CFP: Disobey! Understanding the Politics and Ethics of Disobedience

IPSA’s Research Committee on Political Philosophy (RC31) and Sciences Po, Paris are pleased to announce that a jointly organized conference on disobedience will be taking place at Sciences Po, Paris.

The purpose of this conference is to explore the content and to assess the force of contemporary injunctions to disobey.In doing so, we want to step back from those dominant views that concentrate primarily on the question of civil disobedience, and see if there are other less visible forms of disobedience that demand closer theoretical scrutiny. Our conceptual bet is that disobedience does not have to be civil in order for it to matter politically and ethically. We intend to ask what is the meaning of disobedience, reflect on how disobedience gives rise to particular social movements and ideals, analyze the extent to which the morality of disobedient acts is practice-dependent, and think about whether there are categorically distinct types of disobedience.

The conference takes into account both the multiplicity of disobedient experiences, and the plurality of views that aim to justify or denounce them. We aim to investigate this twofold reality by raising questions such as the following:

(1) What counts as a disobedient act? Does the idea of passive disobedience make sense? Can disobedience give rise to stable practices, or is disobedience bound to be diachronically unstable? Do historically documented cases of disobedience matter for the understanding of disobedience today? Do disobedient actors have any good moral, prudential or political reasons to inform themselves about the history of disobedience?

(2) Can a sound case be made for illiberal forms of disobedience ? such as resistance to gay marriage or abortion rights ? or uncivil disobedience, such vigilante and militia groups? Does disobedience have to take a non-violent form in order for it to be justified or is there a case one can make for certain coercive forms of disobedience? Should we reconsider our views about repellent episodes of disobedience if they have proved to have morally and politically desirable effects in the long run?

(3) Does it make sense to analyze certain actions taken by state officials say, jury nullification, virtuous perjury, or assisting the evasion of an unjustly imprisoned person as cases of disobedience? Can disobedience be codified in the form of a prerogative or is legally sanctioned disobedience bound to be a contradiction in terms? Can disobedience be justified in (ideally) well-ordered societies?

(4) What counts as a good theory of disobedience? How should we think about the relationship between normative and critical accounts of disobedience? Is a general theory of disobedience possible? Should we aim for an exhaustive typology of disobedience or is disobedience structurally open-ended and destined to remain an ?essentially contested concept??

If you are interested in presenting a paper at this conference, please send a 500 word-long abstract to the following e-mail addresses: and by July 1st, 2015. Please include the words Disobey Conference in the subject line. Approximately 15 papers will be selected. The working languages of the conference are English and French. Dinner, and light refreshments will be provided for the whole duration of the conference, but unfortunately we cannot pay for transportation or accommodation. We welcome contributions from the fields of political theory, legal philosophy, the history of political though, and ethics.

Disobey! Understanding the Politics and Ethics of Disobedience
Sciences Po & IPSA RC31 Conference
Paris, September 27-29, 2015
Key-note Speakers: Kimberley Brownlee (University of Warwick), Frédéric Gros (Sciences Po)

Organizing & Selection Committee: Astrid von Busekist (Sciences Po), Fréderic Gros (Sciences Po), John Medearis (University of California Riverside)
Andrei Poama (Sciences Po), Maurits de Jongh (Sciences Po)