U.S. Intellectual History Blog

Public Intellectuals and Power: In and Out of Academe

Fifth Annual Conference on Public Intellectuals Harvard University, April 11-12, 2014 CFP Deadline:  December 1, 2013

Call for Papers:   “Public Intellectuals and Power:  In and Out of Academe”

Since the 1950s, writers and thinkers such as Hannah Arendt, Thomas Bender, Noam Chomsky, Kenneth Clark, bell hooks, Irving Howe, Russell Jacoby, Toni Morrison, Richard Posner, Ayn Rand, Bertrand Russell, Edward Said, Jean-Paul Sartre, Thomas Sowell, and Cornel West have debated the meaning and purpose of public intellectuals. Many have openly criticized what they call the increasing corporatization of academic work within the academy. Increasing specialization and the narrowing of disciplines, some argue, have led to a growing paucity of radical ideas and true critical alternatives while fostering a growing obsession with a mass-media-infused culture. Others on the ideological right maintain that leftist public intellectuals do not pay enough attention to supposed practical needs or market forces and are too protected by and safely ensconced in tenured ivory towers, talking and writing only to themselves and training students to do the same. In seemingly contradictory fashion, other conservatives have contended that leftist intellectuals have too much power and influence on government elites with their hopelessly naïve and outmoded ideas.

This conference seeks to bring together scholars and researchers in all disciplines whose work focuses on public intellectuals in the 20th and 21st centuries. We hope to engage these issues while moving beyond past debates into new considerations of the role of intellectuals in public life.  The conference also seeks to provide a forum for self-reflection by public intellectuals in the past and present.

For 2014, we seek proposals that address the theme, “Public Intellectuals and Power:  In and Out of Academe” in the 20th and 21st centuries.  Papers addressing this theme might fall under a sub-topic such as one of the following, by way of example only:  Intellectuals in power or critical of power; Intellectuals in war; Race; Gendering discourse; Intellectuals and the media; Comparative national and global perspectives; Classic works on public intellectuals.  Paper topics from all disciplines and areas are welcome and encouraged.

All participants should be able to attend the full two-day conference.  It will be held on the campus of Harvard University.  Presenters will have 20 minutes to present their topics, followed by discussion with the audience for 10 minutes.  Papers are not to be read but presented informally; responses are friendly and supportive.  This differs somewhat from traditional conference panel presentations.  The success of the conference depends greatly on all of our participation. The keynote speaker, Howard Gardner, will talk about his career as a public intellectual.

Proposals of 300 words should indicate how your paper contributes to an understanding of the conference theme.  Include your identifying information:  name, title, institution, and email address.  Please send a copy to both Larry Friedman ([email protected]<mailto:[email protected]>) and John Lenz ([email protected]<mailto:[email protected]>).  The deadline for receipt of all proposals is December 1, 2013.