The term "rank-o-philia" refers to our obsession with ranking things, whether they be works of art, football teams, films, or political candidates. A country that holds democracy and political equality among its most cherished ideals also measures success on the basis of moving up in competitive rankings rather than moving laterally. Ranking has given rise to an inventory of experts who wield power in imposing order and, in turn, determine what counts as knowledge and what resurges discursively as history and significance. Foucault argues that ranking is a technique that when done successfully transforms humans into docile bodies equipped to serve the state; but if we accept Foucault's argument, how do we reconcile this "technique" with the ethic of individualism, that glimmering ideal that drives us to distinguish ourselves relative to others? For this conference we have solicited papers that investigate the implications of our culture's preoccupation with ranking. How does our love of rank interplay with matters related to, but not limited to, epistemology, identity, society, scientific progress, and cultural values?
Discipline is an art of rank, a technique for the transformation of arrangements. It individualizes bodies by a location that does not give them a fixed position, but distributes them and circulates them in a network of relations.
-Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punishment
The poet ranks far below the painter in representation of visible things, and far below the musician in that of invisible things.
-Leonardo da Vinci
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