2017 Interstices Symposium: The Arts of Spinoza + Pacific Spinoza


October 28, 2016

Call for papers – symposium and journal issue

Interstices Under Construction symposium, 26-28 May 2017.
The University of Auckland and Auckland University of Technology, Aotearoa New Zealand.

EXTENDED DEADLINE: Abstracts will now be accepted up to Tuesday 14 Feb, midnight NZST.


Plenaries / keynotes include:
– Challis Professor of Philosophy, University of Sydney
– Baier Chair in Early Modern Philosophy, University of Otago
– Professor of Geography & Planning, University of Toronto
– Professor, Writing and Society, University of Western Sydney
>> Pacific Spinoza plenary panel:
– Visiting Assistant Professor, Anthropology, Haverford College
– Tuhourangi, Ngati Whanaunga, Senior Lecturer, Education, University of Waikato
– Senior Lecturer, Spatial Design, Auckland University of Technology
>> By Skype:
– Reader, Philosophy, University of Aberdeen
– Professor, Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London

The conference will be opened with a mihi whakatau, and by university heads and by His Excellency Rob Zaagman, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Details about registration and ticketing to be announced shortly, along with the programme.


For the full version of the discussion document and call for papers, including references and citations, click here (PDF file, 1.4 MB). (The following is an abbreviated version with some referencing omitted.)

We invite scholarly submissions on the philosophy of Benedict de Spinoza (1632-1677), for a special issue of Interstices journal and for the annual Interstices symposium to be held in Auckland, New Zealand, 26-28 May 2017. The intent is to further consolidate the recent intensifications of interest in Spinoza’s thought, and to reaffirm his status as an enormously powerful thinker of contemporary relevance. Papers on any aspect of Spinoza studies are thus welcomed. But the more specific aim of the symposium and journal issue is twofold: firstly, to extend the burgeoning scholarship on Spinoza into the domains of study parsed by Interstices, namely arts and architecture, and secondly, to situate Spinoza’s philosophy within the particular locus of New Zealand, Australasia, the South Pacific, and the Pacific Rim more broadly. Each of these aspects will be tackled in separate sessions or separate days of the symposium.

With regard to the first aim, we welcome submissions that put Spinoza’s philosophy in productive proximity with a particular artform or an individual work of art, whether literature, painting, sculpture, architecture, film, music, dance, performance, etc. — or that have an especial focus on any of the numerous artistic and literary figures who are known to have read Spinoza appreciatively and in whose works Spinozist shadings might be discerned (Goethe, Coleridge, George Eliot, Jorge Luis Borges, Louis Zukofsky, Kenzaburo Oe, Thomas Hirschhorn, Maira Kalman, Philippe Grandrieux, etc. — and of course Isaac Bashevis Singer and his Spinoza of Market Street). Contributors might like to think of this event and journal issue as providing a forum for extending, especially in the direction of art and architecture, the pioneering work done by Moira Gatens on Spinoza and literature and the arts (particularly on George Eliot), and by the authors of the fine anthology Spinoza Beyond Philosophy (2012), edited by Beth Lord.

Since Interstices’s particular interest is in architectural studies, we would be keen to see contributions that consider Spinoza as helpful for thinking any of the design and spatial disciplines (architecture, urban design, landscape, cartography, interior design, and so on). Geographers, planners, and landscape designers might note the way in which Spinoza’s natura pre-empts the conceptual categories by which we continue to delineate nature and cities and spaces. Contributors might also choose to take ‘architecture’ in the sense of ‘structure’, in which case not only would built environments and tectonics be the subject of analysis, but also the very structure of Spinoza’s texts, the extraordinary way in which his texts are wrought (the famous geometric architecture of the Ethics, for example).

We also invite submissions that don’t necessarily fall under any of the artistic disciplines listed above, and that interpret “arts” in the broadest possible sense. Spinoza’s philosophy predates the modern idea of a differentiated domain of the arts, and so the Latin word that Spinoza uses — ars — has the older and broader sense of skill or craft or ability or proficiency, as Moira Gatens has pointed out (“Spinoza on Goodness” 3). We thus welcome submissions that are about ‘arts’ in this more general sense — for example, about what Spinoza teaches us about the arts of living (ars vivendi) or the arts of constructing a liberal polity (ars politica, government, statecraft).

With regard to the second aim (“Pacific Spinoza”), we invite submissions on any aspects of Spinoza studies that have a connection to New Zealand, Australia, the South Pacific, or Asia-Pacific and the Pacific Rim more broadly. Such papers might, for example, examine the historical reception and interpretation of Spinoza in New Zealand, Australia, the Oceanic “sea of islands”, or any proximate sister region. The idea is to give geographic concreteness and local specificity to the interpretation of Spinoza — to see how Spinoza might be or has been read in New Zealand and the Pacific, and inversely to see how our ways of thinking about New Zealand and the Pacific might be productively inflected by reading Spinoza.

– Eu Jin Chua, October 2016


Abstracts of 300 words (for fifteen- to twenty-minute paper presentations), along with a short biographical statement of 100 words, to be sent to pacificspinoza@gmail.com, by midnight NZST, 30th January 2017. EXTENDED DEADLINE: Abstracts will now be accepted up to Tuesday 14 Feb, midnight NZST. Abstracts submitted by this date will receive a decision in the second half of March or sooner. (Those who have already submitted abstracts, thank you — decisions will be sent out for these by late February or latest early March.)

For purposes of peer review, the abstract should be sent in a separate self-contained file with no identifying information in it. Please send Microsoft Word files only (DOC or DOCX). Abstracts will be vetted through a process of blind peer review.

Selected papers from the symposium will be invited for revision, peer review, and publication in the subsequent issue of Interstices. If you are unable to attend the symposium in New Zealand, but wish to submit a paper for the journal issue (Interstices volume 18, to be published at the end of 2017), please send the full and completed paper to pacificspinoza@gmail.com by 31st May 2017.

Further inquiries can be directed to the convenor EU JIN CHUA, echua@aut.ac.nz; FARZANEH HAGHIGHI, f.haghighi@auckland.ac.nz; or to SUSAN HEDGES, the Coordinating Editor of Interstices, shedges@aut.ac.nz.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/events/317422228641761

Please note that this will be the first of two Interstices symposia in 2017; the second will be on an unrelated theme and will be announced shortly in a separate post.


— Gatens, Moira. “Compelling Fictions: Spinoza and George Eliot on Imagination and Belief.” European Journal of Philosophy 20.1 (2012): 74–90.
— Gatens, Moira. “Spinoza on Goodness and Beauty and the Prophet and the Artist.” European Journal of Philosophy 23.1 (2015): 1–16.
— Hau’ofa, Epeli. “Our Sea of Islands.” The Contemporary Pacific 6.1 (1994): 147–161.
— Lord, Beth, ed. Spinoza Beyond Philosophy. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2012.

Image above of Nicolas Dings’ Spinoza Monument in Amsterdam, photograph by Frederick Dennstedt, Creative Commons licence, adapted by Farzaneh Haghighi. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/