CfP Representation & Misrepresentation in the History of Political Thought

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 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.

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