CALL FOR PAPERS
“IN TIMES OF NEED”
MARCH 13, 2009
deadline for abstracts: January 20th, 2009
Students in the Anthropology department at the Graduate Center, City University of New York are pleased to announce a conference inviting reflection on the politics, genealogies and epistemologies of ‘need.’
Need is a politically potent idea. As some notion of ‘human need’ is requisite within most political frameworks, specific needs are often bound up with discourses of human rights and tend to be formulated at moments of intervention. But need is manifested in many different contexts and affixed to all kinds of discourses—from the framing of humanitarian goals and health projects, to discourses of the self and self-betterment, romantic relationships, and spirituality, to the intervention and regulation of family forms. We’re interested in what grants coherence to the concept of ‘need’ across these and other frames of reference, and in how to understand the contingency of a notion that often presents itself as fundamental and universal.
In questioning the multiple ways that ‘need’ is mobilized, grounded in practice, and thereby understood—we seek to trouble that which appears self-evident. How are needs distinguished from the ‘un-needed’ or unnecessary? How are needs typologized, authorized, and institutionalized? What work does the concept of need do in erecting or maintaining categorical differences and with what tools might we then interrogate that work?
We seek a wide range of approaches to this topic, but we’re particularly interested in how the tools of ethnographic research can help us set aside the question of what is ‘true’ need by focusing instead on how people talk about, practice, and embody needs in a variety of different situations.
Possible topics include but are not limited to:
Life and the politics of need: How are our ideas about what constitutes ‘basic human needs’ formulated and to what end? How do political discourses mobilize the concept of need to legitimate or justify policies or interventions?
The political economy of need: How have political-economic arrangements shifted in tandem with discourses and practices surrounding need, at either the global or local level? How might we complicate the privileging of neo-liberal assumptions in framing questions of need?
‘Higher needs’: How are notions of the ‘fully human’ embedded in ‘higher needs’ discourses of spiritual, emotional, or psychological well-being and human potential? How do these models mobilize or contest particular understandings of subjectivity and selfhood?
‘Things we didn’t know we needed’: What roles do experts and expertise play in defining, determining, and diagnosing need? How are needs distinguished from wants, desires, and aspirations?
Need and dependency: How do ideas of material dependence and addiction create discourses that valorize the independent individual? Might we revisit distinctions between independent and dependent?
Future needs: How are ideas of need both used and formulated in planning for the future or in projecting an imaginable future? What happens to need at moments of crisis or collapse?
Please send title and 500-word abstract to: firstname.lastname@example.org by January 20th, 2009. For further information and updates please visit: http://demapped.net/need/
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