Convenor: Jens Olesen

Political theorists have responded somewhat ambiguously to the ‘interpretive turn’ that shaped the humanities and social sciences in the mid to late twentieth century. After an initial phase of turning attention to questions of interpretive method in the 1960s and 70s, which led to fierce methodological disputes over contributions from Cambridge historians, they subsequently turned away from such questions in the 1980s and 90s, based on the assumption that all practitioners implicitly agree on how they interpret texts. With the twenty-first century, the vocation has entered a third phase in which there is an increasing recognition that hermeneutic methods have yet to be adequately addressed.
Given that political theorists have almost always imported insights from history and philosophy, there is a need in the discipline for contributions that seek to assess existing approaches to interpretation in terms of their advantages and costs for the study of politics. In particular, there has been no enquiry into the question of whether these approaches are ideologically sustained (whereby ‘ideologies’ are understood as systems of political thinking through which agents interpret the world that surrounds them (cf. Freeden 1996)), and if so, whether ideologically charged approaches in turn induce political theorists to systematically ignore some aspects of texts, whilst emphasizing others?This workshop invites papers that aim to answer these and related questions with regard to modern accounts of hermeneutics (Gadamer, Ricœur), ‘textual’ (Strauss et al.) and contextual approaches (Skinner for the ‘Cambridge School’, Koselleck and Richter for Begriffsgeschichte), Marxian readings (Althusser, Macpherson et al.), as well as deconstructive (Derrida et al.) and feminist interpretations (Okins, Pateman et al.). The workshop thus aspires to shed light on the politics of interpretive methods and to offer a space for innovative thinking about the tools that scholars use in analyzing texts.

Abstracts of up to 500 words are requested by Friday 17th June 2011. Please submit abstracts, along with your CV to