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Dante Decolonizer—Poet of Justice: Epistemic Plurality and the Ethical Imagination (NeMLA 2023)

Niagara Falls
Organization: NeMLA
Event: NeMLA 2023
Categories: Postcolonial, Comparative, Literary Theory, Poetry, Classical Studies, Philosophy, Mediterranean
Event Date: 2023-03-23 to 2023-03-26 Abstract Due: 2022-09-30

Dante Decolonizer: Poet of Justice
Epistemic Plurality and the Ethical Imagination

…ché, per quanti si dice più li ‘nostro’… (Purgatorio, 15.55)

This NeMLA sponsored seminar is designed to engage Dante’s interrogation of justice as an epistemically rooted, ethical imperative. This year’s speaker’s panel and subsequent roundtable seek to explore Dante’s attention to the centrality of epistemic plurality in the ethical imagination with respect to justice, as exemplified in key passages like: Inferno 3–5, 8, 26, 32–33; Purgatorio 10–11, 13, 15–18, 30–31; and Paradiso 3, 10–12, 17–21.

We welcome proposals that delve into the epistemological, theological, and political resonances of Dante’s poetic interrogation of justice. We are especially interested in scholarship and discussions related to contemporary challenges concerning:

  • Epistemic In/Exclusion: Epistemic exclusion based on identity prejudice undermines, silences, and erases the testimonial authority of marginalized subjects. Such exclusion exacerbates injustice by denying the marginalized subject’s contribution to the shared hermeneutical apparatus that makes communal reception and comprehension of complex intersectional knowledge possible. How does Dante address epistemic exclusion in the Commedia? In what ways does he construct, endorse, or challenge structures that inflict the injustice of epistemic exclusion?
  • Religious Epistemology: How does Dante navigate epistemic plurality in relation to the question of Truth? How does he scrutinize the epistemic (in)justice of divine inscrutability? How does he contextualize the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love in relation to epistemic authority? How does the Commedia frame what it means to know Christ?
  • Author & Reader: How does Dante implicate himself as author, and the Reader as his principal interlocutor in relation to the dynamics of recognition, compassion, violence, and authority in matters of justice? How does Dante instrumentalize epistemic plurality in the poetic/literary form to challenge or stimulate the reader’s ethical imagination?

We welcome explorations of these questions through the lens of conceptual frameworks elaborated by:

  • Martha Nussbaum on literature and the ethical imagination (see Love’s Knowledge, OUP 1992; Poetic Justice, Penguin 1997; Upheavals of Thought, Cambridge UP 2001)
  • Miranda Fricker on epistemic injustice (see Epistemic Injustice, Oxford UP 2007)
  • Charles Mills on epistemologies of ignorance (see The Racial Contract, Cambridge UP 1997, 2022)
  • Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics
  • Other critical approaches to Justice in/and Dante
  • Other critical approaches to intersectional epistemology

The seminar organizers propose two complementary sessions dedicated to the topic: a speaker’s panel of up to four 15-minute papers with Q&A, followed by a roundtable session for up to six 8-minute topical provocations for open discussion.

Participants in the speaker’s panel and roundtable will circulate outlines and discussion notes of their contribution to all other participants by January 15, 2023 to encourage critical engagement and facilitate discussion. Submissions will be selected with recommendations for either the speaker’s panel or the roundtable discussion.

Please submit an abstract of no more than 250 words & a short bio online by September 30, 2022 to:




Catherine Adoyo