of practices of creative experimentation, playfulness, exposure or forms of articulation that displace the unitary subject, the figure of the sovereign and the subject-object distinction?
What are the ways in which aesthetics – in whatever form – become the source of transformative politics? What are the ways in which it fails?
How do aesthetic practices enable singularity, multiplicity and community to emerge as lived experience? What are the limits of these practices?

3. Aesthetics and the ‘international’
In what ways may the ‘international’ already be an aesthetic category? How is the ‘international’ (habitually) performed as a series of aesthetic practices? What are the various aesthetic sites that constitute it?
What is the ‘international’ that emerges when we attend to ways of seeing, feeling, hearing and a world of colour, form, sound and taste?
What are the many ‘internationals’ that aesthetic practices and perspectives uncover? What are the various aesthetic sites and practices that constitute the international(s) in turn?
Is ‘aesthetics’ an international concept? Is it attentive enough to the intercultural dimensions of how contemporary politics unfold?

4. Aesthetics and critical pedagogy
What teaching methods and practices arise from taking aesthetics seriously and what are their practical challenges?
How might the use of film, popular culture, art, performance or the aesthetics of everyday life create new learning experiences in and outside of the classroom? What new academic subjects and subjectivities might emerge in this way?
How can we think of the transformative potentials of aesthetics and aesthetic practices in pedagogy? How might teaching methods that embrace the aesthetic constitution of the sensible be helpful in posing a creative challenge to the alienating effects of the marketization of higher education?
How can our insights and experiences gained through critical pedagogy that takes aesthetics seriously feed back into academic research?

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