This panel considers the politics of descriptive meetings as an empirical base which operates as a practical concern and as the intellectual ground for drawing together different disciplinary contributions. We ask, how precisely do descriptions express meetings, for whom and under what conditions?
The recent call for a descriptive (re)turn from Heather Love (2010, 2013, 2015) is the product of a meeting between - i.e. a coming together of - literary criticism, cultural studies, philosophy and sociological/STS research. Extending Love, description is a key methodological practice and, insofar as it is social and collaborative, descriptions themselves express meetings by virtue of what they bring together. But descriptions are not neutral precisely because they are forms of social (and technical) practice. They produce different kinds of meetings depending on how they are pursued and put together. While they do bring together, they can also produce points of theoretical, methodological and indeed political divergence, exclusion and, from there, realignments of many kinds. Descriptive meetings can arise from a wide range of interactional practices from consultations, to interviews, observations and engagement with people, texts and objects, or they can be concentrated in places where consensus is built or forged, where instructions, objectives or rules are handed down or, in more antagonistic terms, where consensus is critiqued or instructions, objectives and rules opposed. The most overt end of the antagonistic meetings descriptive practice fosters encompasses climate change denialism and political economic positioning across the left and right but there is also the battle within academic disciplines and workplaces. In this panel we consider the politics of descriptive meetings as an empirical base which operates as a practical concern and as the intellectual ground for drawing together different disciplinary contributions.