Yale conference and homeward bound

The Yale conference was good, with a wide range of perspectives. Though there was a clear clash of perspectives between the historians and geographies on the one hand, and the political scientists on the other, this was not unpleasant. The political scientists, especially those doing normative political theory, seemed broadly to be operating in a very abstract register, and it reminded me of what I liked (the rigor and precision) and disliked (the detachment, the terminological but ahistorical analytics, the lack of spatial interrogation) about my time in that discipline. The same thing that has struck me with reading political theory on borders, territory, etc. was apparent here: there will be a great deal of critical interrogation of rights, justice, etc. but territory, borders and place are seemingly unproblematic or unworthy of conceptual discussion. In the discussions – which were very long after each set of three papers – there was a lot of ‘let me try to put this in my language; are you saying…’ type comments. Interdisciplinary work often comes up against these barriers, but this conference at least attempted to work through some of those difficulties.

Being in an Ivy league institution was interesting, especially given that I was representing Geography (there were only two other Geographers there – Joshua Hagen and Alex Diener). The other Brit – David Miller from Oxford – wasn’t a geographer. On more than one occasion I had to correct people who said that ‘well, of course, the US doesn’t have any good Geography departments’ (really). A few people expressed surprise that I would give the talk I did with a Geography background, and then looked comfortably reassured when I said I had a degree in Politics & Modern History and a PhD in Political Theory.

I’m now on the train back to Boston to catch a flight home. It’s been a long time on the road, with some excellent conversations and hospitality, but I’ll be glad to be back. The next two talks are in Paris and Nottingham in early May, and then nothing until Edinburgh in early July. Between there is an examination mountain to climb.

This entry was posted in Boundaries, Conferences, Politics, Territory, Travel. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Yale conference and homeward bound

  1. Chathan says:

    Perhaps you may correct this, but my impression of political science and theory concerning the UK and the US has been that departments in the UK have been more open to critical interrogations whereas US political science remains wedded to a more traditional empirical/statistical approach. The theory, of course, remaining in the same liberal-conservative-realist territory. I could be wrong but most of the politically-oriented work on security, law, social order, foreign policy etc that i’ve read (Michael Dillon, Andrew Neal, Mark Neocleous, Ben Golder, etc. comes out of the UK. In the US, I’m hard pressed to name anyone doing similar work, at least outside of the traditional English/Language Arts/Sociology/Anthropology sphere.
    Thoughts?

    • stuartelden says:

      Well it depends where you look. There are some very interesting political theorists in the US – such as William Connolly and Jane Bennett at Johns Hopkins; various people at Brown in the Watson Institute; Michael Shapiro in Hawaii; Tracy Strong in San Diego, etc. I think it is probably generally true that US political science is dominated by those approaches, but they are arguably dominant in the UK too, if not to the same degree. Most political theory both sides is largely Anglo-American theorists and justice dominated, not so interested in the ‘continental’ theorists.

  2. Chathan says:

    Oh yes Wendy Brown. How silly of me.
    Of course I don’t mean to imply UK political science is critically oriented (if I did, that’s wrong). But it just seemed that there were more scholars willing to engage such questions there than here. However, you’ve mentioned several interesting names that I should take a look into.

  3. Chathan says:

    My own poli sci dept was very strictly conservative (in terms of approach). Not a single individual interested in crit theory in there. Probably why I took a double major in anthropology to begin with back then.

  4. Pingback: Paulina Ochoa Espejo – The Time of Popular Sovereignty | Progressive Geographies

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