Due Mar 31 | CfP – Defetishizing Theory

“Defetishizing Theory”: On Methodology, Field Research, and Grounded Theory – CALL FOR PAPERS


Fourth Annual Interdisciplinary Graduate Student Theory Conference

April 20, 2018, The Graduate Center, CUNY

Keynote Speaker: Deva Woodly, New School

Hosted by SPTSA (Social and Political Theory Graduate Student Association)

Co-Sponsored by the Students of the State (SOS)

About the Conference

The Fourth Annual Interdisciplinary Graduate Student Conference on Theory, sponsored by the Social and Political Theory Student Association (SPTSA), will bring together GC students from different disciplines and perspectives to explore what it means to “do theory.” Its objectives are threefold. First, we seek to provide an opportunity for students to practice presenting, and receiving feedback on works in progress in a supportively critical environment. Second, we hope to generate unexpected connections between people, concepts, orientations, and modes of theorizing. Third, we seek to build community across disciplines for GC students doing theoretical work. The conference thus serves as a space in which we can practice taking apart the boundaries that constrain and discipline different theoretical endeavors.Submission Deadlines and Panels

Submissions of a 300-word abstract for in-progress papers, presentations, or performances are due by March 31, 2018. Notifications will be sent out in late mid- to late March. Please submit your abstracts by email to sptsa.cunygc@gmail.com. Please include your name, program, and preferred email.

Each panel will have a graduate student discussant. We request that all participants read the projects of their co-panelists in order to facilitate discussion.

Defetishizing Theory:

In academia today, interdisciplinary theoretical work is crucial for understanding social and political phenomena and, more importantly, for imagining new and more just worlds. Unfortunately, once immersed in deeply theoretical conversations, it can become easy to lose sight of why, how, and for whom we theorize in the first place. This conference seeks to simultaneously push back against the stigma faced by theorists in a positivist world, while also asking those who “do theory” to reflect on the ways in which their theoretical work remains committed to meaningful radical change, with a particular focus on how they do their work. Answering the how question is made especially difficult for theorists whose work is not only interdisciplinary, but which also combines theoretical or textual analysis with the more traditional methods of field research in their respective disciplines.

SPTSA’s Fourth Annual Conference, Defetishizing Theory, calls upon junior scholars to break down the disciplinary barriers that place theory and “the real world” in mutually exclusive categories by considering the following questions: How do we conduct research? What constitutes a methodology? How do we make clear the stakes of our work when it doesn’t speak the language of numbers, variables, and causality? How do we promote legibility without sacrificing theoretical rigor? What is the event that breeds, supports, tweaks, or refutes theory? How does work that advances theory also advance possibilities for a more just future?

It is our belief that the best way to answer these questions is to learn from one another. With this aim in mind, SPTSA invites you to submit papers to Defetishizing Theory for a chance to workshop your ideas and receive feedback from your peers.

We especially welcome submissions from


  • Theorists who also engage in fieldwork or archival research
  • Theorists who combine methods from across disciplines
  • Theorists who do histories, intellectual and otherwise
  • Students who do empirical work with theoretical inflections

Papers focused specifically on methodology are welcome. Also welcome are papers on any topic that involve non-textual methods or the methods sections of in-progress theses and dissertations or thesis and dissertation proposals. In drafting your proposal, you might consider the following questions: How does one balance theoretical and methodological rigor? What was the methodological protocol in your research? What obstacles did you encounter when conducting your research? How do you design a theoretical project that involves research? How do you proceed when the usual logics, methods, and “how to’s” don’t apply to your project?