The Urgency of Conceptual Diversity

The epistemic urgency of conceptual diversity: reshaping knowledge production in the social sciences

A two-day interdisciplinary workshop: June 2021

Read the Programme here.

Call for Papers

The Epistemic Urgency of Conceptual Diversity.
Decolonising Knowledge Production in the Social Sciences
A two-day interdisciplinary workshop: June 2021
hosted by LSE, Department of Gender Studies

Deadline for receiving abstracts: 15 December 2020

There is a serious epistemic urgency confronting the social sciences. This urgency relates to their distinct lack of conceptual diversity - a key problem in the social sciences, but at the same time, a critically important route for decolonising knowledge production.

The absence of a broad repository of concepts drawn from different geographical and ‘non-standard’ background contexts and conditions, i.e. contexts outside those of which concepts are standardly produced, described and visualised, presents a serious problem for theoretical and empirical knowledge production. Not least because it keeps Eurocentrism alive; maintains racialised epistemic hierarchies, material inequalities and political economies of knowledge production (Cusiqanqui 2012); actively produces ‘colonial unknowing’ (Vimalassary et al 2016), epistemic violence, and conceptual misdescriptions; aggressively insists on the unidirectional travel, simplistic translation and radical commensurability of different worlds and forms of world-making; and authorises and enacts refusals of epistemic relationality and ‘simultaneity’ across the globe.

Even though there are now important reshaping interventions focused on ‘theorising from the Global South’, in our view, however, the problem lies not so much in producing theories from the Global South but in producing concepts from the Global South. Concepts are the building blocks of theory and there simply are not the concepts needed to visualise and describe different political and social imaginaries of life, living, and world-making across the globe.

Workshop themes
In identifying and attending to the urgency of conceptual production from different locations, the workshop brings together scholars working on producing materially, intersectionally, geopolitically located, and situated thinking arising from historically specific encounters in the world. The problem of unidirectional travel of concepts (both feminist and ‘mainstream’ ones) is, of course, not only confined to epistemic routes traversing from the Global North to the Global South, but is also forged through specific epistemic interventions within ‘disciplinary’ and ‘interdisciplinary scholarship’. Consequently, the workshop seeks to examine the particular epistemic work that feminist conceptual production does not only in different parts of the globe but also across disciplinary sites.

Specifically, the workshop explores two levels of enquiry: Firstly, through centring the question of epistemic relationality, it attends to the ways in which scholars at different geographical and disciplinary sites have ‘stretched’ (Fanon 1963: 30-31) and reconceived feminist and other ‘mainstream’ concepts so that these are able to provide an accounting of the epistemic difference that different locations and, in particular, ‘place based consciousness’ make to knowledge production. Secondly, the workshop engages those ‘other’ historically embedded, politically located and materially informed concepts that describe and visualise the different forms of struggles around world-making taking place in other places/locations. In this regard, we are very keen to invite scholars working in and with different languages, and especially in non-privileged languages, both literal and conceptual.

The two-day workshop aims to bring together researchers from universities working on questions of conceptual production across the globe in different disciplinary and interdisciplinary contexts. We would like to especially encourage early career researchers located in the Global South to participate in the workshop. In these uncertain and extraordinary times of the Pandemic, we envisage that the workshop will be held online. However, if things improve, and the possibility of travel opens up more widely, then we will be able to provide funds for international travel and visa costs for early career scholars from the Global South. There will also be funding available for inter-UK travel. Finally, we also have some funds to help with financial costs of translation for scholars working in languages other than English.

Please email your 200-word abstract, along with a 150-word bio, by 15 December 2020 to