Trent University to Host International Political Theory Conference from May 7 to 9


“A Return to the Senses” World’s First Conference to Explore Aesthetic Practices of Democratic Life

Wednesday, May 6, 2009, Peterborough

Leading-edge cultural and political scholars from around the world will converge at Trent University from Thursday, May 7 to Saturday, May 9 to participate in a groundbreaking conference entitled “A Return to the Senses: Political Theory and the Sensorium”.

Organized by Dr. Davide Panagia [pronounced DAHV-I-DAY PAN-A-GEE-A] of Trent University’s Cultural Studies Department, this conference is bringing together 40 international speakers to discuss the overlap between the diverse traditions of cultural and political thought and how these traditions of inquiry can help address the aesthetic practices of democratic life.

“Individuals or groups in pluralist democracies attend to one another at the level of appearances. That is, our practices of how we appear (as individuals, groups, etc.) matter to the ways in which we relate to one another - at home, in the office, on the street, etc. - and it matters especially to the ways we think ethically about the senses in democratic cultures,” explained Professor Panagia, who also holds a prestigious Canada Research Chair in Cultural Studies at Trent. “How we imagine the configuration, disposition, character and function of the senses when engaging political events is of critical importance for political theory.”

Prof. Panagia noted that surprisingly little scholarship is available that acknowledges the role of the senses as resources for thinking about human interaction in democratic cultures, and that this conference is a step towards filling this gap. “Trent is an ideal place for this kind of meeting because of the strong tradition of interdisciplinary humanities conferences that have taken place in the past at the Centre for the Study of Theory, Culture, and Politics. Also, the tradition of scholarship of the Cultural Studies Department at Trent is unique and recognized throughout the world for its interdisciplinary emphasis on aesthetic inquiry in cultural analysis. The ambition of this conference is to bring that emphasis of inquiry to bear on a variety of other fields - especially political theory and democratic studies - that have not had the occasion to explore and benefit from the kinds of questions that are engaged here at Trent.”

The conference dovetails with the recent 2009 release of Prof. Panagia’s latest book entitled The Political Life of Sensation. In this book Prof. Panagia essentially lays the theoretical ground work for this conference, contending that sensory experience interrupts our perceptual givens, creating occasions to suspend authority and reconfigure the arrangement of a political order. For more information about his research, please visit

“A Return to the Senses” is hosted in collaboration with the prestigious political and cultural journal Theory & Event and will take place in Gzowski College at Trent University. This conference marks the first time ever that Theory & Event has agreed to attach its name to a conference.

For further details about the conference program, please visit


For more information, please contact Brittany Cadence, Communications Officer at (705) 748-1011, ext. 6185.