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01 July 2021
31 October 2021
Meritocracy and Life Writing
Michael Young’s satire The Rise of the Meritocracy (1957) popularized a new term that gained wide currency in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Both the social democratic Left and the neo-liberal Right endorsed the notion that intelligence plus effort equaled merit. Intended to displace an elitism based on birth or social privilege, meritocracy promised upward mobility to those with the talent and work ethic to earn success. Yet, as meritocracy congealed into a self-sustaining elitism, the concept attracted intense criticism from meritocrats themselves as well as nativists and populists excluded from positions of power. The life writing of meritocrats discloses the complex subjectivities of upward mobility during a period of accelerating social change.
- Meritocratic life writing before the term was coined (Roman “new men”; elites of the Chinese examination system; Victorian self-help discourse)
- Education, scholarships, and social class in meritocratic narratives
- Gender and meritocracy
- Race and meritocratic life writing
- Structure and personal agency in meritocratic life writing
- Meritocratic virtue: the personal qualities required to succeed
- Marxism and meritocratic life writing
- Meritocratic medical doctors, lawyers and jurists
- Politicians and their advisors
- Business women and business men
- Childhood and the origins of personal ambition
- Meritocrats and personal trauma, including terminal illness narratives
- Typologies of meritocratic life writing
- Meritocratic academics and the transformation of higher education
- Meritocratic life writing and identity politics
- How meritocrats process, critique, or ignore their own privileges
- Meritocratic dissenters, including populists and nativists
- Meritocratic theologians and the challenges of secularism
- Ghost writing the lives of famous meritocrats including entertainers
- Neoliberal life writing
- Mentors in meritocratic life writing
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Due date for abstracts: Thursday 1st July, 2021.
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Final due date for completed papers if abstract is accepted: 1st December 2021.
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