The call for papers is now closed.

Call for papers

The Organising Committee of the second AHRC DTP International Conference at the University of Cambridge invites proposals for papers exploring the theme of “Tradition and Transformation” in any sphere of Arts and Humanities research.

“Without tradition, art is a flock of sheep without a shepherd. Without innovation, it is a corpse.”

(Winston Churchill, Speech given at the Royal Academy of Arts, 1953.)

The very idea of the Arts and Humanities is intrinsically bound up with the dynamic between tradition and transformation. We can only discuss these corporate entities because we perceive certain creative, intellectual, devotional and existential processes as somehow unified by patterns of influence that we designate as traditions. At the same time, we can only discuss them as pluralities because we perceive shifts within those patterns: divisions in the otherwise undifferentiated fields of art and humanity, which we identify as transformations, be they chronological, logical, ontological or phenomenological.

Tradition has at times been seen as an established and beneficial source of knowledge, while at other times it has been rejected as inflexible and reactionary. Likewise, transformation has often been associated with progress and renewal, but equally often has been linked to instability and destruction.

However, it is the dynamic between these two terms which has truly captivated the minds of practitioners across the disciplines. It has inspired literary scholars, from Aristotle in the Poetics, to T.S. Eliot in Tradition and the Individual Talent. It has exercised philosophers, be it Plato establishing the Socratic tradition at the expense of the Sophists, or Jacques Derrida isolating the logocentrism of ‘the history of metaphysics […] from the pre-Socratics to Heidegger’. At times, reflection on the relationship between tradition and transformation has inspired narratives of resolution. For Fukuyama, facing the collapse of Soviet communism in 1991, a new reality could absorb past conflict at the putative end of History. At others it has been the occasion for conflict, as with the Sex Pistols and their infamous interview with Bill Grundy during the rise of punk in 1976. Sometimes the tensions between the two have escalated beyond the merely symbolic and brought bloodshed on a national and international scale: the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, the English Civil War, the American and Russian Revolutions, and, most recently, the Arab Spring.

This conference seeks to advance understanding of tradition and transformation for the Arts and Humanities.

Potential topics for papers can include, but are not limited to:

  • Philosophical and epistemological traditions, spanning from antiquity to the present, and ways in which understanding of knowledge and existence has been transformed.
  • Legal traditions and transformations, including the development of constitutional law, shifts from customary law to codification and/or common law, and the emergence of legal fictions.
  • Religious tradition and transformation, including the defence of religious orthodoxies, the rise of new religious movements, heresy, and modern notions of secularisation and radicalisation.
  • Tradition and transformation in socio-political science and economics, including the influence of Marxism, Keynesianism, and approaches to liberalism and democracy.
  • History and Archaeology, such as examples of tradition and transformation in historical contexts, or historiographical approaches looking at ways in which traditions of studying the past have undergone transformation through new theories, discoveries, or technologies.
  • Tradition and transformation in literature, such as the rise of new literary genres, the changing place of orality, the social acceptability of different languages and expressions, or specific works and/or authors addressing these themes.
  • Linguistic traditions and transformations, which may include studies of the evolution of language/specific languages, linguistic fossilisation, and/or the effect of socio-cultural developments on language.
  • Music, Art and Performing, including the role of tradition and transformation in developing and changing canons, the impact of new technologies on performance, and syncretism of different traditions to attain new performative outcomes.
  • Interdisciplinary approaches looking at tradition and transformation in different spheres of the Arts and Humanities and/or ways in which humans envisage, dictate and/or endure change.


Photo credit: @camdiary