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A two-day conference exploring issues of complicity, organised by the University of Brighton’s Understanding Conflict: Forms & Legacies of Violence research cluster.

Tuesday 31st March – Wednesday 1st April 2015
University of Brighton, UK


DEADLINE: 1st December 2014

The problem of complicity is a longstanding feature of everyday moral experience, and yet comparatively little work focuses explicitly on it. Furthermore, in an increasingly neo-liberal world, it is becoming increasingly difficult to avoid complicity both in its creation of a particular model of the person and with its attendant demands on how we live, on what we do and do not do and on how we think. If Georgio Agamben is right to insist that ‘Today’s man … has become blind not to his capacities but to his incapacities, not to what he can do but to what he cannot, or can not, do’ (‘On what we can not do’, Nudities, 2011, p.44), then complicity is taking centre stage in our everyday lives. It thus requires our attention in terms both of practice and of theorization.

This conference will seek to begin that work. We invite proposals (max. 300 words) that address one of the broad inter-related themes outlined below:


What is complicity?
Issues might include:

– What counts as complicity and why? What counts as non-complicity and why?

– What are complicity’s logical limits? Is there anything that cannot be (re-)described as complicity?

– What to do? What to avoid? What to not do?

– If there are degrees of complicity, how might they be characterised?

Theorising complicity in relation to related moral-political issues
Issues might include:

– How does the problem of complicity relate to that of “dirty hands”?
– What are the relations between complicity, personhood and moral agency?
– Complicity versus integrity?* Reasonable and unreasonable excuses
– Chains of complicity: moral overload; moral distance; moral paralysis political overload;
political distance; political paralysis
– Commission and omission
– Complicity and the means/ends problem
– Complicity and/with violence
– Complicity and culpable ignorance
– The importance of moral disruption
– The relation of complicity to asymmetries of power; in or out of the tent?
– Complicity, hypocrisy and necessity
– Complicity and power


Empirical cases

Issues might include:

How to act on a committee
– Whistleblowing
– Voting
– Lifestyles; petitions; protest; charities
– Conflict resolution; conflict transformation
– Specificities of the neo-liberal world
– The egoism of non-complicity, Impotent self-flagellation versus principled refusal
– Accepting tainted money: research grants and the like

– Embedded journalism, War photography
– Anthropological research, charitable work
– The armed forces
– Trade, business and “the market”
– Research, advocacy and silence
– Bodies
– Gender, sex and their interconnections
– Making use of power one thinks one ought not to have.

We anticipate that these and related issues will be of interest to a wide range of people working in and studying, among other areas, cultural studies, philosophy, political theory, media studies, photography and journalism, art practice and visual studies, film studies, the armed forces, international security, armaments, banking, finance and globalisation, politics and geopolitics, sociology, NGO and charitable sectors, colonialism and post-colonialism, health studies and NHS, queer theory, women’s studies and women and the family.

Proposals of no more than 300 words should be emailed by 1st December 2014 to

For more information on the work and scope of the University of Brighton’s Research Cluster

Understanding Conflict: Forms and Legacies of Violence


Conference website:



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Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

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