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PR and society: The generative power of history in the present and future

  • 13.11.2017
  • (GMT)
  • 14.11.2017
  • (GMT)
  • Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh

This conference will mark the contribution of one of the major critical scholars in our field, Professor Jacquie L’Etang, who retired from Queen Margaret University in November 2015.
Professor L’Etang has been a major influence on the development of the field since she began writing on public relations in the early 1990s. A prolific and imaginative scholar, she has always challenged boundaries, assumptions and models of public relations. Her work unmasks and deconstructs power relations both within and outwith the academy, and prompted new ways of thinking about the field and its practices. Twenty years after her first seminal contribution with Magda Pieczka, Critical Perspectives in Public Relations (International Thomson Business Press, 1996), the scholarly field of public relations is increasingly interdisciplinary, multi-paradigmatic and more open to critique and challenge than ever before.

In this conference, we use as our starting point the original meaning of history, which has its roots in the Greek word ἱστορία , translated by the Romans as historia meaning ‘an inquiry’ or ‘knowledge acquired by investigation’. The theme of history reflects Professor L’Etang’s interest in historical inquiry, but we also use it generatively, as a springboard for engaging with interdisciplinary, critical and complex issues in the present as well as the past, that public relations scholarship needs to address. In this sense, history has a place in contemporary experience and historical excursions are necessary whenever the present is being investigated. As James Baldwin notes:

‘History, as nearly no one seems to know, is not merely something to be read. And it does not refer merely, or even principally, to the past. On the contrary, the great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do. It could scarcely be otherwise, since it is to history that we owe our frames of reference, our identities, and our aspirations.’ (James Baldwin, The Price of the Ticket, 1965).

Our aim in this conference is to open up questions of how histories are put to use by people in different ways in order to explore how the past is constructed from the present; how the present is always historical, and how both past and present power imagined futures. We welcome work that applies this generative approach to the question of power and resistance explored from the perspective of promotional communication (management) and traced across different phenomena (e.g. organizations, institutions, networks, societies) and fields of activity (e.g. sport, education, business, activism, government, arts). We invite submissions adopting a critical and interdisciplinary approach to topics, which include, but are not limited to, the following areas:

  • Professionalization
  • Inequality, discrimination and social exclusion
  • Influence and social change
  • Theory/Historiography
  • Culture
  • Race/ethnicity
  • National identity
  • International communication
  • Public diplomacy
  • Corporate social responsibility
  • Rhetoric

Abstract submissions: 1000 word abstracts should be submitted to Øyvind Ihlen, by 1 May 2017. Notification of acceptance sent out by 30 June 2017.

For questions about submissions or other enquiries about the conference, please email a member of the organising committee:

Call for papers / Website:



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