Agency and Subjectivity: Rethinking Poststructuralism

Gavin  Rae's picture
Call for Papers
November 4, 2021
Subject Fields: 
French History / Studies, Humanities, Philosophy, Psychology, Political Science

Call for Papers:

Agency and Subjectivity: Rethinking Poststructuralism

Department of Logic and Theoretical Philosophy

Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain

1000-1800hrs (Spain time), Wednesday 26th January 2022.

The purpose of this one day online international conference is to both engage with the long-standing question of the relationship between agency and subjectivity in poststructuralist thought and reconsider poststructuralist theory as a resource for thinking about subjective agency. As is often noted, the Western subject, as least as it has derived from a Cartesian heritage, has long been held to be defined by a fixed, determined essence or identity that provides it with a privileged, foundational role. Poststructuralist thought—understood here not as a school reducible to the thought of, for example, Deleuze, Derrida, and Foucault, but as an orientation in thinking that affirms the primary importance of constant, open-ended differential becoming—challenged both those assumptions from heterogeneous directions to ultimately claim that the subject is constituted rather than constituting.

However, despite the success of this approach, critical questions immediately arose regarding it, orientated generally around issues such as how and in what ways might the subject influence its own constituting processes and structures. Critics from a range of different traditions (analytic philosophy, critical theory, early feminist theory, existentialism, and so on), concluded that the poststructuralist critique of the foundational subject can only lead to (1) a determined subject that lacks freedom, and/or (2) an incoherent position, wherein poststructuralist thought rejects the possibility of agency that it otherwise depends upon, especially politically. These lines of critique have, however, recently been the subject of critique themselves as commentators have returned to this issue to reconsider poststructuralist analyses of subjective agency. This conference aims to open a space to evaluate and contribute to this reconsideration. Possible topics of interest might include, but certainly are not limited to:

  • Individual poststructuralist thinkers on the question of subjectivity/agency
  • Does poststructuralist thought offer a coherent account of subjective agency?
  • The political consequences of poststructuralist conceptions of subjectivity/agency.
  • Poststructuralist theory and psychoanalytic theory on the subject
  • The feminist subject and poststructuralist theory
  • Ethics and the poststructuralist subject
  • The relationship between the posthumanism and poststructuralism
  • The Medical Humanities and the poststructuralist subject
  • Animal and non-human subjectivities
  • Climate Emergency and poststructuralist agency

Format: The conference will be held virtually and hosted by Microsoft Team/Google Meetings (to be confirmed). Invited speakers will have 20 minutes to present their paper. Those interested in participating should send a 400-word abstract to by 4th November 2021. The conference will be in English and attendance is free. More information about the conference and the research project to which it belongs can be found at:

Conference organizers: Gavin Rae and Cillian Ó Fathaigh.

Funding: This conference forms part of the activities for the research projects: (1)  “Agency and Society: An Inquiry through Poststructuralism” (PR108/20-26); (2) “Differential Ontology and the Politics of Reason,” funded by the Government of the Region of Madrid, as part of line 3 of the multi-year agreement with the Universidad Complutense de Madrid: V PRICIT Excellence Program for University Professors (Fifth Regional Plan for Scientific Investigation and Technological Innovation); and (3) “The Politics of Reason” (PID2020-117386GA-I00), financed by the Ministry of Science and Innovation, Government of Spain.