Tender critical theory enacts a subtle—yet vigorous—resistance to neoliberal knowledge worlds. This panel invites papers that help elucidate the theoretical force, the rhetorical potential, and the slight but rigorous politic of tenderness in scholarly output and praxis.
Contemporary anthropology as a whole, is able to act with potency and strength, equally comprised of vulnerability, empathy, and care; we chose the word 'tender' to describe and collect an array of scholarly modes, both practiced and reached for. Tenderness, intimate thing that it is, runs through responsible fieldwork and glimmers in good ethnography, where it is carefully threaded through writing and representational narratives. There is something tender in the 'ordinary affects' (Stewart 2007) and 'arts of inclusion' (Tsing 2010) with which scholars frame a constructive use of noticing. There is also something emerging from the careful, ruminating promise of 'slow scholarship', and how it might complement forms of public engagement and advocacy we see scholars advancing in ways that are not well-captured by metrics but do much to develop the discipline. The tender modes we speak of are not apolitical, but the politic they enact can be a subtle one; generative and committed to demonstrating possibilities in ways that depart from discursive conventions, like argument and riposte, which may enact theoretical engagement with a spirit of deconstruction. The modes we speak of softly illuminate with a distinctly ethnographic light and energy. They seek unapologetically feminine modes of argument, queering analytical questioning, and reorienting the academe towards the epistemological force of our interlocutors. Tender critical theory enacts a subtle—yet vigorous—resistance to neoliberal knowledge worlds. This panel invites papers that help elucidate the theoretical force, rhetorical potential, and slight but rigorous politic of tenderness in scholarly output and praxis.