Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Call for papers: Alternative Enlightenments

Submission deadline: Saturday, December 1

Conference dates:
Friday, April 26 2013 – Sunday, April 28 2013

Conference Venue:
Program in Cultures, Civilizations and Ideas, Bilkent University
Ankara, Turkey

From Kant’s seminal essay “What is Enlightenment?” through the manifold critical responses of the twentieth century, the ambiguity of a term designating both a paradigmatic approach to human thought or autonomy, and a specific historical period, remains. How distinct is the concept of Enlightenment from the era of European history long taken to have discovered or invented it? This symposium proposes an examination of Enlightenments in the plural, welcoming both revisionary accounts of the Age of Enlightenment and explorations of Enlightenment in other times and places.

With an eye to translating the idea of Enlightenment, scholars have traced its many national and regional varieties. Discussions of an Ionian or an Athenian Enlightenment, of movements of Enlightenment in the medieval caliphate or the Ottoman Empire, share the contemporary intellectual landscape with debates on the continuing relevance of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment to the current global order. We are interested in the way the term has been borrowed and translated, creating a constellation of “Enlightenments” bound together by family resemblances. Is there still a singular project of Enlightenment (i.e. the critique of received ideas and inherited values, in particular religious ones; the promotion of rational or empirical methods; the creation of cosmopolitan and secular spaces), or has the term broken out of its historical mold to designate a more fluid set of cultural projects and practices? Where do we stand today with regard to the Enlightenment? After all, the continuation of a politics and practice of Enlightenment may depend on the spatial and temporal translations we propose to explore. Such displacements give new life to the idea of Enlightenment, even as the term is contested, criticized and transformed.

Topics of interest include:

Ionian / Athenian Enlightenment
Secularism, materialism, the immanent frame
Literatures of Worldliness in East and West: Renaissance, Tanzimat, Arab and
Near Eastern Enlightenments
Orientalism and Occidentalism
Diplomacy, correspondence, the figure of the court philosopher
What is Enlightenment: Kant, Foucault and beyond
(The) Enlightenment in the Americas
The public and the private: cross-cultural studies of an Enlightenment distinction
Travel literature, satire, and utopian fiction
Nineteenth century national Enlightenments, nationalism vs. internationalism
Enlightenment and Empire
The rhetoric of Enlightenment in geopolitics, the claims of the West
Material culture, exchange, circulation, accumulation, dispersal
Enlightenment and its others: mysticism, hermeticism and the arcane
The metaphorics of Enlightenment: illumination, dawn, twilight and dusk
Where do we stand today with regard to (the) Enlightenment?
Critical theory / social and political practice

Submission of Abstracts

Please submit an abstract of no more than 300 words to by
December 1, 2012.

The Program in Cultures, Civilizations and Ideas at Bilkent University is an
interdisciplinary humanities program focusing on Comparative Literature, Classics and Philosophy. We teach the university’s core courses in the humanities as well as the bi-yearly Bilkent undergraduate “honors seminars” and other elective courses in our respective fields of specialization. Our program began in 1999 as part of an initiative on the part of the university administration to craft a more global curriculum and to foster greater dialogue between cultures and disciplines. We are proud to host the Alternative Enlightenments Conference, 26-28 April 2013 in Ankara.

For more information or to ask questions, please contact us at

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