Flowers with Linderman Library in the background

Marcon Institute Prepares for Inaugural Radical Love Conference

The conference, which is built off the works of bell hooks’ works, will be held March 4-8.

Story by

Stephen Gross

Photography by

Christa Neu

The Marcon Institute was built on the foundation of author bell hooks’ works in which she outlined and theorized about love, says Holona Ochs, the Institute’s director and associate professor of political science.

This weekend, the Institute will dive even further into bells’ works and theories, hosting its inaugural Radical Love Conference, which is modeled on hooks’ understanding of the transformative power of love.

“Her theory of love as an organizing principle, I feel pretty confident saying it’s our best hope as a community to come back together after all of the trauma we've been experiencing and are still experiencing,” Ochs says.

The conference, which will be held March 4-8 across Lehigh’s campus, is free and open to the public. Registration is preferred but not required for each of the events, although registration is strongly suggested for A Celebration of the Inaugural Cohort of Marcon Fellows, which includes a dinner, on Tuesday at 6 p.m. Registration for individual events can be completed through the conference website and by emailing

The conference is a hybrid format, but attendees who wish to participate through Zoom must register to receive a link.

“It is an opportunity for all of us to come together and seriously engage as an intellectual community apart from this focus on prestige and credentialing,” Ochs says. “Everyone, and I mean this, everyone in our community has something to contribute to this conversation. … You don't have to have a Ph.D. to understand how love impacts your life, you just simply do not. Love is not a complicated set of ideas. It is care, commitment, knowledge, responsibility, respect and trust, as defined by bell hooks.”

Each of the conference’s five days has its own specific theme beginning with Defeating Destructive Dogmas and wrapping up Wednesday with #EmbraceEquity.

By starting the conference on the weekend, Ochs says she hopes families will attend together, and with events such as a Therapy Dog Cafe on Saturday and a Cat Café on Wednesday, there will be something for everyone. Dr. LaToya Council will read her latest children’s book Love without Bounds: An IntersectionAllies Book about Families at a Children’s Story Time Tuesday afternoon in The Circle in Fairchild-Martindale Library.

“It's not a conference in the traditional academic sense,” Ochs says. “This is a public-facing conference.”

Ochs says she intends for this to be an annual conference and envisions expanding the conference to be a regional, state, national and eventually international event. But in its first year, its focus is the Lehigh and local communities, despite attendees from “across the globe” already registering for the event, she says.

“Let's make sure that folks in the community can actually believe in love as an organizing principle,” Ochs says. “There are a lot of things to consider and there are a lot of reasons that people are reasonably skeptical and scared of that path. And so this conference is an opportunity, every year, for us to come together and think about, ‘How do we want to organize policy?’ ‘What do we really want our culture to be in the Valley?’ ‘How can we uplift each other and work together?’”

View the Radical Love Conference’s website for the entire schedule.

Story by

Stephen Gross

Photography by

Christa Neu

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