Radicalism and the University

2017 International Graduate Conference in Philosophy

  • Location: University of Essex, Colchester
  • Date: 13 June 2017

Keynote speakers

About the conference

We are pleased to announce that the theme for this year's Essex International Graduate Conference in Philosophy will be 'Radicalism and the University'. The conference seeks to bring together different philosophical perspectives on radicalism, especially when considered in the context of the University as a political space. It will be held on 13 June 2017, and keynote addresses will be given by Dr. Alana Jelinek (Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge) and Dr. Daniel Loick (Goethe University Frankfurt).

In the contemporary political environment, the idea that the University is a space of critical thought and activity is being increasingly undermined. While some universities have been implicated in the deportation of their own employees, others are advertising themselves as ‘radical’, despite a hollowing out of any genuine radical orientation. As one prominent critic of the marketisation of higher education recently put it: “A creeping incremental assault on academic freedom threatens not just what can be spoken aloud, but also what it is permissible to think: thought itself is to be subjected to management, so that its critical power is neutered or constrained. We may still make controversial statements; but we cannot be permitted actually to behave in accordance with them or to live according to moral principles that diverge from accepted norms. Academic integrity – indeed the ethical conduct of the university itself – is thereby threatened”. Is this phenomenon paradigmatic of how institutions can be 'critical in theory but conformist in practice'? In an increasingly marketised, politicised, and managed academic environment, what relevance does this ‘radicalism’ hold, within and beyond the institution?

‘Radical’ is of course a term often used colloquially to refer to major challenges to the status quo. Yet, in Western media culture more broadly, ‘radical’ carries with it a negative connotation, characterised as opposite to the prevailing societal norms. At the same time, as universities are increasingly incorporating radical histories into their marketable brands, we see an ever intensifying attack of all things considered radical, in the form of the Prevent legislation and its application.

What are the politics, aesthetics, and practices of radicalism today, and indeed what should they be? Can radicalism be maintained as a meaningful philosophical, artistic and political project, term, and/or promise? Furthermore, has it ever been, and is it now, possible to be truly radical?

Finally, what do all of these questions mean for the potential of the University as a political space?


Registration is free. To register please email edunn@essex.ac.uk with the subject “2017 Graduate Conference”. Please include your name, email address, and institution (if applicable). If you wish to attend the meal, this costs extra as it is at a nearby restaurant. Please say if you want us to book you a place.

On the day

Registration will take place from 9.30am - 10.00am in the senate room (4.722), which is located in the psychology building on Square 1 of the Colchester Campus. There will be signposts around campus directing you towards the conference.

Location and accessibility

The conference takes place at our University's Colchester Campus. Colchester is an hour away from London by train.

MA courses

MA courses

Our MA courses offer in-depth study of a range of specialisms including critical theory, phenomenology and classical German philosophy, and are an excellent preparation for PhD study.

PhD study

Postgraduate research study

By undertaking PhD study at Essex, you will become a member of an exciting and active research community, and benefit from the expert supervision of our internationally recognised staff.

AHRC funding

PhD student in library

Apply for a PhD studentship for your doctoral study funded by the Consortium for Humanities and the Arts South-East England (CHASE) and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

Ethics of Powerlessness

Ethics of Powerlessness

The Ethics of Powerlessness project aims to clarify ethical challenges of experiences of powerlessness, especially in palliative and end-of-life care situations, and is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).