Imagined Borders, Epistemic Freedoms: The Challenge of Social Imaginaries in Media, Art, Religion and Decoloniality
Hosted by The Center for Media, Religion, and Culture

University of Colorado Boulder

January 8-11, 2020

 The question of borders and the practice of bordering persist in a world destined for encounters and confrontations. This persistence today bears resemblance to long-standing legacies of coloniality, modernity, and globalization, but it also foregrounds new narratives, aesthetics, and politics of exclusion and dehumanization. Talk of walls, fortresses, boundaries, and deportation has never been a political or philosophical anomaly, but rather a reflection of a particularistic social imaginary, a linear compulsion of epistemic assumptions that sees the world through the logic of hierarchy, classification, difference, and ontological supremacy. This foreclosure is a widely shared and accepted social imaginary, as demonstrated in current scholarship in the critical humanities and social and political sciences: a foreclosure that has also defined institutions and disciplines of knowledge production which continue to marginalize other knowledge systems and intellectual traditions and refuse to acknowledge their viability and legitimacy in the academy. Disciplinary walls and intellectually demarcated canons within the Western and Westernized university in the Global North and South have generally produced narrow curricula and models of learning that reproduce selective systems of thought, discourses and practices. 

The tenacity of this normalized worldview requires urgent new imaginaries: a decolonial perspective not only to call out the ontological instability of Western theory, but also to establish a sense of epistemic hospitality capable of liberating and re-centering other ways of knowing and dwelling in the world. This contestation of physical and cognitive borders has found its most ardent proponents in recent movements such as #RhodesMustFall, Standing Rock, Idle No More, Undocumented and Unafraid, #Whyismycurriculumsowhite, Arab Uprisings, Black Lives Matter, and #MeToo, among others. At the heart of this decolonial injunction is a desire by absented voices to reclaim the right to self-narrate, to signify, and to render visible local histories, other temporalities, subjectivities, cosmologies, and struggles silenced by Western and Westernized accounts of the world. 

The fields of art, religion and the media have not yet come under historical scrutiny about their own epistemic and existential imaginaries and whether they reify or disrupt dominant structures and legacies of knowledge production? Drawing from a variety of intellectual traditions and established academic disciplines, these fields risk carrying the same blind spots, the same foreclosures, the same ontological foundations, and the same centered claims to universality. 

What can a decolonial critique then do to avoid a zero-sum epistemology? And how can we develop new decolonial imaginaries as an invitation to undo the Eurocentrism of our paradigms, challenge the verticality of our pedagogical designs, and achieve an ethics of interpretation, an epistemic justice whereby theories from the South or from ‘the margins’ in the North are not treated merely as local or subjective? The decolonial attitude challenges us to avoid embracing singular universalities, and rethink altogether the hierarchies of global-local and of universal-particular that underlie this world’s inequality.

This will be the ninth in a series of successful international conferences held by the Center for Media, Religion, and Culture in Boulder. The previous meetings have brought together an interdisciplinary community of scholars for focused conversations on emerging issues in media and religion. Each has proven to be an important landmark in the development of theory and method in its respective area and has resulted in important collaborations, publications, and resources for further research and dialogue.

The 2020 conference is organized in conjunction with SIMAGINE, an international and interdisciplinary research consortium bringing together partners from the USA, the UK, Europe and South-Africa; it is hosted by the University of Humanistic Studies in Utrecht, the Netherlands, and dedicated to the study of social imaginaries between secularity and religion in a globalizing world. SIMAGINE has organized conferences on ‘Religion, Community, Borders’ leading to a special issue of the open access Journal for Religion and Transformation in December 2019. In 2018 the consortium published the volume Social Imaginaries in a Globalizing World.

The conference will feature keynote lectures and keynote conversations, as well as thematic panels and artistic performances. We invite papers and panels from across disciplines, intellectual traditions, and geographic locations that engage with these questions and beyond. Possible topics could include but are not limited to:

• Borders, Bordering, Border Zones between the Imaginary and the Real

• Modernity, Secularity, Religious Legacies and Universality

• Social Imaginaries and (the Critique of) Anthropocentrism

• Coloniality and Decolonial Epistemologies

• What Counts as Critical Theory and Decolonial Critique?

• What Counts as Religion in the Decolonial Imaginary?

• Big Data, Algorithmic Culture, and (De)Coloniality

• Decolonial Intersectionalities

• Decolonial Feminisms

• Decolonizing Race, Ethnicity, and Identity

• Decolonial Pedagogy, Methodology, and Praxis.

• Media, Religion, and Theoretical Provincialism

• Media, Arts, and Decolonial Theory

• Media, Religion, the Other, and the Subaltern

• Religion, Theology, and Social Imaginaries

• Social Imaginaries and (the Critique) of Neoliberalist Globalization

• Geopolitics of Knowledge Production

• Language, Publishing, and Boundaries of Learning

• Imagination and Worldview Education: Interreligious Dialogue

• Queering the Archives

 Abstracts of 300-350 words should be submitted to cmrc@colorado.edu by June 10, 2019. Please include your email address and university affiliation in your submission. 

For questions, email Nabil Echchaibi, Associate Director: nabil.echchaibi@colorado.edu.

or Stewart M. Hoover, Director: hoover@colorado.edu.

For more information, visit cmrc.colorado.edu