Stockholm, May 10–13, 2016

The conference “Presumed Autonomy: Literature and the Arts in Theory and Practice” aims to explore recent debates about autonomy, focusing on conceptualizations of literature and the arts as part of social institutions and everyday life practices. It asks whether there is anything in these fields that corresponds to the concept of autonomy, and if so, how we can identify autonomy in any of its forms, how we might register its effects, and whether aesthetic autonomy means the same in theory and practice.

By focusing on areas in which the concept is used to break new conceptual and theoretical ground, and by widening the scope to encompass more than the traditional ground of aesthetics, this conference differs from earlier scholarly collaborations such as the valuable but philosophically focused collection edited by Owen Hulatt. The continued interest in the concept of autonomy derives precisely from its various uses in academic disciplines as diverse as cultural theory, philosophy, literature, sociology anthropology, history and technical science, to name but a few: a situation that has prompted the organising committee’s interest in the concept.

With participants from a variety of disciplines, this conference seeks to explore approaches to autonomy as ways of negotiating disciplinary, institutional, structural, and media-specific boundaries between art and non-art. The conference will therefore be an important venue to widen the conversation (both within and across disciplines,) on the current theorization of the autonomy of aesthetic practices.

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