Monday, September 24, 2007

The Third Annual SEP-FEP Joint Conference: A short report

I just got back from the U.K. I was there to attend the thrid annual SEP-FEP conference. The conference was held from 8-11 September. The conference was jointly organized by the Society for European Philosophy U.K and the Forum for European Philosophy based at LSE. The conference was held at Bramber House Conference Centre at the University of Sussex. The University of Sussex is located at Falmer, on the outskirts of Brighton, England. The conference went very well. There were excellent papers as well as food and other conference facilies were quite good.

The conference was focused on contemporary European Philosophy. The specific themes of the conference for this year included: Politics and Critique, Phenomenology, Aesthetics, German Idealism, and Ethics. The conference was comprised of four plenary sessions, 9 themed panels, and over 20 open parallel sessions, not all of which were themed. The total numbers of papers presented were 92. The four keynote speakers were: Frederick Neuhouser, Barnard College, University of Columbia; Cristina Lafont, Northwestern University; Alexander Garcia Düttmann, Goldsmiths; and Rüdiger Bittner, University of Bielefeld. Neuhouser presented his paper on “The Critical Function of Genealogy in Rousseau's Second Discourse,” Lafont on “Religion and Democratic Deliberation in the Public Sphere,” Düttmann on “A Matter of Life and Death: Spinoza or Derrida?,” and Bittner on “A horse in the basement. Nietzschean Reflections on Political Theory.” Other speakers of note included Gordon Finlayson (organized a themed panel on “Normativity and Critical Theory”), David Owen presented a paper on the theme of Critique and Genealogy, and Herman Siemens presented on Nietzsche.

My paper also went well (presentation here). The conference was also unique in the sense that at least 11 papers were presented on Habermas. Normally I feel that Habermas is equally ignored in conferences on European and Analytic philosophy. People doing European philosophy don’t consider him enough “continental” and people doing analytic philosophy don’t consider him enough of analytic. One of the reason for this change in focus might be that one of the conference organisers was himself a prominent Habermasian.

The conference was interesting and fruitful. It was attended by some top scholars in contemporary European Philosophy from the U.K, Europe, the U.S, Australia and from the rest of the world. The conference also provided an opportunity to understand the current emphases of research within the wider field of contemporary European Philosophy.

Back from the conference I stayed one night in London and had dinner with one of my friends from London at one of the Pakistani Restaurants in South Hall, London (a predominantly south Asian area of London). The dinner was excellent. One thing which strikes you in England (especially in cities) is the prominence of South Asians.

I went back to England after eight years. Nothing has changed much (at least that was my first impression) except that congestion at Heathrow airport has increased beyond description. The plane reached Heathrow 15 minutes before the curfew time ends so we had to hover over London for 15 minutes, then after landing we had to wait for almost an hour to find the slot for disembarkment. Once in the immigration area I had to wait an hour in queue to get to the immigration officer for visa (the actual visa process took less than a minute!).

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