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CfP: The Philosophy of Portraits

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The Philosophy of Portraits:
An international conference

April 13-14, 2018
University of Maryland College Park

*extended deadline: 15 December *

Portraits are everywhere. One finds them not just in museums and galleries, but also in newspapers and magazines, in the homes of people and in the boardrooms of companies, on stamps and coins, on millions of cell phones and computers. Despite its huge popularity, however, portraiture hasn’t received much philosophical attention. While there are countless art historical studies of portraiture, including self-portraiture and group-portraiture, contemporary philosophy has largely remained silent on the subject. The proposed conference aims to address this lacuna and bring together philosophers with different areas of expertise to discuss this enduring and continuously fascinating genre.

Confirmed speakers: Anne W. Eaton (University of Illinois), Cynthia Freeland (University of Houston), Jerrold Levinson (University of Maryland), Hans Maes (University of Kent), Dorothy Moss (National Portrait Gallery), Jenefer Robinson (University of Cincinnati).

Call for papers: We invite submissions on any issue related to portraiture. Papers should not exceed 5000 words and should be accompanied by a 100-word abstract and a page with your contact details. Please prepare your submission for blind review. You can send papers to philosophyofportraits@gmail.com. Extended deadline: 15 December 2017. Communication of acceptance: January 25, 2018.

A selection of the papers presented at the conference will be collected in a book, edited by the conference organizers and provisionally entitled Portraiture: Philosophical Perspectives. Oxford University Press has expressed an interest in publishing such a volume.

Graduate bursaries: We encourage graduate students to submit a paper. The two best graduate submissions by ASA student members will be awarded a graduate student travel grant of up to $500 to help cover travel and accommodation expenses.
Possible topics:

• What makes something a portrait?
• In what way is this genre similar to and different from other genres?
• How have artists pushed against the limits and conventions of the type and what does this reveal about the nature of portraiture?
• Can there be abstract portraits?
• What distinguishes artistic portraits from non-artistic portraits and what part does cultural appropriation play in this?
• In what way and to what extent does the recent vogue for selfies relate to the tradition of self-portraiture?
• How can authenticity in portraiture be achieved if portraits necessarily involve posing?
• How do portraitists seek to render a person’s likeness?
• How do depictive strategies in the West compare to those of non-Western traditions?
• What is the role of medium in portraiture?
• Do portraits necessarily fall within the domain of non-fiction?
• Can a portrait ever capture the essence of a person or distill a person’s identity?
• How does personal style – of the artist and the sitter – enter into the making of a portrait and how is it connected to someone’s identity and group membership?
• Can we evaluate a portrait without knowing the sitter and if so, on what basis?
• How do artists express attitudes and emotions towards the sitters of their portraits?
• What are the moral dimensions of the relations between artist, sitter, patron, and audience?
• How do portraits perpetuate or challenge stereotypes?
• How might portraiture help to challenge or change standards of beauty?
• Can a portrait be objectifying?
• Can portraits be pornographic, and if so, what moral questions does that raise?
• How might portraits help to empower someone or a group a people?

Planning committee: Susan Feagin (Temple University), Ivan Gaskell (Bard Graduate Center), Karen Gover (Bennington College), Jason Leddington (Bucknell University), and the two principal organizers: Jerrold Levinson (University of Maryland) and Hans Maes (University of Kent).

The organizers fully support the goals of the Gendered Conference Campaign (GCC) and will seek to ensure the recruitment and participation of women and members of other historically-underrepresented and excluded groups.
We gratefully acknowledge financial support from the The American Society for Aesthetics and The University of Maryland College Park.