Annual Symposium

CHR's Third Annual Research Symposium

"Democracy, Disposability, and Repair"

A Mason Center for Humanities Research Symposium with Nancy Fraser, Henry A and Louise Loeb Professor of Political and Social Science, The New School for Social Research 

April 11-12, 2024 – Mason Fairfax Campus 

Call for papers

We invite Mason faculty and advanced doctoral students from across the university to submit paper proposals for our third annual symposium. This year’s symposium will feature a keynote address by Professor Nancy Fraser on Thursday, late afternoon, and will continue Friday with a single day of consecutive panels attended by all. In this way, we hope to generate a productive and ongoing conversation among participants, attendees, and the keynote speaker. 

This year’s theme, “Democracy, Disposability, and Repair,” calls for literary, cultural, historical, philosophical, artistic, linguistic, anthropological, religious, and archival engagements with disposability and repair. 

Forms of disposability have been characteristic (or even constitutive) of modes of social and political life, past, present, and in envisioned futures: the dispossession, relocation, and annihilation of local populations; the forced transportation of enslaved and bonded persons; the migration of refugees escaping war, violence, oppression, famine, and environmental and climate crises; the rule of a necropolitics in various spaces beyond the rule of law (whether within, between, or beyond the boundaries of states); the tyranny of oppressive majorities in majoritarian democracies; the violation of the voiceless and of those whose voices have been suppressed or silenced in public and private spheres; the effort to erase cultures or communities, to plunder and destroy ecosystems--these and other forms of rendering people and places "disposable" haunt and hound the world we live in. 

To what extent are historical and contemporary political systems dependent on forms of disposability, precarity, and extraction? 

In what ways are democratic modes of governance bound up with the disposability of human and non-human life? 

Could democracy offer possibilities for resistance, reparation, and repair? 

How might these issues be illuminated by approaches drawn from the critical humanities including feminist, queer, indigenous, transnational, decolonial, post-humanist, dis/ability, and antiracist theories and methodologies? 

Please submit a brief paper proposal/abstract (no more than 500 words), along with a brief CV, as a single PDF file, clearly labeled with your last name leading (ex. Smith CHR Symposium Proposal), by noon ET on Monday, December 4, 2023 to 

We will reach out in January 2024 with news and preliminary details for the symposium. 

Recap of CHR's Second Annual Research Symposium (April 27-28, 2023) 

CHR's second annual research symposium was hosted on Thursday evening, April 27 followed by a day of panels on Friday, April 28. The conference revolved around our annual theme of connecting/not connecting. 

The idea of connection has multiple valences, critical and utopian, historical and contemporaneous, for the humanities. Connection might imply “community,” which at once signals voluntary affiliation and its opposite: forms of exclusion and non-belonging. “Community” can empower people through forms of social and political solidarity, it can serve as a foundation for people’s sense of belonging, and identity, but it can also compel conformity, defined by antipathies and cleavages, or as naturalized, obligatory belonging. Notions of communal or collective responsibility can serve as the basis for recognition of structural ills and their redress, but they can also become the basis for group stigmatization. Communities can be undone through acts of violence, through ideological provocation, or through the struggle over territory. Equally, they can be undone by the slow attrition wrought by social-economic forces (such as gentrification, the passing-away of unions, the loss of jobs or the demands of new forms of labor), by environmental and demographic developments, the emergence of a disease, the impact of climate change. Might there be alternatives to “community”, new imaginative forms of working, organizing, or living together?

Seyla BenhabibOur keynote speaker was Professor Seyla Benhabib! Dr. Benhabib is the Eugene Meyer Professor of Political Science and Philosophy Emerita at Yale University, where she taught from 2001-2022. She is currently Scholar in Residence at Columbia Law School and Professor Adjunct of Law, where she teaches legal and political theory as well as a course on refugee, migration and citizenship law in comparative perspective. She also holds appointments in Columbia University’s Center for Contemporary Critical Thought and the Department of Philosophy. Professor Benhabib is the recipient of the Ernst Bloch prize (2009), the Leopold Lucas Prize (2012), and the Meister Eckhart Prize (2014), a Guggenheim Fellowship (2011-12) and was Fellow at the WissenschaftsKolleg in Berlin in 2009. She has written and co-edited over 15 books on critical theory from Hegel to Habermas; Hannah Arendt; discourse ethics, feminist theory and human rights and her work has been translated into 12 languages.


Recap of CHR's First Annual Symposium: "Pasts/Presents/Futures," April 7-8, 2022

zoomSee a complete schedule and speaker bios here.

Keynote Speaker: Kara Keeling 

Both days of events are free and open to all, from aspiring to established humanities scholars. 
Because of its cross-disciplinary nature, the symposium will also interest those outside or at the intersection of traditional humanities fields whose work relates to CHR's 2021-22 theme--
This year's symposium theme is Pasts/Presents/Futures:
The experience of the pandemic has brought with it a heightened awareness of the complexity of time. It is at once an experience of what political theorist Elizabeth Povinelli might call the “durative present,” as the past feels irretrievably lost, and a post-pandemic future unimaginable. And yet at the same time, the racial reckoning provoked by the murder of George Floyd underscores the ways in which racialized violence infuses the present, revealing that what we had assumed to be “the past,” in fact lives on in the present. When trapped in a durative present how might we imagine a different future? These contradictory experiences of time remind us that it is neither natural nor fixed. Conceptions of time have, historically, delimited what we are able—and unable—to see, lending certain events, peoples, and subjectivities visibility while pushing others into obscurity. 
For this two-day virtual symposium, we will be joined by scholars from Mason and (far!) beyond, representing a range of humanistic disciplines, whose work interrogates the politics and possibilities of temporal encounters.
They keynote address will be given by Professor Kara Keeling (Cinema and Media Studies, University of Chicago) on the evening of April 7, and a day of panels and other events will follow on April 8.


More about the Annual Symposium:

CHR's Annual Symposium is organized around the Center’s research theme. It features a keynote address and aims to bring together an interdisciplinary group of scholars working in areas related to the theme. In addition to active participation by graduate students, undergraduates are welcome and those accepted into the Undergraduate Symposium Seminar have the opportunity to meet the keynote speaker and engage in discussion with her or him about their work. In the future, the symposium will also feature thematically related talks and programming aimed at the larger DMV community.