CfP: The Ends of Autonomy Monash Colloquium

Call for papers

Twin cross-disciplinary colloquia run out of Warwick University, UK (7-10 July 2020) and Monash University, Australia (15-16 December 2020) will explore the genealogy of ideas of freedom, autonomy, liberation and emancipation, current challenges to these values, and prospects for their future.

Keynote speakers

Ideas of autonomy and liberation are central to the self-understanding of modern individuals and societies. While some seek liberation from social oppression and injustice, others lay the emphasis on liberating the individual from big government and red tape. Policies and ideologies are commended or condemned on the basis of their emancipatory potential; wars and insurgencies alike are justified in the name of liberation; technology is marketed as a means of increasing our freedoms. The modern West finds its identity in having been liberated from a series of historical oppressions: subsistence living, slavery, racial segregation, the oppression of religious minorities, women, LGBTQI+ individuals and, increasingly, animals. All of these liberations shape the developing emancipation narrative of late modernity. Variations on this liberation narrative can be traced back through its liberal and Marxist inflections to the French and American Revolutions, to the scientific revolution and the English Civil War, to the Protestant Reformation, to the Christian idea of salvation, the Greek polity and the Hebrew exodus.

However, even as the modern emancipation narrative breaks new ground in movements such as #metoo, or for LGBTQI+ rights and animal liberation, ideals of autonomy and liberation face a series of acute, escalating and interrelated challenges:

  • The threat of ‘terrorism’ is used to justify a state of exception and surveillance in which individual freedoms of movement and expression are curtailed;
  • Neoliberalism, while vaunting its emancipatory credentials, creates inequalities and social conditions that foster unfreedom;
  • Online communication is subject to controls and policies instituted by private corporations, heralding a new age of ‘surveillance capitalism’ (Zuboff) in which the behaviours of individuals and groups are predicted and manipulated for profit, and ‘algorithmic governmentality’ (Rouvroy & Berns) describes a new mode of social management;
  • The global public health response to COVID-19 deploys an array of measures both of surveillance and containment (quarantine, self-isolation, lockdown, testing, tracking etc.) to enact novel states of exception;
  • The global climate emergency is giving rise to social debates which question the limits of autonomy, including flight shaming, car shaming, ecologically motivated vegetarianism and veganism, and social pressure for families to limit the number of children they bring into the world. New technologies of human anthropotechnical enhancement raise related issues, including the freedom of one individual to determine the conditions of existence of another.
Paper proposals

Proposals are welcomed for individual papers of 20 minutes, or for themed panels, in any discipline or combination of disciplines in which the problems and prospects of freedom, autonomy, liberation and emancipation can be traced, including (but not limited to) philosophy, politics, literary and film studies, sociology, information technology, economics, the arts and the biological and physical sciences. Proposals should include a title, abstract, your name, affiliation and contact information. For individual papers, please submit an abstract of 250-300 words, clearly outlining the argument and relevance of your paper to the colloquium’s concerns. For panel proposals, please submit a 200-word explanation of the relevance and coherence of the panel, as well as 250-300 word abstracts for each of its three papers. Please also indicate at which of the two colloquia you would like to present. It is envisaged that a selection of papers from the two colloquia will appear in a collected volume with a major publisher. The Warwick colloquium will focus especially on 1) the history of freedom, autonomy, emancipation and liberation, and 2) technology, AI, algorithms and freedom. The Monash colloquium will focus especially on 1) sustainability, climate and freedom, and 2) surveillance, extremism and freedom. However, each colloquium will also include a small number of presentations outside these areas. Presentations on issues related to COVID-19 are welcome at both colloquia.

The December colloquium: practical arrangements

Proposals are welcome for this event. A decision will be taken nearer the time whether to run this as a remote-only event or as an in-person event with additional remote contributions.

Submission deadlines

All submissions must be received by 15 May 2020 for the Warwick colloquium, and by 1 October 2020 for the Monash colloquium.

Send all submissions to

For further information please contact

Warwick: Oliver Davis

Monash: Christopher Watkin

Deadline: October 1, 2020

Posted: June 26, 2020