Public Philosophy Network call for proposals

The next Public Philosophy Network will take place at Michigan State University October 17-19, 2019. The theme is “Philosophy from All Walks of Life.” Here’s the  call for workshops, panels, papers, and reports — all due  February 28, 2019. To apply, please submit to:

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The Public Philosophy Networks invites proposals for its fifth conference, Philosophy from All Walks of Life, hosted by Michigan State University, October 17-19, 2019. Starting from the tradition of Detroit activist Grace Lee Boggs, the conference continues the PPN practice of expanding philosophy outside of the academy into everyday life, serving as a resource for social change. To this end the Public Philosophy Network invites proposals from philosophers, broadly construed, outside of and inside of the academy whose work seeks to utilize philosophy for socially relevant outcomes.

Conference events include:

An evening dedicated to the work of philosopher and activist Grace Lee Boggs, including a screening of the documentary American Revolutionary and a conversation with the filmmaker, Grace Lee.

Confirmed Keynotes:

  • Myisha Cherry, Unmute Podcast, University of California, Riverside
  • Kristie Dotson, Epistemology of Testimony, Michigan State University
  • Daniel Wildcat, American Indian and Alaska Native Climate Change Working Group, Haskell Indian Nations University 

The organizers invite proposals that cover topics related to understanding and advancing public philosophy from all walks of life, including those that:

  • Initiate from an activist tradition, such as disability rights; Black Lives Matter; prison education, abolition, and reform; #Me Too; environmental justice; LGBTQI rights; peace activism; Indigenous sovereignty; food justice.
  • Expand the public forum for philosophy, through blogs, op-eds, podcasts, teaching outside of the academy, public philosophy events.
  • Engage a range of publics through research and/or policy, such as climate change, same sex marriage, housing policy, accessibility policy, fiscal policy, prison and criminal justice policy, welfare, public health, among many others, with attention to public effects of this work.
  • Develop skillsneeded to engage in public philosophical work, such as how to do collaborative work, use social media, and organize groups for social activism.
  • Strategizes about practical matters and best practices in public philosophy, for example, tenure hurdles for publicly engaged work, outreach programs in prisons and K-12 education, sources, methods and strategies for attaining funding, etc.
  • Construct and expand theoretical frameworks that aid the efficacy of public philosophy, such as epistemologies of ignorance, epistemic violence, “weathering” and structural violence, ethical-epistemic models, intersectionality.
  • Question the boundaries and roles of academic philosophy, such as what are or should be the borders (practical, theoretical and physical) of philosophy, how does our practice help or hurt communities, what are the benefit and harms of professionalism in philosophy?
  • Expand and question the spaces and practices through which public philosophy takes place, such as whether those spaces and forms are accessible to all people.
  • Raise questions of how to define, evaluate, and measure the impact of public philosophy.
  • Reflecton how philosophy is transformed by turning outward; how does public engagement inform philosophical concepts and understanding or alter disciplinary boundaries?

Proposals should specify the format: workshop, paper, organized panel or projects. 

Workshops. Proposals should include a workshop title and description (~300 words) of the organizer’s or organizers’ interest and experience with the subject matter and how the topic is of concern to philosophy or public life. Proposals should also include an overview of how the two-hour workshop will proceed, highlighting how it will be participatory and indicating any non-academic participants you might invite. We anticipate that workshops will take different formats, depending on the issues being addressed and the number and type of participants. The goals of these sessions are to foster partnerships and projects, whether new or ongoing, and, where appropriate, to spark substantive dialogue between philosophers and “practitioners” (public policymakers, government officials, grassroots activists, nonprofit leaders, etc.). A second call will be issued later in the year inviting people to apply to participate in accepted workshops. (Workshop organizers should help publicize this second call.) We will limit each workshop to about 20 participants.  Those who are accepted in time will be listed on the program as discussants, though they will not be expected to make a formal presentation.

Papers, Project Reports, or Narratives. We are especially interested in papers that report on public philosophy projects or reflect on the practice of public philosophy.  Proposals should include the title and an abstract of no more than 300 words. Individual papers should be prepared for 30 minutes of presentation and discussion time. Accepted proposals will be grouped into sessions. Papers may be presented in any style, from reading whole or sections of papers to more conversation based to PowerPoint slides and multimedia.

Organized Panels.  We invite proposals for 90-minute panels on any number of themes: Book sessions, philosophical issues in public philosophy, or policy problems and how philosophers have or may engage them. Panels should include a set of three presentations followed by discussion. Proposals should include names and affiliations of proposed panelists, the proposed format, and an abstract of not more than 500 words.

Accessibility Information: All conference rooms are wheelchair accessible. Speakers and panelists will use microphones. There will be a quiet room. We are working on having CART and ASL interpreters for the keynote addresses, but we are not able to confirm this at this time. We will ask presenters to make conference papers and Power Point slides available for those that request them. Please email John Altmann at if you have questions about conference accessibility.

Abstracts due February 28, 2019, please submit to:

By Noelle McAfee

I am professor of philosophy at Emory University and editor of the Kettering Review. My latest book, Fear of Breakdown: Politics and Psychoanalysis, explores what is behind the upsurge of virulent nationalism and intransigent politics across the world today. My other writings include Democracy and the Political Unconscious; Habermas, Kristeva, and Citizenship; Julia Kristeva; and numerous articles and book chapters. Edited volumes include Standing with the Public: the Humanities and Democratic Practice and a special issue of the philosophy journal Hypatia on feminist engagements in democratic theory. I am also the author of the entry on feminist political philosophy in the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and well into my next book project on democratic public life.

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