Department News

2016 East-West Philosophers’ Conference – CFP

The 11th East-West Philosophers’ Conference: “Place”

Wednesday May 25-Tuesday May 31, 2016

Call for Proposals

Humanity takes up space. In this, humanity is no different from other species. Humanity also purposefully transforms space, but is not unique in doing so. Other species also reshape the spaces they occupy to serve their purposes: birds create nests, bees create hives and beavers create dams. What seems to be uniquely human is the disposition to qualitatively transform spaces into places that are charged with distinctive kinds of significance.

Contemporary philosophical uses of the word “place” cover considerable conceptual ground, centered on a distinction between ‘space’ and ‘place’ that was formalized by geographer-philosopher Yi-fu Tuan, who suggested that “place incorporates the experiences and aspirations of a people” over the course of their moral and aesthetic engagement with sites and locations. Building on this distinction, we might say that spaces are openings for different kinds of presence—physical, emotional, cognitive, dramatic, spiritual, and so on. Places emerge through fusions of different ways of being present over time—a meaning-infusing layering of relationships and experiences that imbue a locale with its distinctively collaborative significance. Place implies sustainably appreciated and enhanced relational quality.

For many indigenous peoples, the relation to “place” has traditionally been so intimate that to be forced off the land is to be forced out of themselves, cut off from part of what makes them who they are. But contemporary urban residents develop similar senses of the dynamic and recursive relationship between who they are and where they are, and among even those who are most globally mobile, recognition persists of the significance of a ‘house’ being transformed into a ‘home.’ Humanity is a place-making species.

Yet the place-making propensities of humanity seem from the outset to have been inseparable from questions about our place in the world—the place of ‘humanity,’ of ‘my people,’ and of ‘me’ personally. One result of these questions has been the crafting of complexly imagined cosmologies and narratives of “promised lands” and “paradises” beyond the horizon of present experience. Another result, however, have been concerns growing out of the recognition that our places in the world are not equal and that being present together in some common social, economic, or political space does not necessarily endow us with equivalent opportunities for participation and contribution. At times, these concerns about equity and justice have led to the crafting of “non-places”—utopias—as means to establishing trajectories of hope that might lift us out of opportunity- and dignity-denying places.

For the 11th East-West Philosophers’ Conference, we are inviting panel and paper proposals related to the theme of “Place.” Of special interest are panels and papers that explore how places emerge through the sustained, shared practices of mutually-responsive and mutually-vulnerable actors. Subthemes might include: the place of the personal, including issues of identity-construction and privacy; place and culture, including considerations of how cultures shape and are shaped by relationships with natural and built environments; places of pilgrimage, including places charged with political or cultural, as well as, religious significance; places of memory; places of mediation, including social and mass media; place and the political, including places of justice and places of both conflict and peace; trading places, including the places of entrepreneurship and concerns about the place of equity in economics; and the place of philosophy, addressing issues about the real and ideal roles of philosophy in contemporary society.

About the East-West Philosopher’s Conference:

For more than three-quarters of a century, the East-West Philosophers’ Conference series has hosted a dialogue among some of the world’s most prominent philosophers of their time. The dialogue began in 1939 when three University of Hawai‘i visionaries—Professors Charles A. Moore, Wing-tsit Chan, and Gregg Sinclair—initiated the first East-West Philosophers’ Conference in Honolulu. Its aim was to explore the significance of Eastern ways of thinking as a complement to Western thought, and to distill a possible synthesis of the ideas and ideals that are aspired to in these unique traditions. Comparative philosophy has evolved from this earliest idea to pursue a mutual respect and accommodation among the world’s cultures, with conferences continuing to be held in 1949, 1959, 1964, 1969, 1989, 1995, 2000, 2005, and 2011. Each of these conferences focused on a theme chosen as a vital issue of its time.

This conference series has been successful in fostering dialogue among philosophical traditions, and was instrumental in the establishment of the East-West Center on the campus of the University of Hawai‘i in 1960. Philosophy East & West, now one of the leading journals on comparative studies, was founded in 1951 as a forum that continues this same dialogue. Conference volumes from papers presented at these conferences have been published by the University of Hawai’i Press to share with and promote further discussion on its theme within the world academic community.

Sponsoring Institutions:

The EAST-WEST CENTER promotes better relations and understanding among the people and nations of the United States, Asia, and the Pacific through cooperative study, research, and dialogue. Established by the U.S. Congress in 1960, the Center serves as a resource for information and analysis on critical issues of common concern, bringing people together to exchange views, build expertise, and develop policy options.

The UNIVERSITY OF HAWAI’I is a Research I institution founded in 1907 that has identified Asia and the Pacific as one of its selected area of excellence, with many of the centers in its School of Pacific and Asian Studies ranked as National Resource Centers. The University of Hawai’i Press is one of the leading international publishers of scholarly monographs and journals on Asian cultures.

A short abstract can be sent to the organizing committee by email attachment to: The deadline for abstracts is November 1, 2015. We anticipate that this forthcoming conference like the previous ten will be an historical event. We look forward to welcoming you to the Islands.

Roger T. Ames and Peter D. Hershock, Co-Directors