Cross-Modular Conference (CMC) ‘The Social and Political Life of Experience-Near Concepts’; 28 September – 1 October 2021; Online

ICAS:MP’s upcoming Cross-Modular Conference (CMC) on ‘The Social and Political Life of Experience-Near Concepts’ is one of its major events with the aim to facilitate academic debates between its thematic modules, which serve as different vantage points for investigating the overarching research framework of our centre, the ‘Metamorphoses of the Political in the Long Twentieth Century’. During ICAS:MP’s main phase (July 2018-June 2024) two to three CMC’s will be held. The theme of this first CMC is the ‘The Social and Political Life of Experience-Near Concepts’. The main co-conveners for this conference are Rajeev Bhargava and Neeladri Bhattacharya who are working as part of a wider team of coordinators including the co-directors.

The principal theme of the conference is the social and historical life of concepts. Our focus will be on how a small range of key terms have been used by social and political actors both in the past and in the present and on tracing the trajectory of changes in their deployment. However, the conference seeks to shift the discussion of social and political concepts beyond existing frames, in three specific ways. First, we wish to stay away from large, macro-concepts and carefully, intensively study micro-concepts. We hope to focus on lived ideas, experience-near, thick, context-specific concepts, rather than thin, decontextualized, universalistic categories of theoretical discourse. Second, since, no concept works in isolation from others, we shall study concepts in close relation to one another, conceptual clusters that express similar ideas, emotions and perceptions in different historical and locational contexts. Identifying relevant conceptual clusters – which of the many concepts that potentially resonate with one another do actually work in close alignment in particular contexts – is itself a major goal of the conference. Focusing on clusters allows us to explore analogous concepts – those that are similar but not entirely; and in unpacking distinct terms we hope to figure the meaning of their heterogeneity. Encoded in such diverse terms with family resemblance would be histories of difference. Third, by working across languages (minimally, English/ German/ Hindi/Urdu or some other regional Indian language) the effort will be to understand terms in their global and comparative dimension. Implicit in such an enquiry is the idea that similar terms in different languages are not always synonymous: in deriving synonyms, we often erase semantic specificities. Some part of the meaning is often lost in translation. This problem of translatability of terms is itself an issue to be explored.

To sum up, the conference focuses on experience-near, micro-level conceptual clusters in the historically constituted everyday life of ordinary people available through the examination of languages in different regions of India and Europe (Germany).


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