Saturday, 30 March 2019

CfP: Uneven and combined development for the 21st century




Hosted by the University of Glasgow's Socialist Theory and Movements
Research Network in association with Historical Materialism

As recently as the early 1990s, anyone predicting that Trotsky's 'law' of
uneven and combined development (UCD) would soon become a key theoretical
reference point across several academic disciplines would have been treated
with a great deal of scepticism. Yet, less than three decades later, UCD is
regularly deployed in the fields of international relations, historical
sociology, political economy, social geography and–perhaps most
surprisingly–world literature. Not since the vogue for Gramsci's notion of
hegemony in the 1970s and 1980s has a concept from the classical Marxist
tradition enjoyed such widespread academic diffusion. Controversies have of
course abounded: adherents have disagreed over whether UCD is a
trans-historic or trans-modal process, or whether it is one which can only be
found in the era of industrial capitalism; critics have alleged that UCD is
simply a more sophisticated form of Eurocentrism; Trotskyist activists have
complained–with some justification–that UCD has been detached from the
political context in which it was first deployed. There have been some
events focusing on specific aspects of UCD, notably one on culture at the
University of Warwick in 2014; yet, in spite of the rapidly multiplying
literature there has not been an international event bringing together
representatives from all the relevant areas of scholarship to engage in
inter-disciplinary discussion.

This conference will finally provide such an opportunity. Although its main
focus will be on UCD, it will also be open to discussion of two important
related topics, the earlier theory of /uneven development/ and the strategy
of /permanent revolution/, the conditions for which UCD was of course
originally intended to explain. The organisers are pleased to announce that
keynote addresses will be given by Robert Brenner (on uneven development
in the history of capitalism) and Justin Rosenberg (on the relevance of UCD
to understanding contemporary issues like Brexit and the rise of Trump):
other keynote speakers will be announced over the coming months.

The event is being organised by members of the University of
Glasgow's Socialist Theory and Movements Research Network–Neil Davidson
(School of Social and Political Sciences), David Featherstone (School of
Geographical and Earth Sciences) and Vassiliki Kolocotroni (School of
Critical Studies)–in association with Historical Materialism (HM). We
are delighted at the involvement of HM, as the journal has been involved the
debates over UCD–most recently in the symposium on Alexander Anievas and
Kerem Nişancıoğlu's, /How the West Came to Rule/ in issue 26, 3 (2018),
and in the HM book series which includes such pertinent works as Day and
Gaido's collection of primary texts, /Witnesses to Permanent
Revolution/ (2009) and Christie and Degirmencioglu's forthcoming /Cultures
of Uneven and Combined Development/ (2019).

We are inviting academics, public intellectuals and political activists
interested in the debates over UCD and related areas–including those who
are critical of the concept, or at least sceptical of its explanatory
power–to participate in the conference. If you simply want to attend and
take part in the discussion, you can complete the on-line registration form
which will be issued in June. But if you are planning to submit a paper,
please send it to me at Glasgow ( [1]) by the
deadline for proposals of 10 May. You should aim for a maximum of 250 words
for individual papers and of 500 words for panels: panels should not involve
more than three speakers. These proposals don't have to be formal
'abstracts'–we just want to know what you would like to talk about for
scheduling purposes. We're not going to insist that proposals fit into
pre-decided 'streams': we'll instead see what subject areas participants want
to discuss and work from there. The subjects of papers/panels could be
anything from case-studies of UCD in particular nation-states or regions, to
the contemporary relevance of permanent revolution, to the impact of UCD on
the emergence of Modernism–the only criteria for the acceptance of
proposals is that they engage with the themes of the conference and have
something interesting to say about them. We're as open to the extension of
existing arguments as we are in the unveiling of new positions. In
particular, if you are PhD student working on UCD-related themes but have not
yet published, this would provide you with an opportunity to present in an
interested and supportive environment. Unfortunately, we can only pay for
keynote speakers to attend, but the cost of registration will be relatively
low: £20 (employed f/t)/£10 (student, employed p/t, unemployed or retired).

Finally, there are good reasons, one related to its subject, for holding this
conference in Glasgow. We are on the eve of the bicentenary of the Scottish
general strike of 1820–the first such event in history and one generated in
part by Scotland's own experience of UCD from the late 18th century onwards.
Moreover, and bringing things right up to date, it's not clear what impact
Brexit will have on the Scottish independence movement, but it is conceivable
that a new campaign might have begun by then. Non-Scottish participants will
at any rate be visiting Scotland in 'interesting times'!

We'll provide information on the venues, accommodation, restaurants, travel,
etc. when formal registration begins.  


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