Transformation and the Dynamics of (Radical) Change: Insights from Political Theory and Philosophy

Conference Hosted by

School of Politics, International Studies & Philosophy
Queen’s University Belfast
Northern Ireland

28th-29th November 2008

The Subject:

Transformation is a seemingly ubiquitous concept within the field of political theory and philosophy. Whilst some idealize transformation as a source for progress and the improvement of the human condition, others frame it as a disruptive and unsettling process which can damage the social, political and natural elements of our world.

However, although specific instances of transformation (such as the transformation of states or of ideologies) receive attention within broader political theories, the concept itself remains a ‘black box’: an axiom that is used frequently and in diverse ways, but lacks a background discourse to ground its value and meaning. The purpose of this conference will be to stimulate such a discourse, by posing the following core questions:

o   What does ‘transformation’ mean in the context of political theory and philosophy?

o   How is the concept used, and for what reasons?

o   What are the normative implications of the process of transformation?

o   In what fields or areas of inquiry is the concept most significant? Why? Is it inappropriate in some fields?

o   Where should a critique of the concept begin? What should it entail? 

All participants will be asked to orient their paper towards one, or more, of these questions. However, it is hoped that submissions from a variety of disciplinary approaches, schools of thought and research areas will be received. Submissions on the following themes will be especially welcome:

1)        Factors and actors in transformation:

Pluralism, nationalism, individualism, collectivism, recognition, complexity.

2)        Forces of transformation:

 Globalization, economic change, social change, processes, transformation in (and of)    history, conflict.

3) Objects and subjects of transformation:

a)  ideas, norms, values, ideology; the concept of transformation itself

b) state and sovereignty; government; governance; social structures and processes

c) environment and nature

d) human beings (including the self)

4) evaluations of transformation: theories, approaches, critiques and the possibility of a broader discourse on transformation

Keynote Speakers:

The organizers are pleased to announce that two keynote speakers have already confirmed attendance, while a third keynote has yet to be confirmed.

Alan Carter (University of Glasgow) is going to speak on Beyond Primacy: Marxism, Anarchism and Radical Green Political Theory.

Shane O'Neill (Queen's University Belfast)

Simon Tormey (University of Nottingham)

Submitting a paper:

Deadline for submission of paper proposal: 15th June 2008

Paper acceptance notification: 15th July 2008

Registration Deadline: 31st August 2008


Should your paper proposal be accepted it is very important that you register before the deadline (31 August 2008), as we will otherwise have to remove you from the programme. The registration fee will be £30 for academics and £10 for postgraduates. Moreover, a limited amount of travel bursaries for postgraduate students will be made available, depending on need and availability. For further information, please contact the organizers at or download and return a completed registration form, available here.

Travel and Accommodation: 

Further information on travelling to the University is available here and advice on accommodation is available here. The conference programme will be available shortly.

Organizing Committee:

Audra Mitchell, Gavin Kerr, Fabian Schuppert.

Keith Breen and Shane O'Neill, Vincent Geoghegan (advisory members)