CfP: Workshop "Augmenting the Left"

Call for papers, deadline 15 February 2017

Call for Papers

Workshop: Augmenting the Left
York University, Toronto, May 25-27, 2017

The election of Donald Trump is only the most recent example of a
discernible global turn to the Right. This victory follows by mere
months a Right-oriented vote for Brexit in the UK and is simultaneous
with the growing popularity of the Far Right throughout western Europe.
These – when set against the continued rule of Modi in India, the rise
of Duarte in the Philippines, and Putin’s consolidation of power in
Russia – portend, at the very least, a reconfiguration of the social
forces and political coalitions linked to an increasingly xenophobic and
nationalistic politics of what some consider a post-globalization era.

This turn comes at a particularly problematic time, as people around the
world face deepening environmental, economic, and social crises - with
the turn itself perhaps being part of a crisis of political legitimacy
currently affecting long established liberal democratic institutions,
(such as the media and regional and global organizations) and norms
anchored in human rights (such as those bearing on sexuality or migrant

These reorientations do not necessarily signify the end of neoliberalism
– they may just point to a mutation. Either way, once again the far Left
– anchored in the Marxian tradition – faces a changing political terrain
on which it might reposition and reorganize itself – a terrain with an
amplified set of longstanding challenges involving issues of race,
gender, the environment, technology, migration, indigeniety,
coloniality, culture, political integration, and the media. It is hardly
clear how the radical Left might effectively adjust its trajectory to
begin confronting such issues on what might be an increasingly hostile,
cynical, and polarized social, economic, and political terrain – an
ambiguity only reinforced by the recent roadblocks and setbacks for the
far Left, for example, in Latin America and now southern Europe. That
the Left, including the Far Left, seems particularly fragmented at this
time is noteworthy.

It is important once again to examine and theorize the relationship
between the issues listed above (and the forces associated with them)
and what is taken to be core Marxist concerns with class, class
conflict, work, relations of production and reproduction: to, in effect,
consider, again, on what terms and how augmenting the Left in the
current socio- political moment (as it relates to Left and Right) might
be beneficial and urgent. Notably, there have been lots of vectors of
augmentation across 20th century (associated with names such as Franz
Fanon, Angela Davis, Walter Benjamin, Stuart Hall, Toni Negri, Nicos
Poulantzas, Himani Bannerji, Glen Coulthard, to name but a few).

These past efforts must be built upon in order to: a) confront squarely
the tensions associated with augmenting or “stretching” Marxism (Fanon’s
term) rather than assuming them away with claims about necessary
hierarchies of forces or some comfortable “horizontality” or one version
of “postism” or another (associated, for example, with the radical
democracy of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe); and b) situate the
augmentation process and theoretical terrain in the current
socio-political moment, with attention to the possibilities of
organization for radical social transformation.

This workshop on augmenting the Left will attempt to draw on and
re-engage with a long history of Marxian thought through an examination
of these issues at this critical historical conjuncture. It seeks to
further consider the logics of imbrication and intersection among the
array of relevant social/material/political forces and domains, some
well-established in the Marxian tradition and others not. Stuart Hall in
2013 said such debates and explorations was something to which the
radical Left needed to return and is precisely the problem considered in
this issue.

To this end, the workshop is interested in submissions that ask
questions such as: How might one reconsider the ways the Marxian
heritage can be drawn on to navigate the divisions within the Left and
challenge the rise of an increasingly ethno-nationalist, patriarchal,
and authoritarian Right? How might we now think again of the connections
among economic (relations and forces of production), political, and
cultural factors; connections perhaps best understood as mobius strips
rather than bounded structures? Should and how can the Left reexamine
its understanding of such forms as political consciousness, identity,
ideology, and institutions, as they relate, for example, to the forces
of production and logics of class that have been so important to Marxian
analysis since the beginning of critical theory?

This effort risks being uncomfortably interstitial: caught between those
who argue for the primacy of, say, class on the one hand, and those
pointing to the salience of, say, identity and culture on the other.
Although there are spaces for rethinking the Marxian frame (the journals
Rethinking Marxism or even Historical Materialism) what Augmenting the
Left seeks after is a double focus on: the tensions and difficulties of
augmentation; and the stakes, limits, and possibilities of augmentation
in the current socio-political moment. This double focus requires
empirical and theoretical explorations that address various
interpretations of the past and the possibilities of present and future
trajectories of radical social transformation.

Although the workshop is open to all relevant interventions along these
lines, we ask that papers address the tensions and difficulties of
augmentation; and the stakes, limits, and possibilities of augmentation
in the current socio-political moment.

Details: If you are interested in presenting a paper at the workshop,
please submit a 300-word-abstract as a Word or PDF attachment by
February 15, 2017 to

Accepted papers will be announced mid-March. Please also contact if you
have ideas for a panel

Hosted by: Program on Critical Scholarship and Social Transformation at
York University,

Organizers: Robert Latham (Political Science, York), Julian von Bargen
(Political Science, York), A.T. Kingsmith (Political Science, York)