Marginality in The European Legacy

There is a call for papers out for an upcoming special issue of The European Legacy, the official organ of the International Society for the Study of European Ideas (ISSEI). The issue will focus on the problem of marginality in European intellectual history – both posed as an empirical problem and as a problem for methodological and theoretical reflection in humanities disciplines which too often focus on “canons” (whether in art, literature, philosophy, religion, politics, or science). The topic should interest readers of this blog as much as it does me. The deadline is shortly after next vernal equinox, and the issue should be out shortly before the end of the world. More information (official CFP) below. (Thanks to Renaud Evrard for bringing this to my attention).


A Special Issue of “The European Legacy”

Guest Editors: COSTICA BRADATAN (The Honors College, Texas Tech University) & AURELIAN CRAIUTU (Department of Political Science, Indiana University, Bloomington)

“The European Legacy” invites contributions to a special issue devoted to the study of marginality, broadly defined.
The issue will feature at the outset a conversation on marginality with WENDY DONIGER (Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of History of Religions, University of Chicago), RAMIN JAHANBEGLO (Professor of Political Science, University of Toronto), GORDON MARINO (Professor of Philosophy, St Olaf College) and GIUSEPPE MAZZOTTA (Sterling Professor of the Humanities for Italian, Yale University).

“The European Legacy,” published by Routledge, is the official journal of the International Society for the Study of European Ideas:

This special issue is scheduled for 2012.


Academic disciplines have been routinely dominated, both in terms of research agendas and dissemination practices, by a concentration on a relatively small number of “canonical” thinkers and writings. A tacitly accepted “principle of economy” makes that, in our research, we (almost) always gravitate toward “canonical” authors, texts, and themes. Teachers, for instance, tend to persuade their students to pay attention to the “central” aspects of any given problem and stay away from the allegedly “marginal” or “peripheral” ones, which are thus deemed to be either too risky or otherwise unworthy of sustained consideration. Not surprisingly, we end up spending most of our time concentrating on what the academic community considers to be the “core-issues” in various academic disciplines, just as we tend to focus our projects on the study of various “mainstream” authors, “central” themes and “canonical” texts. As a result, our systems of reference – in scholarship, but also in every-day life, morality, art, politics and religion – have come to rely heavily on the assumption of an intrinsic superiority of the “center,” the “canonical” and the “mainstream,” to such an extent that “marginal” and “peripheral” are epithets customarily used with (and perceived as carrying) pejorative connotations.

This special issue of The European Legacy seeks to challenge this assumption. We surmise that there is a great deal of vitality and richness to be found both at the margins – wherever they may be and wherever they may be placed in relation to the centers of power – and in theorizing on marginality as a philosophical, literary, political, and hermeneutic trope. The center (or the core) exists only in relation to the margins: it is in fact from the margins that the center receives its recognition (there can be no center without margins), just as it is from the vitality of the margins that the center extracts its resources. Therefore, it is only by looking at things (events, cultures, ideas, texts, political and social processes) dialectically – that is, from both the perspective of the center and that of the margins, and especially as a result of the center-periphery dynamic – that we can better understand their role in the creation and dissemination of knowledge.

The central aim of this project is to offer a reconceptualization of marginality, by exploring how it is perceived, constructed, and deconstructed, and by examining the role it plays in the dynamic of knowledge production across humanistic disciplines. We propose to consider marginality in a broad sense, e.g., the marginality of an idea, of a scholarly topic or theme of research, of a methodology or way of thinking, as well as in relation to “marginal” thinkers, cultures and schools of thought. In proposing this reconsideration of marginality we also hope: 1) to cast new light on marginality as a philosophical theme in its in own right – that is, as a subject worthy of sustained theoretical reflection; 2) to revive interest in some key themes and authors of great merit whose rediscovery or retrieval from oblivion might enrich and enliven debates in fields such as philosophy, comparative literature, political theory, sociology, history, anthropology, and religious studies; and 3) to challenge the “centro-centric” obsessions and parochial self-sufficiency that sometimes creep into the academic literature produced within these fields.

We believe that a critical and interdisciplinary study of marginality (broadly defined) can contribute to the emergence of a new epistemic ecumenism allowing us to understand the multifarious ways in which our knowledge of the world is produced, structured and disseminated. The reconsideration of marginality – of marginal themes, authors and texts, of non-canonical ways of thinking, methodologies and epistemic cultures – can also help us better understand ourselves as members of various scholarly communities. Finally, in the long run, a sustained engagement with marginality can make us intellectually richer, culturally more open, and politically more tolerant.

Here are some of the questions that we invite potential contributors to consider: What is marginality and how should this concept be studied? How, and on what grounds, something comes to be considered “marginal” or “central”? Is marginality (or centrality, for that matter) some “quality” intrinsic to an idea, topic or author? If yes, what is it exactly? If not, is marginality (centrality) a matter of context and circumstance, or something else? How is it that an originally “marginal” idea, theme or author come to acquire mainstream status? Is it simply a matter of “passing the test of time,” of chance, a matter of “the right time and the right place”? Is the fact due to some form “epistemic luck”? Reversely, how exactly do ideas, topics, and authors go “out of fashion” and become marginal? How does one’s “anxiety of marginality” shape one’s thinking? What is the role of marginality in the formation of the epistemic canon? How do the center and the margin communicate with each other? How exactly does the periphery change, challenge and redefine the body of knowledge that is produced by/at the center?

We invite submissions addressing several modes of marginality:

• epistemic marginality (the marginality of an idea, concept, theory, methodology)
• auctorial marginality (marginality of an author in relation to the mainstream)
• cultural marginality (local research cultures, marginal research programs/agendas)
• geographic marginality (peripheral places/cultures and their relationship to the metropolitan centers).


Deadline for submissions: March 31, 2011

Length: 6000 words (including notes)


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