Representation & Misrepresentation in the History of Political Thought
9th Annual London Graduate Conference in the History of Political Thought
28-29 June 2018, London
This year’s Annual London Graduate Conference in the History of Political Thought will
explore the concept of ‘Representation’. The conference keynote address will be delivered by
Dr Rachel Hammersley (Newcastle).
Often, ‘political representation’ has served to substitute direct popular governance.
Criticisms of participatory democracy date back to the ancients. Plato warned that
democratic states are like the ship likely to be wrecked at sea by a short-sighted, quarrelling
crew without a captain. For Hobbes, writing in the seventeenth-century, it was the monarch
who best represented the public interest because their interest and that of the state were
Considering such enduring remarks, is it any wonder that the American Revolutionaries
opted to use a representative system when founding their new republic? This trend has been
seen throughout modern history, with many postwar states choosing a similar path.
However, is it possible that elected representatives can subvert a people’s sovereignty?
Does, in practice, representative democracy allow a political elite to misrepresent the interest
of those they purport to serve? In the final accounting, who is representing whom? For
revolutionary avant-gardes, such as Lenin’s vanguards, claims of representation were based
on ideological justifications. States have also frequently limited themselves to selectively
representing only certain types of citizens, based on property qualifications, class or gender.
Questions surrounding representation are central to political debate today. Does, for
example, the Spanish government, or even the Catalan government, accurately represent the
will of the Catalonian people? Has the Brexit-referendum demonstrated that direct
democracy can work, or does it threaten to cause destabilisation and demagoguery? How
does one reconcile judicial review or constitutional authority on the one hand and the power
of elected representatives on the other? How and why have so many states around the globe
incorporated the idea of representation into their political structures?
We welcome proposals for papers and panels from any period and discipline, with the
concept of ‘Representation’, ‘Misrepresentation’ and ‘Democracy’ construed as widely as
possible. Applicants may wish to consider some of the following themes:
• Theories of political representation, ancient to modern
• Historical and normative accounts of representative democracy
• Legal ideas of representation, authorisation, and personation
• False representations: strategies of deceit, dissimulation, and manipulation
To submit a paper or panel proposal, please email a C.V. and an abstract of no more than
500 words for presentations of 20 minutes per paper to
firstname.lastname@example.org. The call for papers will close on the 16th of March
2018, at 23:59 GMT. Panel proposals should include the titles of individual papers, and
should not exceed 1,500 words in total. As a graduate conference, please note that we can
only consider proposals from applicants who have not been awarded a doctorate. Successful
applicants will be notified no later than the 16th of April 2018.