Call for Papers
Re-claim: Agency and justice in a world out of joint
An Ethics & STS workshop. October 19 – 21, 2023 at ETH Zurich
The time is out of joint. O cursed spite
That ever I was born to set it right!
– Shakespeare, Hamlet
World out of joint
Our world is said to be in a state of political, social, economic, scientific, environmental “crisis.” In these perceived conditions of volatility, uncertainty, and ambiguity, traditional structures and processes of surfacing disagreement or pursuing justice appear to be no longer effective. This is the condition of being “out of joint”: a state of misalignment or dislocation that demands an intervention to “set it right.”
One approach to setting-right prevalent today is to reclaim: take back what appears to have been lost—as a result of dispossession or moral fallout—in order to restore a sense of rightness and justice.
This workshop explores the ways in which people engage in acts of reclaiming and how this involves and transforms the claims that support actions to set the world right again (hence the “-” in the word). What is being (re-)claimed? On the basis of what kinds of claims do agents act towards justice? How might these claims lay a different foundation for the construction of a new world?
In a world out of joint, what are the possibilities for recovering agency—the capacity to act? How, in these contexts, is agency distributed—not just among coalitions of technical, institutional, human, and “more-than-human” agents, but also among different kinds of experts? What are possible pathways for agency as collective action?
This workshop investigates agency both as the flurry of activity observed in the world and—reflexively—as humanistic scholarship engaged in constructive critical inquiry. How is it possible to reclaim collective, humanistic agency—without falling into habits of solutionism—amidst the hegemony of technoscience? Can actions to set the world right—to set it differently—problematize or even renounce the crisis framing itself, and build a just future while still embracing uncertainty?
What kind of justice and what visions of a “just society” are produced through acts of re-claiming? For many projects of justice in today’s technological societies, the point of departure is a novel challenge (e.g. racial bias in algorithmic models or health disparities in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic) in conjunction with histories of structural injustice. To “set right” requires addressing the new problems and the old structures together. It is therefore a project to interrogate but also repair dislocated structures, and to do so in ways that will result in new kinds of buildings. How can old questions of justice, such as rights and responsibilities, be rearticulated in this context? What collective visions of new institutions of justice appear on the horizon through these projects? What are the opportunities and limits of re-claiming a just future?
From October 19-21, 2023 we are organizing a workshop at the intersection of STS, ethics, moral anthropology, and critical legal studies at ETH Zürich.
We would like to think together about the co-production of justice and distributed agency in sociotechnical systems, about the changing role of expertise in claims to justice, and about the kinds of institutions and practices that get (re-)built through contemporary alliances of actions and normative and epistemic claims. We invite proposals for papers that depart from specific examples of agency in the pursuit of justice today (examples of what people do, e.g. write code, rename streets, take down statues, glue themselves to the road, organize, tell stories, make art, boycott elections, teach, divest resources, initiate moratoriums) to examine the imaginaries of rightness, justice, future, and humanness attendant to these actions.
Please submit your proposals (300 word abstract and brief bio) by June 12. For any questions, please contact Margarita Boenig-Liptsin ( via this email@example.com).
We look forward to thinking together!
Margarita Boenig-Liptsin, Assistant Professor of Ethics, Technology and Society, ETH Zürich
Karen Huang, Assistant Professor, McCourt School of Public Policy, Georgetown University
Kebene Wodajo, Postdoctoral Researcher, Institute for Business Ethics, University of St. Gallen