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Dissenting from Liberal Orthodoxies: A Roundtable Conversation on Hidden Violences and Unexpected Forms of Resistance

Fri, November 10, 12:00 to 1:45pm, Hyatt Regency Chicago, Skyway 260, Skyway Level East Tower

Session Submission Type: Non-Paper Session: Dialogue Format


Confronted with the urgency of responding to attacks on fundamental rights, and the sadness, fear, or bewilderment provoked by unforeseen political, economic, and cultural circumstances, a critical recourse to familiar values is tempting. Superficially, strategies for freedom, enfranchisement, empathy, recognition, humanitarianism, and inclusion appear to be remedies for the erosion of liberties, state overreach, dehumanization and targeting of marginalized groups, or widespread suffering. Against the comforting enticements of such forms of redress, however, this roundtable queries the harms that affix to them, whether as their undersides, consequences, or necessary preconditions. These hidden violences demand new forms of attention, offered by this roundtable from a range of interdisciplinary vantages: critical race theory, indigenous studies, media studies, political theory, trauma studies, and visual culture studies.

In order to map the various ways that liberal values fold into state violence, we will ask whose un-freedom secures the freedom of others. Relatedly, we will consider the complexities of enfranchisement as it tangles with state power. As the state seeks to elicit trust and faith from its citizens and subjects, we will examine the constraints inherent in its gestures of inclusion. With an eye toward the affective circulations that lend the nation-state coherence, we will explore how empathy can become complicit in propagating the very forms of suffering it appears to lament. Simultaneously, we will trace the limits of discourses and practices of recognition as modes of accounting for collective and individual traumas. And we will take measure of the structural oppressions that humanitarianism risks sustaining.

But this critique is only a portion of the necessary work of dissent from liberal orthodoxies. The endpoint of this roundtable conversation is not despair, but rather the generation of new framings for these urgent questions. Which fundamental assumptions about these values need to be reconsidered or jettisoned? What critical methodologies need to be elaborated? What sites of inquiry need to be illuminated or revisited? What pedagogies can we advance as alternatives? And where, ultimately, might we look to find unexpected articulations of resistance, creativity, and even hope?

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