CFP: Force of Myth: Authority, Illusion and Critique in Modern Imaginaries

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Call for Papers
June 7, 2021 to June 9, 2021

Call for Participation
Force of Myth: Authority, Illusion, and Critique in Modern Imaginaries 
Myth is one of the most fraught terms in the history of political thought. Although hailed and instrumentalized by political ideologues and social movements of all stripes, it has also been vilified and condemned by representatives of religious and secular traditions alike. Yet, in spite of liberal attempts to pathologize the concept during the Cold War, myth has returned again in recent years with its characteristic ambiguity: What is post-truth and conspiracy theory for some is the possibility of social critique for others. In order to discuss the force of myth in modern societies, this conference connects three axes of historical, political, and philosophical perspectives:

  • The first axis traces the return of myth in the twentieth century and the attendant efforts of intellectuals to address the yawning gap between the political realities and rationalist visions of (Cold-War) liberalism. This discussion seeks to understand in this light the emergence of discourses about secularism, “the dialectic of enlightenment,” and “the normative deficit of modernity.” 
  • The second axis asks whether myth reflects a political logic that naturalizes power around ideas of race, class, and identity, or, alternatively, offers forms of social critique that subvert the self-deception underlying discourses of naturalization. This discussion intends to address the contemporary discourse around post-truth politics and clarify the dialectics of critique and illusion reflected in myth. 
  • Complementing these historical and political explorations of the topic, the third axis tackles the language game of myth. How can we define the concept of myth, especially in relation to phenomena such as narrative, metaphor, symbol, and cipher? What is their relation to truth, illusion, and imagination? And how has this relation changed in the course of history? These questions are intended to help us theorize the figurative dimensions of social and political life. 

Keynote Speakers:
Chiara Bottici (New School of Social Research)
Bernard Harcourt (Columbia University) 
Pini Ifergan (Bar-Ilan University; The Spinoza Center, The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute)

Conference dates: Monday–Wednesday, June 7–9, 2021.
This will be an online-only event, held over Zoom on three consecutive days, 3–4 hours each.

If you are interested in presenting, please send an abstract of up to 500 words to The deadline for abstract submission is January 31, 2021. Notifications of decisions will be sent by the end of February. To allow for in-depth discussions, authors of accepted abstracts are required to circulate a draft of their paper among conference participants up to one week prior to the event. 

Contact Info: 

Organizers: Jacob Abolafia (Polonsky Academy, The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute), Carmen Lea Dege (Polonsky Academy, The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute), Tae-Yeoun Keum (University of California, Santa Barbara)