Call For Papers

Workshop: Losing one's Place in the World: Rethinking Alienation as a Diagnostic for our Time @MaxAnthropology, 22 - 24 November 2023; deadline: 30 March 2023


  • Topic Call For PapersCall For Papers
  • When to (Europe/Berlin / UTC100)
  • Where Halle/Saale Germany
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Workshop: Losing one's Place in the World: Rethinking Alienation as a Diagnostic for our Time
22 - 24 November 2023


Annika Lems (Australian National University) and Biao Xiang (Mack Planck Institute for
Social Anthropology)

Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology Halle/Saale, Germany

Call for Papers

At the current historical conjuncture, alienation has turned into a widespread sentiment. Poverty, rising inequality, democracy fatigue, climate catastrophes etc. have contributed to the growth of a sense of estrangement – the feeling of losing one’s place in the world. We deploy the term alienation to capture the feeling of no longer having a say in the world, of having lost control over the course of one’s own life. Unlike displacement, however, which affects people who have been bereft of their place in the world, alienation is about the process of losing it. It affects individuals and groups who feel that the place they used to rightfully occupy or “own” is being taken away from them, leading to experiences of withdrawal and resentment. As such, alienation is marked by deep feelings of displacement and discontent, yet people who feel acutely alienated from their living conditions struggle to articulate what alienates them and what could be done to change the situation.

This conference aims to take a close look at experiences of alienation worldwide. It tries to understand why and when experiences of alienation accumulate and what has made the 21st century so prone to it. It wants to shed light on the frail relationship between humans and the societies they live in and zoom in on the moments when this affective bond seriously cracks, wobbles or falls apart. It aims to discuss empirically rich case studies of alienation from across the world and encourages anthropologists to reconsider the potential of the notion of alienation – as a lived experience and sentiment, as an emic term used by people in life, and as a theoretical concept with a long history.

We invite abstracts for ethnographically grounded papers that explore:

(1) the experiential manifestations of alienation in specific cases

(2) the political economy of alienation – which material structural conditions give rise toexperiences of alienation?

(3) people’s responses – under which conditions is alienation crystalized into an explicit critical consciousness (e.g. workers’ solidarity), and when does it lead to withdrawal or rebellion (e.g. Far Right movements)?

(4) the intellectual purchase of the notion of alienation – what do our research subjects want to say when they describe their condition as a form of “alienation”, rather than, say, being oppressed, having bad luck, or miserable? What do researchers gain by describing particular experiences as alienation? What analytical power can both researcher and the researched achieve by turning alienation – an apparently elusive, all-encompassing sentiment – into an analytical lens?

The abstracts should not exceed 300 words. The deadline for abstract submission is the 30 March 2023.

Please send your abstracts to: schreyer[a]

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