EJS – Call for Papers


for a special issue of the EJS

What has happened to the postmodern movement? In its inception postmodernism was touted as a radically new turn in social scientific thinking. This new turn was intended to expose the failed promises of the western Enlightenment project. Postmodern theorists set out to explode the myths of western development and western millennial thinking and expose them for what they have often been – mere rationalizations for the dominance of people everywhere. It is unnecessary to rehearse these failings here. Suffice it to note that the Enlightenment promises of Truth, Justice, Equality and Democracy has remained unfulfilled. For the vast majority of the world s population, myth aside, there has been no arrival. No great emancipation. It has been the task of postmodernism to lay bare this dark underbelly of the Enlightenment. It is important to note, however, that exposing the dark underbelly of the Enlightenment has not meant putting aside the emancipatory project of the Enlightenment. From the very start postmodernism has been, at its very core, about moving beyond the limitations of western style thinking to develop a more sensible, less grandiose, but no less politically or humanistically motivated theory of human emancipation. The originators of postmodernism were as intent on creating a better world as their enlightened forbears. The difference was essentially in their recognition of the failures of modernist thinking and the attempt to move beyond these limitations to find sensible alternatives. Steven Seidman writes:

A postmodern reconfiguring of knowledge is thus crucial to understand the contemporary west and to preserve a connection between the human studies and its emancipatory aims. Proposals for a human studies that is deconstructive or genealogical and that imagines altered relations between knowledge and power and between knowledge producers and citizens are intended to preserve the critical spirit of the Enlightenment in a postmodern culture. (Seidman, 1992: 4-5).

But, have postmodernists come through on their attempts to create a new and better emancipatory project. Have we seen a proliferation of radical new directions in science as a result of the tireless efforts of postmodernists to undo and redress the philosophical and political violence of the Enlightenment? Or, after developing a fin de siecle jingoism to replace Marxist radical banter, have postmodern theorists settled comfortably into the armchairs of the modernist theorists whom they set out to displace? Has orthodoxy replaced orthodoxy? Oppressor with oppresser? Arguably the answer is that nothing has changed. Many of those who have been trampled under by the steamroller that we call the Enlightenment have not found their voice in POMO theory. POMO, so the critics argue, has replaced one exclusionary and oppressive discourse with another. While arguing the need to open up the spaces of inquiry to the marginalised, the oppressed, the local, POMO has, in effect, closed off opportunity. Only white liberals (and note that males and females, feminists and patriarchs participate equally in the closure) have access to the necessary education to speak POMO. And should there be attempts to open this discourse, to make it permeable to local concerns of the disempowered, then a form of reactionary and profoundly conservative postmodernism can be invoked to dismiss these attempts. This dismissal is accomplished simply and elegantly by invoking a vacuous relativism made possible by POMO theory. Criticisms of postmodernism or its spokespeople, or attempts to pin down the substance of injustice, and inequality, are accused of being modernist in their leaning, of importing forms of essentialism into the discourse, of attempting to assert the Truth (with a capital T ) when there can only be many truths. In the mean time injustice and domination are left in place and the purity of POMO left untouched.

This fools no one, of course, least of all those attempting to give voice to their domination. This reactionary POMO obscures relations of power and domination as well as, or perhaps better than, its modernist counterpart. But there is a profound irony. A theory designed to create a better opportunity for emancipation is being used, at the end of the century, to perpetuate domination, to obscure relations of power, and to hide ideological and hegemonic control. This postmodern turning away is the focus of a special issue of the EJS. We invite papers exploring the issues set out in the above paragraphs. What were the contours of the original emancipatory project of POMO? How were the original formulations designed to move beyond the limitations of modernist thinking? What has happened to turn POMO away from its original emancipatory project? And why? Are there solutions to the current impasse or has POMO itself become passe and in need of outright rejection? Etc…

Timothy McGettigan & Mike Sosteric

Seidman, Steven (1994). The Postmodern Turn: New Perspectives on Social Theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Submissions from all disciplines are welcomed and multidisciplinary work is encouraged.

Papers can be submitted as a wordprocessor document (as an email attachment) to [email protected]. Please see the EJS submission manual for info on submission requirements.

Deadline for submissions is Jan. 2000.

Note, because of the flexibility of the electronic publication model, late submissions will be considered.