Union hosts national conference on political theory


More than 200 people from colleges and universities around the country recently convened on campus for the Association for Political Theory’s annual conference.

The three-day event last month brought together faculty, independent scholars and graduate students in theory, philosophy and related interdisciplinary studies.

A graphic with text that reads Association for Political Theory

Attendees and presenters represented 139 schools, including Union. Among the schools were Johns Hopkins, New York University, Princeton, University of Michigan and University of Toronto.

Panels covered such topics as “Decolonize our Pedagogy,” “Police Abolition,” “How to Address the Crisis of Democracy,” and “Indigenous Theory and Practice.”

“We were thrilled to host an extremely successful major international scholarly event,” said Cigdem Cidam, associate professor of political science. Cidam and Lori Marso, the Doris Zemurray Stone Professor of Modern Literary and Historical Studies, and professor of political science, organized the conference for Union.

Planning for the most significant and prestigious conference in the field of political theory began two years ago. APT chose as host a small liberal arts school like Union, in part because of its strong political theory program. Past conferences have been held at the University of Houston, Ohio State and the University of California, Irvine, among others.

“As an international conference, it brings together the leading scholars in the field for them to exchange their cutting-edge research with their peers,” said Marso.

Marso (“Feeling Time Like a Feminist”), Cidam (“Looking Backwards: Benjamin and Proust on Fulfillment of Time”) and Guillermina Seri, professor of political science and chair of the department (“Revisiting Walter Benjamin: On Political Memory in Catastrophic Times”) all presented their research.

Noah Eber-Schmid ’06, a former Watson Fellow who is now an assistant professor of political theory at Indiana University, Bloomington, was also a presenter. His talk was titled “American Monarchy: Royalist Authoritarianism and the Contemporary Far Right.”

Robert Samet, associate professor of anthropology, and Jenelle Troxell, associate professor of English, were chairpersons for different panel discussions.

Union students served as volunteers for the conference and had the opportunity to attend sessions. Grace Stearns ’24 attended three sessions. She said the conference gave her the opportunity to meet scholars who provided fresh perspectives on topics that interested her.

“There were subjects that I would have never expected to be discussed in conjunction with one another, and it was interesting to see the different niches interwoven with one theme at each of the panels,” said Stearns, a double major in political science and sociology from Wolcott, Conn.

“Everyone has their own very specific idea that they’re researching, but they can be put into conversation with entirely different subjects when moderated with a particular idea in mind.”

Stearns will be presenting this weekend on “Confronting Contemporary Forms of Animal Agriculture in the United States” at the New York Six Liberal Arts Consortium Undergraduate Research Conference at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. She said her participation in the APT conference helped prepare her for sharing her own research.

“I had a wonderful and meaningful experience, and it made me really excited to engage with more of these academic discussions as I continue with my research,” said Stearns.

Cidam and Marso said they have received much positive feedback from conference attendees.

“This was a huge deal for Union College to be able to undertake this herculean task,” said Cidam. “We would not have been able to pull this off without the amazing support of our partners, including Dining and Facilities, and of course, our administrative assistant, Laurie McGill. We all worked together to make sure that everything went smoothly. It was truly an amazing conference.”

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