Type at least 1 character to search
Back to top

← Go back

Magnetic: Attraction, Repulsion, and the Social Sciences

April 18, 2015

Although social relations are rarely described in terms of attraction or repulsion, these forces form, in some way, nearly every feature of social life. From classic topics of anthropological inquiry, like communitas and kinship, to more recent academic work investigating the construction of “the enemy” and the politics of solidarity, our social world, it seems, is constructed along the lines of our attractions and repulsions. This conference aims to bring these forces into focus as devices for investigating our objects and practices of inquiry. Attraction and repulsion are forces that draw things together or push them apart, produce new configurations and remake old arrangements. We are interested in what attending to these vectors may illuminate in inquiries, past and present.

Often, in academic work, interests are an assumed point of departure. All sciences, it has been said, begin in wonder. No doubt the pleasures of curiosity, discovery, and astonishment play a role in our selection of objects, sites, and areas of study. There is also no shortage of scholarship detailing injustice, inhumanity, the tragic and corrupt. In both cases, what constitutes worthy objects of critical inquiry are often mediated by institutional and funding pressures and the desires of our would-be interlocutors:

– How should we regard the relationship between attraction and repulsion? Are they simply opposites? Poles on a continuum? Or always peculiarly entangled?

– How do attraction and/or repulsion operate in assessments of a project’s worthiness, legitimacy, or import?

– How have attraction and/or repulsion figured in social scientists’ accounts of their informants and interlocutors?

– How are political programs, ideals, or theories oriented to the attractive and/or repulsive?

– Might attraction and repulsion be taken up as objects of inquiry in their own right (e.g. as historically located social phenomena articulating the personal and political in specific ways)?


Anthro Lounge (9th floor)

6 E 16th St

The New School