Embracing Contradictions

Impossible Projects

4th Biennial Symposium

September 16-18, 2022

Clarkson University, Potsdam NY

Hosted by the Impossible Projects Working Group

Impossible Projects was formed in 2016 out of a desire for interdisciplinary discussions about the ethical and political challenges of working on issues related to violence, inequality and social justice. The name “Impossible Projects” reflects recognition that any efforts to redress marginalization or injustice through academic, artistic, and activist work may inevitably be limited and incomplete. And yet these projects are undertaken nonetheless, suggesting something “possible” at the heart of the impossible.

The 2022 symposium of the Impossible Projects Working Group centers on contradiction. As scholars, activists, artists and community members working and living in a world that is in crisis, it often seems like we are stretched between contradictions difficult or impossible to reconcile. These include, but are not limited to: the need to respond quickly to crises vs. the need to slow down and reflect; the effort to make space for personal feelings and experiences vs. the urgency of working toward systemic change; knowing when to sit and listen vs. knowing when to speak and agitate; making room for multiple subjective truths while standing up to misinformation and falsehoods.

The resolution of contradiction has often been framed as an emancipatory driving force within historical progress. Yet rather than aiming to resolve contradiction, are there modes of affirming or engaging with contradiction that can still provide resistance to dominant power structures? Can existing in the messy in-between facilitate work that is meaningful and sustaining? How can we create spaces for messiness that don’t lead to passive resignation or replicate injustice but lead to growth and transformation? How do we work ethically, meaningfully, in ways that are true to the individuals and communities involved and that might have a positive effect in the world?

For this September 2022 symposium, we encourage people to contribute as creatively or traditionally as they would like. From formal papers to art workshops to open discussions to contemplative hikes, we hope to host wide-ranging explorations of the possibilities and challenges created by the contradictions participants work within. Our intention is to create space both for critical reflection and for collaborative creative interventions. Contributions can include, but are not limited to, presenting a project you’re working on and the ways it engages with some of the above questions; sharing pedagogical practices and challenges; reflecting on the roles of institutions in social and resistance movements; and offering self-reflexive contemplations that connect personal, political, and professional lives. We strongly encourage participants to engage with the conference as fully as possible, recognizing that for some this engagement will be necessarily limited by time and distance.

Please feel free to write to the steering committee at impossibleprojects@clarkson.edu with any questions you may have or any ideas you’d like to talk through.

Logistical details:

    • Timing: The symposium will run from the morning of Friday September 16 to early afternoon Sunday September 18 at the Clarkson University campus in Postdam, NY.
    • Funding: Because the organizing committee recognizes that conference travel can place a financial burden on people, there is no registration cost for this symposium. We have some funding available to defray travel costs; if you’re in need of funds to attend the symposium, please let us know and we will do our best to provide support. We’d appreciate if you could tell us of any financial needs by the end of June.
    • Travel: Clarkson is located in Potsdam, NY, about an hour from the US-Canada border. The closest major airport is Syracuse (2.5h with Trailways bus to Potsdam); there are smaller, closer airports in Saranac Lake (1.5 h), Ogdensburg (1h), and Massena (40 min). For Canadian colleagues, the closest train stations are in Cornwall and Brockville, 1h from Potsdam (both on the Canadian side of the border). If you need transportation from a local airport or train station, please let us know as early as possible and we will try to help.
    • COVID: We are monitoring the COVID situation carefully, and we will follow all local guidelines regarding health and safety. If it becomes necessary to postpone the symposium or move it online due to COVID developments, we will inform participants as soon as possible.
    • Remote participation: This is an in-person event and we aim to maximize opportunities for sustained conversations and getting to know one another. If you would like to participate and cannot make it in person, please let us know and we will try to accommodate you to the best of our ability.
    • Publicizing: Since this is a small symposium aimed at developing connections and engaging in sustained dialogue, please do not circulate this invitation in public forums like social media. However, if you have friends or colleagues whose work fits within the focal areas of Impossible Projects and who you think would be interested in participating, please do let us know.

Thank you to our sponsors for making this event possible:

  • Clarkson University David A. Walsh ’67 Arts and Sciences Mini-Conference Award
  • Clarkson University School of Arts and Sciences
  • Clarkson University Department of Humanities and Social Sciences
  • Clarkson University Office of Diversity and Inclusion
  • Concordia University School of Community and Public Affairs
  • Clarkson University Ignite Program