"The fibers of all things have their tension and are strained like the strings of an instrument," wrote Henry David Thoreau. Tension is central to scholarly endeavor; indeed, it is often the need to resolve tension that generates development and innovation.
Certainly since the French Revolution, scholars of all stripes have been concerned with tensions between social and economic classes. These concerns were intensified by the influence of the thought of Karl Marx, which also did much to advance a view of historical development with dialectical tensions at its core. More recently, questions of race, gender and sexuality have become key, as scholars investigate the roots and consequences of the tensions apparent in social life. Postcolonial studies, moreover, extends this study of societal tensions into the realm of the intellectual, probing at the dark sides of the Enlightenment and imperial Europe's 'civilizing missions.' This is to say nothing of the tensions at the center of traditional avenues of study such as the analysis of warfare, high politics and diplomacy.
Entire scholarly fields are organized around conceptual tensions — between scholars' methodological approaches, their interpretations of evidence or their political viewpoints. Indeed, since the Middle Ages the very place of the scholarly community in society has been an issue of great tension: once evident in the founding of the University of Cambridge by scholars fleeing Oxford in 1209, today we see tension manifested in questions of access to education, diversity, employment prospects, relations between the university and industry, and even in the question of politicians' educational backgrounds.
The central place of tension in society and scholarship is often assumed, but less often is it conceptualized or worked through by scholars themselves. Graduate students therefore are invited to submit papers on subjects such as, but not limited to:
- tensions in human societies: social, political, cultural, economic; racial, or pertaining to gender and sexuality;
- tensions between scholarly approaches and within fields of scholarship;
- conceptual and intellectual tensions;
- tensions between society and scholarly communities.
Please submit a 1000-word topic proposal via email to email@example.com by January 15, 2009. Accepted panelists will be notified by February 15, 2009. Any questions should be directed to Emily Brimsek (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Stephen Wicken (email@example.com).
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