Meaningful Exchange: Core Texts, Conversation, Commerce and Migration
28th Annual Conference of the Association for Core Texts and Courses
Renaissance Dallas Addison Hotel, Dallas Texas
March 30-April 2, 2023
Conference Theme Statement
There was a time, not really that long ago, that the word “commerce” did not first and foremost, call to mind matters pertaining to money. Much like “exchange,” “commerce” meant interactions of various kinds between human beings, sometimes across conventional barriers of class or culture, and often involving conversation. The contemporary economic connotation of “commerce” with monetary transactions actually obscures the way that Hume, Smith and others thought of economic exchange in the context of other sorts of human exchange. Despite some attempts to operate with more nuance, especially by economic historians, “commercial” more or less means one thing now, and it has little to do with human beings sharing ideas. We have lost something.
Montesquieu argued that commerce can have a softening, sweetening effect on people who come together from different cultural or ideological contexts, and he seems to have had in mind both what we think of today as commerce and also something akin to the larger, older sense of the word. When people engage an open question from very different starting positions, listen to each other, give reasons, and attempt to make themselves understood to one another, we can see that softening effect. Everyone who has taught a seminar based on open-ended questioning has seen at least a glimmer of this possibility, and the lucky ones among us have seen it clearly and more than once.
Thinkers such as Marx and Rousseau seem to want to acknowledge the humanizing power of commerce in the old sense and, at the same time, argue that commerce in the new, narrower, economic sense does not share in the same humanizing dynamic. In fact, they and others argue in various ways that commerce in a capitalist context corrodes human connections rather that strengthening them. These debates continue in the tradition up to our contemporary moment, only expanding through globalism to engage thoughtful people from every culture all over the world.
Globalization has also accelerated migration and amplified all of the issues surrounding commerce in the old sense of engaging with other human beings whose opinions and assumptions you not might share, but also commerce in the new sense of economic exchange. What does it mean for our citizenship status to be more and more disengaged from the cultures with which we identify ourselves? What does it mean for our places of residence not to be too tightly tied either to our citizenship status or to our culture?
On the surface of things, there are well-worn ruts of opinion on the effects of these dynamics on commerce in the modern economic sense. There are also contemporary conversations about the meaning of migration and globalization for “commerce” in the older sense, but rarely using that word. What happens when we put economic commerce and cultural/social/individual commerce in the same frame and bring the great works and thinkers of world literature to bear on the questions that emerge? That is our challenge at this year’s ACTC conference in Dallas Texas on March 30 -April 2. And we invite you to join us in this important conversation.
ACTC papers take no more than 15 minutes to present (so shoot for 12!) and at least 20% of each paper is given to serious direct engagement with a primary text. These two constraints ensure that we have common ground for a serious conversation and sufficient time to have one. Papers can be thoroughly exegetical, theoretical and speculative, or they can engage practical matters like pedagogy and curriculum. But, in every case, they are short and they are anchored by direct engagement with a primary text.
We invite proposals for panels as well as for papers. ACTC panels are always round-tables, and (except in the case of special panels organized by sponsoring institutions) involve panelists from different institutions.
The submission form for panel and paper proposals is available on our website (https://www.coretexts.org/) under “North American Conferences” in our “Conferences” drop down menu accessible from the top of the front page.