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Call for papers – Games of late modernity

Games of late modernity

Johan Huizinga’s Homo Ludens: 75 Years Later (Tilburg University, January 15-17 2014)

The end of this year will be marked by the 75th anniversary of Johan Huizinga’s classic study of the Homo Ludens. Its main thesis is, as striking as it is simple, well known: Culture is founded on and as a form of play. Huizinga’s aim was to understand play as a ‘totality’. The element of play can be observed in all different aspects of culture, ranging from seemingly innocuous leisure activities to the uttermost serious and advanced systems, such as the financial world or political institutions.

Though, self-evident as Huizinga’s thesis still seems to be, with regard to multiple Huizinga-quotations in various fields of contemporary scholarship,  the modern-day situation also raises a pivotal problem: it seems impossible to keep thinking of game and play as a humanistic principle of knowledge, ethics and aesthetics in the exact same sense as Huizinga did. Modern day experiences such as warfare and economical and scientific fraud, wherein every rule of the game is being postponed, force us to revise and amplify Huizinga’s thesis, in order to rediscover Huizinga’s far-reaching significance today. The purpose of this three-day conference is to bring together experts from a number of disciplines to shed light on Huizinga’s thesis. Participants are asked to address at least one of the following issues:

  1. Playing after Auschwitz: how is it possible to formulate a theory of play that is able to deal with culture not only in its elegant and innocuous appearances, but in its most cruel and tragic forms as well?
  2. To play or being played with: The power of the culture industry tells us that we are playing all of the time, from the first until the very last minute. But one has to come to terms with the fact that this can hardly be the free-play Huizinga has proclaimed.
  3. From cultural history to sociology: intellectuals such as Levi-Strauss and Foucault and many more have deployed an idea of game as the structure society. How can they revise and strengthen Huizinga’s concept of game and play?
  4. The ethos of play: to play means to play by the rules. But isn’t the disappearance of any rules whatsoever precisely late modernity’s main characteristic? How to deal with those who cheat?

We welcome individual abstracts as well as panel proposals, from every relevant field, such as sociology, anthropology and criminology, history and historiography, economy and management studies, ethics, philosophy, aesthetics and cultural studies, biology and psychology.

Confirmed speakers are: Loïc Wacquant, Elena Esposito, Giorgio Agamben (t.b.c.), Dubravka Ugrešić, Thomas Macho, Jos de Mul, Joyce Goggin, and Helmut Lethen.

If you are interested in participating, please submit a 300-words paper proposal and a short résumé of your current research by September 1 2013 to Léon Hanssen, Professor of Life Writing and Cultural Memory, Tilburg University, email:

Participants will be informed of acceptance by September 30. The conference fee will be €250 and includes: two receptions, lunch and refreshments during all three days of the conference, free admittance to De Pont (museum of contemporary art), access to all artist performances and video screenings.
Members of the OSL or the Huizinga Instituut will be exempted from this fee.

Together with the keynotes a number of papers will be selected for a book to be published by Amsterdam University Press and an affiliated international academic publishing house.

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