Andrew Schaap at APSA 2016


Thanks to a bursary from the Political Studies Association (UK), I was able attend APSA for the fourth time in my career. I organized two panels at the conference as part of the Foundations of Political Theory stream. The theme of the panels was ‘Conditions of Agonistic Politics’, which were held on the Saturday morning of the conference. The second session was supported by the Political Studies Association.

The notion of agonism denotes struggle. For the ancients this indicated a struggle for excellence through competition among citizens. Some contemporary democratic theorists have revived the notion of agonism to thematise the political significance of conflict in a way that is irreducible to non-political determinants or normative criteria (e.g. moral, legal, economic standards etc.). In doing so they have challenged democratic theories that presuppose or elide the political rather than recognizing this as the contested terrain of democratic politics itself. In reasserting the autonomy of the political, however, they sometimes neglect the conditions that give rise to and/or shape the kinds of struggles that theorists of agonist democracy see as so salient to constituting the boundaries of the political. Contributors to the panel examined the conditions of agonistic politics, including, for instance, ontological conditions, social conditions, institutional settings and limit conditions such as violence.

Marina Kaneti (New School), Ferindando Menga (Tubingen) and Lars Toender (Copenhagen) presented papers on the first panel at 8am on Saturday morning. I chaired the panel and David Owen (Southampton) was discussant. Jason Edwards (Birkbeck), James Ingram (McMaster), Mark Wenman (Birmingham) and I presented papers on the second panel. The panel was chaired by Holloway Sparks (Emory) and David Owen (Southampton) acted as discussant, stepping in at short notice for Moya Lloyd (who, unfortunately, had lost her voice).

I also chaired and acted as discussant on an excellent panel on Friday morning called ‘Protests and Publics: Revisiting Marginalized Groups’ Standing and Uptake’ on which papers were presented by Ayten Gundogdu, Sharon Krause, Daniel Nichanian, Deva Woodly and Ana Maria Ospina Pedraza. Attending the conference also enabled me to participate in an editorial board meeting of Contemporary Political Theory for which I am book reviews editor.