Call for Papers


Policing Culture – 29 May 2020

Venue: Silverstone Building, University of Sussex, Brighton UK


Deadline for abstracts: 20 April 2020

It has been argued that populism can be reclaimed through the engagement of the ‘aesthetics of resistance’ (Mouffe 2018). The concept, originally coined by the playwright Peter Weiss against the backdrop of rising fascism in the 1930s, asserts that art and culture not only represent a form of dissent but can also offer new modes for political action. The platforms and opportunities to engage in such forms of resistance, however, are not evenly shared.  Marginalised communities, whether because of their class position or ethnicity (or indeed both) for example, have differential access to creating and participating in such acts of resistance. At the same time, we see public debates on freedom of speech which are applied asymmetrically to different communities.


For example, while 2019 saw Stormzy headline Glastonbury, it also saw the ongoing policing of young black musicians. Similarly, the securitisation agenda impacts on the representation of Muslims whereby Muslims are represented through narratives of terrorism or there are direct forms of censorship (the banning of the play Homegrown) or the co-option of artistic endeavours through funding through the Prevent agenda.

The theme of the proposed conference is therefore, 'Policing Culture'. Policing in this context refers to both the regulation and criminalisation of ‘culture’ in its broadest sense. The conference seeks to highlight how policing in the form of censorship, exclusion or regulation is enacted on marginalized communities’ cultural engagement and explore how this is both a response to and a perpetuation of the idea that complex social problems (whether they be knife crime or ‘radicalisation’) can be reduced to mere ‘culture’.

Topics may include but are not restricted to:

  • Debates on criminalisation of youth cultures and music cultures
  • The role of the media (in all its forms) in policing culture
  • How popular culture can be both a site of consent and resistance to ‘policing’
  • The exclusion of the working class from performance arts education
  • The impact of austerity on ‘policing’ culture
  • The role of the securitisation agenda on ‘culture’
  • Culture wars in the context of academic freedom, wokeness and freedom of speech
  • Criminalising culture e.g. the construction of 'cultural' practices
  • Policing culture and gender-based violence, the impact of #metoo, online sexual harassment, policing ‘cultural practices’
  • Debates on bordering, and global nationalisms with regards to the policing of culture
  • The role of social media e.g. the rise of alt right social media activity and online trolling
  • The backlash against ‘hate speech’ and the rise of right-wing ‘free speech’ advocacy
  • Policing culture in the university; how marketisation affects critical thinking in the university  

In the spirit of cultural studies, the organisers would like to positively encourage submissions from academic and non-academic practitioners. As such, formats could include, but are not restricted to:

•           Installations

•           Visual arts

•           Short films

•           Literature – poems, spoken word, music

•           Sound art; as well as

•           Conference papers (between 15 and 30 minutes).

Conference fees (including lunch and refreshments) are as follows: £80 for academics and those in full time work, £25 students/low paid, £25 charity sector/NGOs. Bursaries will be available to support voluntary and community organisations.

Conference dinner (optional) £25.

Registration will open on 25 April 2020

This conference invites activists, academics and practitioners to contribute to this important intervention into this debate. The organisers would also like to facilitate intergenerational conversations through exploring these themes historically where possible. Interested parties are invited to send in abstracts of no more than 250 words to by Monday 20 April 2020