CFP for AAG: On Problematization

CFP: AAG Annual Meeting, New Orleans, April 10-14, 2018

“On Problematization”

Session organizers:          JD Dewsbury      (UNSW @ ADFA Canberra)

Tom Roberts      (UNSW @ ADFA Canberra)

Scott Sharpe      (UNSW @ ADFA Canberra)

“Up to now, overall, each person trusted in his [sic] concepts, as in a miraculous dowry that had come from some just as miraculous world … The first need then is for an absolute skepticism with respect to all traditional concepts of philosophy”

  • Friedrich Nietzsche (Debaise, 2016: 10)

The notion of ‘problematization’ turns around a central question of pressing concern for geographers today, namely: what capacities for thinking and doing social research are lost when we make do with problems that are themselves preconceived? In an intellectual milieu that often privileges doom-laden narratives, there is a need to address an insidious conservatism when identifying the kinds of problems that geographical research might inhabit. This task is, we feel, rendered all the more critical in a time increasingly dominated by the sad encounters of fear and the forces of ressentiment, the effect of which is to reduce our powers of thinking and acting to an instrumental logic of problem-solving. This session seeks to mobilize debate around the notion of problematization, which we present as a provocation to refuse the comforting conservatism of ready-made problems in contemporary geographical research. Problems, we contend, always have the solutions they deserve, which makes the articulation of a problem – that is, the process of problematization – a matter of invention. It is precisely this inventive, generative, and indeed disruptive force of problematization that we wish to explore here, whether in relation to the micropolitics of articulating new conceptual problems, the ethics of producing subjectivities through problematizing processes, or, indeed, the inherence of material forces that make of life a problematic process in itself.

We therefore welcome papers that seek to incorporate problematization into the doing of their thinking, whether by resisting the comfort of ready-made problems through the composition of new empirico-theoretical landscapes, experimenting with research practices at the very limit of sense-making, or by generating modes of subjectivity capable of expressing the singularity of events. By focusing on problematization our aim is to generate conversation in relation to a broad range of contemporary research topics, including but by no means limited to: aesthetics, biotechnology, code, digitalization, ecology, fashion, geology, health, image, literature, machines, politics, science, etc. We are particularly interested in papers that unpack, explore and experiment with the notion of problematization in relation to:

  • Methods: practices that problematize methodological assumptions pertaining to authenticity, representation, creativity, and the distinction between fact and fiction;
  • Impact: projects that short-circuit the demands of policy, that disrupt the scalar politics of ‘impactful’ research, or that explore alternative modes of valuing and evaluating research outputs;
  • Concepts: interventions that question the ontological foundations of social scientific research and the values these foundations imply, that body-forth new and uncertain stances towards the real, or that seek to infect everyday experience with nonhuman forces;
  • Empirics: experiments that re-think what counts as empirical research, that inhabit the zone of indiscernibility between bodies and ideas, and that trouble established logics of perception.

Please send titles and abstracts (no more than 250 words) to JD Dewsbury (, Tom Roberts ( and Scott Sharpe ( by Friday October 6th, 2017.





Debaise, D. (2016). “The Dramatic Power of Events.” Deleuze Studies, 10(1), pp. 5-18.



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