Listening beyond Liberalism: postgraduate/Early Career Researcher workshop

Convened by Tanja Dreher and Leah Bassel

Wednesday 28 November, 1.30 - 4.30pm, UNSW Sydney

Overview: The workshop on 'Listening beyond Liberalism' was open to postgraduate and Early Career Researchers across a range of disciplines. The workshop aimed to discuss the limitations of a liberal politics of listening (including therapeutic and managerial frameworks) and explore theorisations and practices that push beyond the liberal frame, including those that engage with settler colonialism, coloniality and decoloniality, intersectionality, critical disability studies, sound studies and more. 

OutcomesThe critiques and alternatives identified in the workshop were shared with conference plenary and keynote speakers to inform their interventions. Workshop participants were also invited to contribute to follow-up online publications reflecting on the conference.

Requirements: Participants read two suggested readings on the topic and prepared a short overview of their own work. We discussed the workshop themes with reference to the readings and to participants' own research. We addressed questions such as:

  • what are the key characteristics and manifestations of a liberal politics of listening?

  • where and how are alternatives to be found?

  • what intellectual resources are available to conceptualise and enact the politics of listening beyond a liberal frame?

  • how do these arguments resonate in your own work?

Suggested readings:

The suggested readings for the workshop combined classic texts and more recent publications, theoretical pieces and applied essays for a wider readership. Many of these readings can be read in conversation. For instance, Bickford (1996) develops an account of listening in response to Anzaldua (1987), and Dreher (2009) responds to First Nations calls for listening such as Longbottom et al (2016). Ghelani (2017) is an urgent and compelling essay on the politics of listening around the Grenfell Tower fire, while Lloyd (2009) explores how a turn to listening in management can entrench rather than transform unequal relationships.

Anzaldúa, G. (1987) ‘La Conciencia de la Mestiza / Towards a New Consciousness’ Chapter 7 in Borderlands: la frontera (Vol. 3). San Francisco: Aunt Lute

Bickford, S (1996) ‘”The Genuine Conditions of Our Lives”: Feminist Theorizing and Political Action’ in Bickford, S. (1996). The dissonance of democracy: Listening, conflict, and citizenship. Cornell University Press

Dreher, T. (2009). Eavesdropping with permission: the politics of listening for safer speaking spaces', Borderlines Ejournal, Vol 81, available at

Ghelani, D (2017) ‘Grenfell Tower – “there are only the deliberately silenced or the preferably unhreard”’ in Media Diversified available at

Lloyd, J. (2009). The listening cure. Continuum23(4), 477-487

Longbottom, M, Y Roe and B Fredericks (2016) ‘Who is talking for us? The silencing of the Aboriginal woman’s voice about violence’ in Croakey available at

Spivak, G. (2010) ‘Can the Subaltern Speak? Revised edition, from the ‘History’ chapter of Critique of Postcolonial Reason’ in Morris, R. (Ed.) Can the subaltern speak?: Reflections on the history of an idea. Columbia University Press (or earlier versions)