April 27–29, 2017
The Big No

Call for Papers (CFP)   PDF format

The CFP is closed.

Conference website

Big No image

The Center for 21st Century Studies invites proposals for papers and presentations for our Spring 2017 conference, The Big No, to be held April 27-29, 2017.

Confirmed speakers include Joshua Clover, Katerina Kolozova, François Laruelle, Ariana Reines, and Frank B. Wilderson III.

Deadline for proposals is February 1, 2017.

What does “no” say? Who and what says “no?”

No’s eruptive force transforms the argumentative landscape. From two-year old children to mature nation-states, the interruptive immediacy of naysaying can occur at surprising and inconvenient moments. The ability to refuse emerges early and maintains its appeal and power. In cultures of capitalist consumption, “no” has the power to defend and upend assumptions of order and propriety. From Thoreau to Gandhi to Marcuse, the will to nothing has provided a source of individual and collective creation.

Refusals dramatically reshape politics, nationhood, sovereignty, and land. Twice over the past 75 years the Greeks have famously declared their own version of No, “OXI”; the Brexiters aimed to withdraw from the European Union without proposing an alternative; Native Americans from across the continent have come together against DAPL in a collective refusal. The contexts of “No” involve political, economic, even physical risks, making naysaying an often difficult and complex act.

“No” can be a language of protest and overcoming. Its power operates across lines of disciplines and ideology, across modes of writing and the refusal to write. Negation can resist or avoid authority, or can identify and highlight forces which insist on forms of complicity and agreement. The lines between different forms—the conservative “no,” the creative “no,” the “no” of the striker or dissident—deny the clarity of lines of ideology or identity. “No” also brings about its own failures and dangers: of inaction, of regret, of retribution.

We invite proposals for papers and presentations. Topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • Policies and programs of naysaying
  • No as a refusal of patriarchy
  • Queerness or refusals of gender
  • The “No means No” movement
  • Afro-Pessimism and social negation
  • The feminist killjoy
  • Non-philosophy and non-aesthetics
  • Historically significant refusals
  • Disidentification and nonsovereignty
  • Disrupting hierarchies & taxonomies
  • Rhetorics and narratives of naysaying
  • Ressentiment and declination
  • Activism, protest, and occupation
  • Non-Anthropocene and nonanthropocentrism
  • Disability versus nonability
  • Refusing bureaucracy
  • Bureaucratic refusal
  • The unproductivity of saying no
  • Naysaying and inaction

The CFP is closed.

Send abstract (250 words), including your university affiliation, department, and position, by Wednesday, February 1st, 2017 to Kennan Ferguson, Director, Center for 21st Century Studies at

Conference website

Conference poster (PDF)

Call for Conference Proposals

The Center seeks proposals that will further its mission of promoting cutting-edge research and encouraging dialogue across disciplinary boundaries in the humanities, arts, and humanistically informed social sciences. Topics should have the potential both of appealing to a broad range of researchers in and around UWM and of having a wider impact on scholarly debates in the humanities nationally and internationally. Any topic that falls within the humanities, broadly conceived, has interdisciplinary appeal, and does not duplicate recent conferences may be proposed. Descriptions and some programs of recent conferences are available below.

Landbody (May 5-7, 2016)

After Extinction (April 30-May 2, 2015)

Anthropocene Feminism (April 10-12, 2014)

The Dark Side of the Digital (May 2-4, 2013)

The Nonhuman Turn (May 3-5, 2012)

Embodied Placemaking in Urban Public Spaces | Fall 2010 (October 8, 2010) | Spring 2011 (April 29, 2011)

DEBT (April 28 - May 1, 2010)

Since 1968 (October 23-25, 2008)

In Terms of Gender: Crosscultural and Interdisciplinary Perspectives (May 4-5, 2007)

In/Dependence: Disability, Welfare, and Age (April 7, 2006)

Art of the State: Sovereignty Past and Present (October 21-22, 2005)

Routing Diasporas (April 8-9, 2005)

Museums and Difference (November 14-15, 2003)

9/11: Reconstructions (October 4-5, 2002)

Just Feelings: Citizenship, Justice, and the Emotions (April 27-28, 2001)

Representing Animals (April 13-15, 2000)

Knowing Mass Culture/Mediating Knowledge (April 29 - May 1, 1999)

Anthropology, Genetic Diversity, and Ethics (February 12-13, 1999)

Public Showing (April 16-18, 1998)

Biotechnology, Culture, and the Body (April 24-26, 1997)

Women & Aging: Bodies, Cultures, Generations (April 18-20, 1996)

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