2nd Global Conference
Monday 22nd July – Wednesday 24th July 2013
Mansfield College, Oxford
“Unlike children in other countries, the Eskimos played no game of war. They played with imaginary rifles and harpoons, but these were never directed against people but against the formidable beasts that haunted the vast wastes of their land.” (Marie Herbert)
The interdisciplinary project Making Sense Of: Play seeks to examine the various meanings of “play”, elucidate their inter-relationships and trace the origins of the patterns of play and their place in the human condition. Variations in cultural conditions naturally impact on play, its meanings and its forms, as do, often in a different way, economic inequalities both within and between different cultures. Our deliberations will necessarily takes this into account. In many languages, as in English, throughout its etymological history “play” has been closely connected to the world of children and make believe. Academic study of play, too, deals predominantly with various aspects of children’s play and its importance in development. There is, in fact, a lack of balance between the study of play in relation to children and childhood on one hand, and “play” more generally, as outlined above, on the other. For this reason our project explicitly emphasizes the comparatively under-explored aspects of play in linguistic, literary, philosophical, historical, psychological and evolutionary frames of reference.
“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.”
Possible Themes and Topics:
- Its evolutionary significance: Viewed from biological and paleoanthropoligical standpoint, how has play factored into the evolution of Homo Sapiens?
- In politics: is politics a game? What are the “rules” and how can they be transgressed?
- In literature and the arts: How do the arts function as play in our culture? Are artists game-masters? Are some forms of art especially “playful?” How is “the play the thing”- to quote Shakespeare? What should we make of artistic works in which “dark play” is featured?
- Historical and cultural models of play: Does “play” mean and function differently in different cultures and societies? What can we learn by exploring other cultures’ models of play? Has the concept and practice of play evolved differently for adults and children?
- In philosophy: How does play function in the divide between truth and appearance? Do philosophers “play” with ideas? How can we understand play beyond the limits of specific disciplinary boundaries? Why does play continue to be a “slippery concept”?
- As a psychological issue: Do we need to play as a function of mental health and well being? Are there healthy and non-healthy forms of play? Play/Work/Contemplation: does Aristotle’s analysis of the good life serve contemporary conditions?
- In language: what does it mean to” play with language?” Are metaphors linguistic play? How is ‘deconstruction’ a form of playing with language?
- As humour: How do jokes and other forms of humor operate as play? When might jokes and humor be “anti-play?”
- Play of perception: How do our senses afford us opportunities to play? Is the artistic look a form of play? Can sounds, tastes, colors invite us to playfully engage in the world?
- Play and the life-course: How does play figure into existential crisis (illness, death), love, hatred, and power? Does play serve as special form of communication? Can play be a form of addiction or can it be used to address addictive behavior? What forms does play take in adult lives and in the lives of the elderly?
- Animal play: What does play mean in the animal world? Do animals play? Need to play? Can we play with animals in the sense that we are engaging in their own forms of play? Animal play has been an important tool in understanding how humans play. Given this, how are human and animal play different and similar?
- Play and children: What role do toys serve in a child’s life? How does play function in the classroom? How do children play? What role does contact with the natural world play in child’s play?
- Play and technology: How has technology changed and expanded/or limited how we play in our respective cultures?
- Dark and dangerous play: Where does play veer from “playful” to dangerous and destructive? How does the example of “war as play” provide a paradigm of exploring the complicated nature of play? How can we understand “dark play” within the classic paradigm in which play is seen as predominantly “fun”?
The Steering Group particularly welcomes the submission of pre-formed panel proposals. Papers will also be considered on any related theme. 300 word abstracts should be submitted by Friday 8th February 2013. If an abstract is accepted for the conference, a full draft paper should be submitted by Friday10th May 2013.
Abstracts should be submitted simultaneously to both Organising Chairs; abstracts may be in Word, WordPerfect, or RTF formats with the following information and in this order:
a) author(s), b) affiliation, c) email address, d) title of abstract, e) body of abstract, f) up to 10 key words
E-mails should be entitled: PLAY2 Abstract Submission.
Please use plain text (Times Roman 12) and abstain from using footnotes and any special formatting, characters or emphasis (such as bold, italics or underline). We acknowledge receipt and answer to all paper proposals submitted. If you do not receive a reply from us in a week you should assume we did not receive your proposal; it might be lost in cyberspace! We suggest, then, to look for an alternative electronic route or resend.
The conference is part of the Probing the Boundaries programme of research projects. It aims to bring together people from different areas and interests to share ideas and explore various discussions which are innovative and exciting.