Aug 18 2017

Robert Appelbaum on Violence

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The Aesthetics of Violence:

Art, Fiction, Drama and Film

By Robert Appelbaum

Futures of the Archive: Theory, Criticism, Crisis

Publication Date: Dec 2017

Violence at an aesthetic remove from the spectator or reader has been a key element of narrative and visual arts since Greek antiquity. Here Robert Appelbaum explores the nature of mimesis, aggression, the affects of antagonism and victimization and the political uses of art throughout history. He examines how violence in art is formed, contextualised and used by its audiences and readers. Bringing traditional German aesthetic and social theory to bear on the modern problem of violence in art, Appelbaum engages theorists including Kant, Schiller, Hegel, Adorno and Gadamer. The book takes the reader from Homer and Shakespeare to slasher films and performance art, showing how violence becomes at once a language, a motive, and an idea in the experience of art. It addresses the controversies head on, taking a nuanced view of the subject, understanding that art can damage as well as redeem. But it concludes by showing that violence (in the real world) is a necessary condition of art (in the world of mimetic play).

We are always, writes Appelbaum, “being made to know of it – the slap, the abuse, the threat.” And Applebaum certainly knows of it – violence, that is. He knows of it, above all, as art knows of it – that is to say, from the inside of it. The very ‘rhythm of violence,’ as Appelbaum calls it, can here be felt.

John Schad, Professor of Modern Literature, University of Lancaster

Robert Appelbaum is Professor of English Literature at Uppsala University, Sweden. He is the author of Literature and Utopian Politics in Seventeenth-Century England (2002), Dishing It Out (2011), Working the Aisles: A Life in Consumption (2014) and Terrorism Before the Letter: the Mythography of Political Violence in England, Scotland and France (2015).

 


Apr 16 2017

Futures of Political Theology: Nomos, Demos, Pseudos

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An International Symposium at Kingston University

Keynote speaker: Elettra Stimilli (University of Rome La Sapienza)

Upon the occasion of some strange or deformed birth, it shall not be decided by Aristotle, or the philosophers, whether the same be a man or no, but by the laws - Thomas Hobbes, The Elements of Law Natural and Politic.

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,   Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born? – W.B. Yeats, ‘The Second Coming’

What – strange, deformed, beastly – species of political order is struggling to be born today? To be sure, political praxis and theory has sought to narrate the history of the contemporary from the financial crash of 2008 to the election of Donald Trump in 2016 in many different and competing ways. In the early 21st century, we are said to be witnessing everything from the death of liberalism, globalization and internationalism to the birth of a new extreme populism, protectionism and isolationism – all presided over by a new kind of Demogorgon (people-monster).

Yet, what arguably makes our current crisis so difficult to name is that it is not merely a political crisis but a crisis of the political – of the particular triangulation between truth, authority and representation that has dominated politics since the early modern period. If we are experiencing a new set of constitutional crises in Europe, America and elsewhere – between executive, legislature and judiciary, between national and transnational sovereignty and more widely between representative and direct democracy – it is perhaps because they reflect a larger and more profound political dissensus about who or what – if anyone – has the authority to decide upon truth. In this sense, contemporary media controversies – ‘post-truth’, ‘fake news’, ‘alternative facts’ – are merely a symptom of a much deeper political ontological pathology where nomos, demos and pseudos meet and clash.

This international symposium gather together a group of distinguished interdisciplinary scholars – including philosophers, political theorists, theologians and cultural critics – to explore not simply the future of political theology but the political theology of the future. What can the conceptual resources of political theology – the messianic, the apocalyptic, the eschatological and so on – contribute to a re-thinking of the future? How might political theology intervene in, and re-imagine, our contemporary crises of truth, authority, representation, economy, populism and so on? What might a political theology of the 21st century look like?

Elettra Stimilli is Senior Research Fellow of theoretical philosophy at the Department of Philosophy at Sapienza University of Rome. She is also editor-in-chief of the series “Filosofia e Politica”, published by Quodlibet (Macerata). She is author of numerous essays that focus on the relationship between politics and religion, with particular attention to contemporary thought. Among her publications are Debito e colpa (2015) and the only existing monograph on Jacob Taubes: Jacob Taubes. Sovranità e tempo messianico (2004). She also translated into Italian and edited many works of this author, in particular Jacob Taubes, Der Preis des Messianismus: Briefe von Jacob Taubes an Gershom Scholem und andere Materialen (2006). Her new book The Debt of the Living. Ascesis and Capitalism (2017) has just been published by SUNY Press.

Speakers: Ward Blanton (University of Kent); Arthur Bradley (Lancaster University); Antonio Cerella (Kingston University); Michael Dillon (Lancaster University); Howard Caygill (Kingston University); Dario Gentile (University of Rome 3); Yvonne Sherwood (University of Kent); Tracy B. Strong (UCSD/University of Southampton); Richard Wilson (Kingston University)

9.00 am – 7.30 pm

2 June 2017

Kingston University, Penrhyn Road, John Galsworthy building, Room 003

For more information email: A.Cerella@kingston.ac.uk


Mar 19 2017

Literature and Inequality

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An international Conference on Culture, Society and Economy

‘We wish, in a word, equality.’ – Mikhail Bakunin

Keynote speakers:

Jennifer Ashton (University of Illinois-Chicago)

Walter Ben Michaels (University of Illinois-Chicago)

Jane Elliott (King’s College London)

Annie Mcclanahan (University of California, Irvine)

Kenneth Warren (University of Chicago)

To call economic inequality a ‘problem’ is probably to say too little about it. Equality is not just a function of modern life, which may fail to work under certain conditions. Equality is a horizon of expectation. What then makes advanced contemporary society, especially in nations like the US and UK, so economically unequal? Certainly there are conditions of the market since the Second World War, despite all its successes, that have operated against equality – not as a failure of capitalism but as an expression of its nature. This was observed as early as 1958 by John Kenneth Galbraith and 1970 by Jean Baudrillard. It has recently become a dominant theoretical postulate since the publication of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century (2013).

Does literature have anything to do with this? Does it have something to so with creating a culture where inequality has been increasingly tolerated, or even promoted? Does it have something to do with the effacement of that horizon of expectation of an equality to come?  Or has literature been a force of resistance or a zone of neutral alterity? Is it fair even to ask of literature and literary studies that they address the problem of economic inequality? We know about reformers like Charles Dickens and Elizabeth Gaskell. But where are the reformers now? Is anybody listening? Does it matter? ‘The entire U.S. school system, from pre-K up’, wrote Walter Benn Michaels a decade ago’ ‘is structured from the very start to enable the rich to out-compete the poor, which is to say, the race is fixed’. Since then the gap between the rich and everyone else has only grown in most of the developed world, even in Sweden, and we critics and teachers find ourselves complicit in one of the main institutions of economic and cultural division. Our interest in this conference is manifold: first, in the representation of economic relations in literature, and what it may or may not have to tell us; second, in the institutions of literary production, and how they work in relation to economic inequality; third, in the institutions of higher education, which promote cultural aspiration at the expense of inequality; fourth, in the history of all this, going back to the origins of capitalism.

We invite proposals for presentations of up to 20 minutes on literature and theory in any language. The conference language is English. Proposals about any period since 1550 are welcome. We are especially interested in inequality in the context of modern economies, beginning with the Industrial Revolution, and seeing how literature has adapted to changes in productive powers and the distributions of income. We also welcome contributions on subjects related to literature – from film and TV to Internet writing. A limited amount of funding is available for all participants to help cover travel and accommodation costs.

Submissions of up to 500 words including biographical information should be sent by 1 May 2017 to the conference organisers:

Robert Appelbaum: robert.appelbaum@engelska.uu.se

Roberto del Valle Alcalá: roberto.valle@engelska.uu.se

For more information about the conference, please go to: https://reg.akademikonferens.se/app/netattm/attendee/page/55841

Uppsala University

Sweden

26-28 October

 


Dec 12 2016

What is the Contemporary?

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A launch event for contemporary@lancaster, a new research centre for contemporary writing and thought at Lancaster University

‘Of whom and of what are we contemporaries? What does it mean to be contemporary?’

 —Giorgio Agamben’s “What Is the Contemporary?” from What is an Apparatus? and Other Essays, trans. David Kishik and Stefan Pedatella (Stanford University Press, 2009).

 2.00 pm Terry Eagleton (Lancaster), ‘The Swindle of the Contemporary’

3.00 pm Break

3.15 pm Michael Greaney (Lancaster), ””How soon is now?”: The contemporaneity of Never Let Me Go

Muren Zhang (Lancaster), ”The Temporality of Neo-Victorianism: Looking Backward, Moving Forward’

Lynne Pearce (Lancaster), ‘Driving, thinking, dreaming  . . . and the case against Driverless Cars’

4.30 pm Mark Currie (QMUL) ‘Contingency in Contemporary Writing’

5. 30 pm Close

Mark Currie is Professor of Contemporary Literature at Queen Mary, University of London. His research focuses on the theory of narrative, on literary theory, and on contemporary fiction. His recent publications include The Invention of Deconstruction (2013), About Time (2007, 2011) and The Unexpected (2013) and he is currently working on a new book on contingency in contemporary literature.

Terry Eagleton is Distinguished Professor of English Literature at Lancaster University. He is the author of more than 40 books including most recently The Event of Literature (2012), Culture and the Death of God (2014), Hope without Optimism (2015) and Culture (2016).

1st February 2017

Peter Scott Gallery

Lancaster University

All Welcome


Dec 1 2016

Postcolonial and World Literature

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A new postcolonial and world literature and cultures reading group at the University of Leeds.

This new reading, film and discussion group at the University of Leeds aims to bring together researchers to discuss landmark publications and non-canonical contributions alongside current, pioneering work in the fields of postcolonial literature and theory, world literature and world-culture. Beyond the focus on theory, we will share texts and cultural products to enable us to develop our understanding of major pieces of work, in a creative and stimulating space. This group is aligned with Leeds’ Institute for Colonial and Postcolonial Studies, as well as the newly-founded Centre for World Literatures.

Founded in November 2016, we meet several times a semester. We hope this research group will become a focal point for researchers to hear opinions on their work, develop their thinking on certain issues, or simply to acquaint themselves further with the debates within postcolonial studies and world literature.

All are welcome to join the discussion for intellectual debate and the exchange of ideas in a convivial setting.

Please see the website for  further details: https://leedspocoworldlit.wordpress.com/


Jun 19 2016

The Body of War: Drones and Lone Wolves

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An International Symposium on the future of war at Lancaster University

Keynote speaker:

Derek Gregory (Peter Wall Distinguished Professor of Geography, University of British Columbia)

13 November 2015: three suicide bombers blew themselves up near the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, Paris, killing themselves and a bystander, and triggering a series of violent actions that caused 130 casualties.

15 November 2015: the President of France, François Hollande, after defying the attacks ‘an act of war’ by the Islamic State, launched a three-month state of emergency and ‘Opération Chammal’, a huge airstrike campaign against ISIL targets in Syria.

These two violent actions design a deformed and limitless theater of war, within which all distinctions and limitations elaborated by International Law seem to disappear. It is not merely the loss of the fundamental distinction between combatants and civilians, that both suicide bombers and airstrike bombings signal. In the current situation, all the fundamental principles that gave birth to the Laws of War seem to collapse: spatial and temporal limitations of hostilities, proportionality of military actions, discrimination of targets, weapons and just methods to use them. In this way, the ‘enemy’, from a juridical concept, is transformed into an ‘ideological object’; his figure, pushed to a climax from both these ‘invisible’ and ‘mobile’ fronts, becomes absolute and de-humanized. Hollande, Cameron and Obama’s unwillingness to use ground troops against the ‘uncivilized’ (Kerry 2015) is mirrored by the ISIL call to intensify suicide missions against the ‘cowards’ (Dābiq, 12: 2015).

But what lies behind the asymmetric confrontation between airstrikes and ‘humanstrikes’, behind the blurring of the distinction between the state of war and state of peace? What notion of humanity are the physical disengagement of the Western powers (with their tele-killing via drones and airstrikes) and the physical engagement of suicide bombers (ready to turn their bodies into a weapon) trying to convey? In other words, how and to what extent is there a connection between the automatization and biopoliticization of war operated by Western powers and the sacrificial nature of the conflict adopted by those who want to fight these powers?

In this symposium, our intention is to explore these questions in order to map the crucial transformations of warfare, of its ethical principles and methods of engagement. We invite potential participants to submit abstracts drawing upon, but not limited to, such issues as:

  • Theatres of War: The New Spatialities and Temporalities of Warfare
  • Mirror Images? Drones vs. Suicide Bombers
  • Phenomenology of Drones
  • New Perspectives on Ethics, Horror & Terror
  • The Ubiquity of the Enemy: Lone Wolves and Self-Representing Terror
  • The Collapse of International Law: What Enemy? Which Proportionality?
  • The Body as a Weapon: The Immanentization of Martyrdom
  • Phenomenology of Lone Wolves
  • The End of Law: Rethinking Limitation, Proportionality and Discrimination

Please send abstracts of 250 words by August 15th 2016 to bisagroup.cript@gmail.com. If accepted, participants will be expected to submit the full paper by October 15th 2016.

Lancaster University

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

24th-25th November, 2016

This conference is generously funded by the British Association of International Studies, the Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Lancaster University) and the Institute of Social Futures (Lancaster University).

Image: Adam Harvey, Anti-Drone Burqa


May 6 2016

Critical Theory and Life: Ethics, Religion, Ecology

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A Conference Universitaire de Suisse Occidentale doctoral workshop at the University of Geneva 

Speakers:

Ann-Lise Francois (University of California, Berkeley)

Arthur Bradley (Lancaster University)

This one-day doctoral workshop aims to examine the situation of theoretical work in English studies in the early Twenty-First Century. Despite millennial proclamations of the ‘death of theory,’ critical theory remains alive and kicking. Indeed, the status of ‘life’ and ‘the living’ are key areas of contemporary theoretical interest. The continued need for theory in our era is often read as part of a larger ‘ethical turn’ in philosophy, but a range of questions about ‘life’ might provide a more politically-pertinent way of imagining this need. Such an interest stretches from a concern with the possible futures for biological life on earth in the era of the anthropocene, through to the rediscovered interest in political theology and biopolitics (or the politicization of life) in our era. These concerns and interests find theirhistorical place in the context of increasingly urgent modes of address to the diminished possibilities and hopes for everyday life post-2008, and they articulate the ways in which the very affective states of hope and optimism, as well as economic practices of enclosure and reserve that bind bodies to the political economies of the western world have become, to quote Lauren Berlant, ‘cruel.’ The day will be book-ended by interventions from our two speakers, whose work addresses in profoundly distinctive ways different aspects of these turns in recent theory. Each participant will also be invited to select a theoretical text that has shaped their way of reading literature, and to describe the impact of that text on their own work. Short excerpts from each text will be circulated to all participants beforehand. Our keynotes will be asked to do likewise, and in the morning, a reading group will be organised around their chosen texts. In the afternoon, doctoral students will be invited to present their work in progress, and to articulate the ways in which their work can be seen to be in dialogue with the theme of the workshop. The aim of the workshop is to be as inclusive as possible-it is not meant solely for those working on different aspects of critical theory or contemporary literature (while participants working in these areas will of course be extremely welcome). Indeed, the very fact that this workshop aims to examine theory in the context of a history of the present invites a range of responses. Those working on, say, early modern or Medieval religion, or on the body/affect, or those who simply want to get up to speed with current trends in theory, and to connect their own work with it, are very welcome.

10.00-5.30 May 26th 2016

University of Geneva

Conference Universitaire de Suisse Occidentale

Register at: https://english.cuso.ch/upcoming-modules/


Apr 13 2016

Risking the Future: Vulnerability, Risk, Hope

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An International Conference on the Risk Humanities

Keynote Speakers: 

Michaeline A. Crichlow (Duke University)

Simon During (University of Queensland)

Walter Mignolo (Duke University)

Risking the Future exposes a tension at the heart of contemporary thinking around risk and its effects, and in particular the role of risk in either blocking or facilitating access to possible futures. On the one hand, the phrase is cautionary, a reminder that the future is at risk and that risks have to be calculated and managed to avoid or learn to live within catastrophic circumstances. On the other hand, the phrase is hopeful, a recognition that a certain type of risk is necessary to generate a speculative opening to a future worth living. In this way, although risk manifests in complex historical and contemporary patterns across the economic, legal, ecological, social, cultural, aesthetic and political spheres, it is most urgently felt where the exercise and effects of power are tied to potential loss and gain, and where these losses and gains shape the lives of those least able to resist them.

In this light, rethinking the relation of risk and futurity suggests a tension between the calculation, management and adoption of risk on one hand, and what it actually means to live a life at risk on the other. For those living in fragile circumstances – situations in which race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion and poverty intersect in ways that render existence itself radically vulnerable; situations in which it is increasingly difficult to avoid or resist political instability, conflict, economic precarity, health crises, and ecological catastrophe – the question of risk exists at a very different intensity, and has very different implications than it does for individuals, groups and even whole societies who regard risk principally in terms of its calculation, distribution and management undertaken to guarantee continued flourishing, often in the very systems that place the vulnerable  at risk.

 We seek to bring these two paradigms of risk – of calculation and precarity – into conversation, perhaps necessarily into conflict, in order to challenge existing discourses regarding risk and its relation to the future. We seek to explore the ways in which thought might take risks in order to realign itself with those most at risk. We seek to open new and risky avenues for speculative, interdisciplinary research, reimagining the way in which risk thinking might turn an increasingly threatening vision of the future towards a politics of hope.

 We warmly invite you to submit a title and abstract of 300 words for papers of 20 minutes rethinking risk and its relation to the future from the perspective of the critical humanities and humanistic social sciences. Please include a brief biographical note of up to 200 words outlining your broader research interests.

 The deadline for the submission of abstracts is 18 April 2016 and should be emailed to fragile.futures@gmail.com.

 Suggested topics:

  • Risk and futurity: uncertainty, contingency, irreversibility, possibility
  • Fragility, vulnerability, precarity and the precariat
  • Hope, resistance, commitment
  • Kinopolitics: displacement, migration, perilous crossings, border thinking
  • Spaces of risk: thresholds, boundaries, containment, camps
  • Decolonial aesthetics and politics
  • Aesthetics of risk: representing, mediating and performing the future
  • Freedom and unfreedom: open futures, blocked futures
  • Existential risk: threat, conflict, poverty, disposability
  • Accumulation by dispossession: capitalism and risk, risking capitalism
  • Markets: distribution, flow, asymmetry, crisis
  • Sexualities, genders, queer ecologies, queer futures
  • Systemic edges: peripheries of/at risk, belonging and non-belonging, inclusion and exclusion
  • Ecologies of/at risk: environmental anxiety, slow violence, ruination, catastrophe
  • Histories and futures of risk: opportunity, intervention, invention, reinvention

St John’s College

Durham University

12th-13th July 2016


Mar 3 2016

Roberto Esposito’s Two: A Roundtable

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A roundtable discussion of Roberto Esposito’s new book Two: The Machine of Political Theology and the Place of Thought at Lancaster University.

The debate on ‘political theology’ that ran throughout the twentieth century has reached its end, but the ultimate meaning of the notion continues to evade us. Despite all the attempts to resolve the issue, we still speak its language—we remain in its horizon.

The reason for this, says Roberto Esposito, lies in the fact that political theology is neither a concept nor an event; rather, it is the pivot around which the machine of Western civilization has revolved for more than 2,000 years. At its heart stands the juncture between universalism and exclusion, unity and separation: the tendency of the Two to make itself into One by subordinating one part to the domination of the other. All the philosophical and political categories that we use, starting with the Roman and Christian notion of ‘the person’, continue to reproduce this exclusionary dispositif.

To take our departure from political theology, then—the task of contemporary philosophy—we must radically revise our conceptual lexicon. Only when thought has been returned to its rightful “place”—connected to the human species as a whole rather than to individuals—will we be able to escape from the machine that has imprisoned our lives for far too long.

This roundtable brings Roberto Esposito together with scholars from political theory, philosophy and religious studies to discuss the machine of political theology and the place of thought.

Participants:

Roberto Esposito (Scuola Normale Superiore)

Agata Bielik-Robson (University of Nottingham)

Ward Blanton (University of Kent)

Arthur Bradley (Lancaster University)

Antonio Cerella (UCLAN)

Michael Dillon (Lancaster University)

2 pm Thursday, 19th May

Frankland Colloquium Room

Faraday Building

Lancaster University

This event is free and open to all. In order to reserve a place, please email Arthur Bradley at a.h.bradley@lancaster.ac.uk

 

 


Feb 6 2016

Roberto Esposito to give Northern Theory School Annual Public Lecture

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Rowman and Littlefield International Annual Public Lecture

‘The Dispositif of Person’

Roberto Esposito (Scuola Normale Superiore, Italy)

Roberto Esposito is Professor of Theoretical Philosophy at the Scuola Normale Superiore in Italy. Until 2013, he was Vice Director of the Istituto Italiano di Scienze Umane, Full Professor of Theoretical Philosophy, and the coordinator of the doctoral programme in Philosophy. For five years, he was the only Italian member of the International Council of Scholars of the Collège International de Philosophie in Paris. He is the author of many books including Communitas: The Origin and Destiny of Community (Stanford University Press, 2004), Bios: Biopolitics and Philosophy (Minnesota University Press, 2008), Immunitas: The Protection and Negation of Life (Polity Press, 2011), Third Person: Politics of Life and Philosophy of the Impersonal (Polity Press, 2012), Living Thought: The Origins and Actuality of Italian Philosophy (Stanford University Press, 2012) and Two: The Machine of Political Theology and the Place of Thought (Fordham University Press, 2015).

4.30 pm, 19th May 2016

Frankland Lecture Theatre

Faraday Building

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Lancaster University

This event is free and open to all but places are strictly limited. Please contact Arthur Bradley to reserve a place: a.h.bradley@lancaster.ac.uk