2015 Conference

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8th Annual Cambridge Graduate Conference in Political Thought and Intellectual History

Trinity College, University of Cambridge
25 May 2015

Adrian House Seminar Room, Trinity College
09:15 – 09:45 Registration; coffee and tea
09:45 – 09:50 Welcome remarks
09:50 – 11:00
Panel I
Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins (Columbia):
Three rival versions of theological genealogy
Gili Kliger (Harvard):
Thinking the exception: Carl Schmitt’s Political Theology and the limits of secular reason
Commentator: Dr Duncan Kelly
11:20 – 12:35
Panel II
Melissa Vise (Northwestern):
Whence the ‘rise of the secular’? Towards a new reading of Renaissance republicanism and moral order
Takuya Okada (Tokyo):
Leviathan as Hobbes’s reply to the enthusiasts in the English Civil War
Commentator: Dr Richard Serjeantson
12:35 – 14:00 Lunch break
14:00 – 15:15
Panel III
Charlotte Johann (Cambridge):
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing’s Enlightenment between sacred history and natural religion
Abigail Modaff (Harvard):
Varieties of collective individualism: Émile Durkheim and William James on religious experience
Commentator: Professor John Robertson
15:40 – 17:40
Panel IV
Thomas Gilbert (UC Berkeley):
The historical dynamics of political sublimation in Buddhism, Schopenhauer, and Wagner
Oliver Crawford (Cambridge):
‘The Koran is a work of great importance for Socialism’: Indonesian political thought between Islam and Marxism
Justin Reynolds (Columbia):
The ecumenical discovery of ‘politics’: Colonial India in the world church and the origins of the theology of revolution, 1942–1951
Commentator: Dr Shruti Kapila
Winstanley Lecture Theatre, Trinity College
18:00 – 19:30
Keynote address
Professor John Milbank (Nottingham):
Right, nature and God in the history of political thought
19:30 – 20:00 Wine reception
20:00 Conference dinner (all welcome)
The 2015 Conference Conveners:
Tom Arnold-Forster
Benjamin Hand
Vincent Garton
Jonathan Green
Freddy Foks
Tom Pye
Thomas Clausen
Michael Masciandaro

We would like to thank all of our generous sponsors: Trinity College, Cambridge; the George Macaulay Trevelyan Fund; the University of Cambridge History Faculty.

For details on registration please see here.




University of Cambridge, 25 May 2015
Keynote speaker: Prof. Cécile Laborde
(University College London)

Paper proposals are invited for the eighth annual Cambridge Graduate Conference in Political Thought and Intellectual History, entitled ‘Religion and Irreligion in the History of Political Thought’. From the ancient world to the present, religious arguments and appeals to religious authority have played a conspicuous role in shaping political debates and motivating political action. Yet when confronted with religiously- or theologically-inflected arguments, historians of political thought are often noticeably reluctant to take religion seriously, either bracketing appeals to religious authority or else resituating them within the more comfortably secular contexts of politics or economics.

But what would it mean for intellectual historians to take religion seriously? This conference welcomes papers that assess the current state of religion in the history of political thought, as well as papers that consider specific instances of political theorists’ use and abuse of religion from both ‘Western’ and ‘non-Western’ perspectives. Methodological papers might consider the role of religion in intellectual biography, historiographies of secularism/disenchantment, religious extremism in the history of political thought, and religion’s role in constructions of race, gender and sexuality. Papers examining specific thinkers and movements might highlight political theorists’ appropriation of religious concepts, or instances of cooperation and conflict between theorists from different religious backgrounds.

We also recognize that political theories are often animated by irreligious motivations, and would be interested in papers that consider the ways in which political arguments have been used to undermine or critique religious doctrines and practices. Papers in this vein might take up irreligion as a subversive force in traditional societies, or investigate the ways in which doctrinal atheism has been used for political purposes. Finally, we would welcome papers on the relation of religion and politics from students in other disciplines, such as religious studies, theology, sociology, or anthropology, which we hope will incite discussion over whether, and to what extent, the instruments of religious analysis practiced by non-historians are appropriate to the history of political thought.


This conference will feature a keynote address from Prof. Cécile Laborde, director of the Religion and Political Theory Centre (University College London). Conference participants will be invited to present their work in themed panels which will be followed by Q&A sessions. Cambridge has a long standing reputation for the study of intellectual history, and participants can expect to receive collegial feedback from members of the History Faculty.

Accommodation will be provided for speakers, and an effort will be made to subsidise travel costs. Interested graduate students should send a 500-word abstract and an academic résumé to ptihconf@hermes.cam.ac.uk by 13 March 2015. The conference programme will be finalised by 27 March 2015.

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