CFP: Images of the Rabble, Praktyka Teoretyczna [Theoretical Practice] Special Issue (abstract deadline Nov. 15, 2019)

Praktyka Teoretyczna [Theoretical Practice] is an open access bi-lingual journal hosted in Poland at the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan. The journal covers a broad array of subjects including political philosophy, history of ideas and social commentary. Currently they are working on a new issue, focusing on the question of rabble and its representations, planned to be published in June 2020.

Editors: Jędrzej Brzeziński, Michał Pospiszyl, Bartosz Wójcik

Languages:  English

Image description: black and white drawing of three persons, playfully engaging each other. One is doing a handstand. Another wields a wooden device. Another is seated and wears an arm sling and forehead bandage. Each figure is labeled: “Courtaut de Boutanche,” “Drille,” and “Narquois” respectively.

Rabble is a category that lies at the very heart of the politics, but at the same time, it sets its limits if not annuls them. Rabble, also known as a multitude, mass, mob or plebs – distorts, disorganises and transforms preestablished ways of thinking about politics, but also art, science or religion. Example of this social stratum most clearly reveals class inequalities, albeit it also questions the very scheme of class division. What interests us here is to fathom the problem of the rabble as it exceeds epochs and combines different scientific disciplines. We want to grasp the effects of the emergence of masses. Identify how popular revolts and ‘witchcraft” in the 16th and 17th century reshaped art history and science of the day. What resulted from the disobedience of seamstresses of Łódź for the People’s Republic of Poland, how the workers’ and women emancipation movements influenced the history of literature, what could have the resistance of animals given rise to, what role in the social structure was to be played by lumpenproletariat, etc. In brief, we want to view the rabble as an “accursed share”, a phenomenon which, albeit theoretically and effectively marginalised, makes provision for the most radical transformations.

The concept of rabble brings about a major paradox of the western political thought – ready to consider the masses as the main political force, constitutive for every stable social order, but at the same time inclined to identify them with something destructive, anarchic, to be harnessed or excluded from the “proper” politics. Rabble – unlike “people” with its role neatly determined in the play of contemporary democracies – proved disobedient to the preestablished political scenarios and instrumentalising apparatuses of power. This very lack of discipline or inability to recognise political authority is responsible for the poor reputation of rabble. For these reasons, Hobbes will decide to enclose it in a pre-social state of nature, Hegel will rule it out of his civil society and orthodoxical Marxism, identifying rabble with lumpenproletariat, will judge it degenerated and conformist. We would like to bring to light the means by which masses (of animals, women, slaves, pirates, immigrants or heretics) were expelled from the domain of politics (as human, rational, male, public), all the while bringing forward the ways by which they enter the scene of history, altered it and reassembled the social.

As an aid for such inquiry, we could propose an approximate scheme of possible answers, as they were formulated by the tradition of political thought. 1) Conservative: rabble is understood as a dangerous entity, threatening the existing order which therefore has to be tamed, if not eradicated. 2) Liberal:  aiming to “civilise” the rabble, subdue its potential and transform into the people understood as the legitimate subject of liberal democracy. 3) Leftist: recognising the masses as the proper political subject and potentially revolutionary class. However, already such phenomena as “populism” or the possibility of fascist cooptation of the mob within the authoritarian regime reveal intertwining and incompleteness of the proposed scheme. We would like to encourage further examinations in the field.

Nonetheless, the philosophical history of the concept of rabble (already quite well described) is not the central theme of the issue. Hence, articles which situate rabble in the context of feminist, post-humanist, literary or visual culture studies, as well as sociological analyses of contemporary social movements, will be particularly welcome.

Abstract submission: 15 November 2019 

Text submission deadline: 30 December 2019

Planned date of publication: June 2020

Suggested questions:

  • Rabble and the anthropological machine
  • Images of masses in the visual culture
  • Rabble in poetry and fiction
  • Rabble and anti-colonialism
  • Fascism and the masses
  • Rabble and posthumanism
  • Political theology of the masses
  • Rabble ontologies
  • Rabble and the people
  • Proletariat and lumpenproletariat
  • Masses within a liberal democracy
  • Rabble and populism
  • Rabble revolution
  • Names of the multitude: rabble, mass, crowd, plebs, the poor, the wretched, etc.
  • Plebeian communism
  • The fear of the masses in political discourse

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