Last week (19-21 June 2014) I was lucky enough to head stateside for the Diverse Lineages of Existentialism (DLE) conference in St Louis, Missouri. The conference took place at the Hyatt Regency at the Arch, in downtown St Louis and near to the Old Courthouse where the Dred Scott trial took place. Two years in the making, the conference was a fantastic event involving several hundred participants and seven different societies (Caribbean Philosophical Association, Collegium of Black Women Philosophers, Merleau-Ponty Circle, North American Sartre Society (NASS), PhiloSOPHIA, Roundtable on Latina Feminism and the Simone de Beauvoir Society). Some session were recorded and you can check out what is available on the DLE YouTube playlist.
There was a stellar line-up of speakers and fantastic array of topics covered, although the sheer number of concurrent panel sessions and the excellent range of papers meant that it was often a tough call to decide what to participate in. For a taste of what what was happening, check out the programme here. I missed the opening plenary session (featuring members from all organising societies), but you can check out Margaret A. Simons, Jane Gordon, Matt Eshleman, Kathryn Gines, Kyoo Lee, Bryan Lueck, Mariana Ortega and Gail Weiss setting the scene for the conference here.
Thursday evening’s keynote was Lewis Gordon (Connecticut, Toulouse, Rhodes); his wonderful talk on Existential Philosophy as World Philosophy (watch the recording) was followed up by a reception on the top floor of the Hyatt Regency with amazing views across St Louis. A number of awards for papers were given out on Friday evening (check out a video recording of the De Beauvoir awards here) followed by a number of people from the conference heading over to BB’s Jazz, Blues & Soups afterwards! Poetry readings took place each morning before the conference sessions began (see the opening poem by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o and Njeeri wa Ngugi here). The conference closed with a session on Subversive and Emancipatory Existential Theory with Nancy Bauer (Tufts), Robert Bernasconi (Pennsylvania State), Paget Henry (Brown) and Mirelle Fanon-Mendes-France (Fondation Fanon).
I attended sessions on the Thursday and Saturday of the conference and was privileged to participate in Saturday’s panel Ron Aronson: Keeping Commitment Alive, speaking on progress, hope and revolution alongside Jonathan Judaken (Rhodes) on “the politics of everyday life”, “Marcuse’s ghost” and Ron’s life and works. It was a wonderful way to honour Ron (Wayne State), his work, activism and the support he has given to so many, including myself. As with all of the other NASS organised sessions which were dedicated to a particular Sartre scholar (Thomas Flynn (Emory), William McBride (Purdue), David Detmer (Purdue) and Ron Santoni (Denison)) Ron was there to respond and comment on our papers. This was undoubtedly an exceptional opportunity to hear some of the most well-known Sartre scholars at one conference. Indeed, Diverse Lineages… as a whole was an exceptional conference and I left feeling inspired and invigorated by the discussions I’d had and speakers I’d heard. I very much hope that this will be the first of many collaborative efforts.