Conflict, Power and their Representations
18-19 novembre 2016
Université du Maine, Le Mans
The concept of conflict is omnipresent in the public and therefore in the political sphere but it is also a key part of the intellectual domain. In the field of literature every work is bound to describe or comment on various forms of conflict. Agôn and polemos have always been part of literature and politics.
The aim of this interdisciplinary international conference, which takes place after the previous conferences organized by the Power Studies Network in Caen, Poitiers and Paris Ouest Nanterre, is to interrogate the intertwining of the concepts of conflict and power. The conflicts between various forms of power will be tackled from a political, sociological or legal point of view.
We will deal with conflicts between social groups, conflicts between the three branches of power (executive, legislative, judiciary) that, according to Montesquieu, have to be separate in order to balance each other (the famous checks and balances of the US Constitution), conflicts between candidates running for election, conflicts between various interest groups. This analysis amounts to questioning the usual ways in which every society deals with social, political and economic conflicts.
In the field of international relations, that is, in a Hobbesian world of the “war of all against all” (Bellum omnium contra omnes), conflict is, of course, the rule. Thus this conference might address the making of a conflict in a given context but also the management, the avoidance or resolution of these conflicts. The idea that any power leads to the creation of a counter-power and therefore creates conflict is fertile in all the areas of intellectual or artistic activity.
One may wonder why the word “conflict” seems to have only negative connotations although as Frances Fox Piven argues “conflict is the very heartbeat of social movements”. The absence of conflict in cases of domination, therefore when one type of power triumphs, is not a sign of harmony but rather a way of silencing dissent or a mystification. Conflict can thus be viewed as a source of life which has a regulating effect that can balance various powers.
In the field of art, whether in movies or visual arts (painting, photography…) as well as in literature and poetry the representation of conflict, whether it be war, matrimonial quarrels (Hogarth, Mariage à la mode), the representation of social or political conflict is a standard feature. Thus war narratives or photographs openly or indirectly aim at contesting or invalidating the dominant discourse conveyed by the powers that be through specific processes or techniques. One may here refer to Goya and his series of prints known as The Disasters of Warwhich foreground the brutal reality of war and eliminates what made acts of war appear glorious or heroic.
Concerning so-called religious conflicts, one may wonder how disagreements lead to confrontations, how negotiations or settlements come about. How can one give a non-religious interpretation of these conflicts? Is there a new propensity to conflict in urban areas or new ways to accommodate conflicting interests? Can the city, the space where a multiplicity of actors with diverging interests meet in a more or less integrated space, become the locus of power, a politicized space where various groups can exert power? What literary or artistic representations of urban conflict can emerge from this?
Participants in this conference may also choose to deal with the staging of these conflicts by the media and link their analysis with philosophical or cultural interpretations of power.
This resolutely transdisciplinary conference is thus open to topics and issues dealt with by social science, history, literary or artistic criticism and philosophy. Macho power as well as military power, biopower (Foucault), the power of lobbies or the power of elites (C.W Mills) necessarily create conflicts and can be deconstructed by gender or feminist analysis and thanks to a sociological, political or philosophical approach. In all these fields the conference will study the relationship between power, counter-power and conflict. The sources of power in all its forms and its various modalities are thus within the parameters of this conference.
Dead line for proposals: April 30 2016. Contacts: Eliane Elmaleh: firstname.lastname@example.org, Taoufik Djeballi:email@example.com, Salah Oueslati: firstname.lastname@example.org, Pierre Guerlain: email@example.com