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/


Oct 2 2015

On Creaturely Life

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A New Reading Group on Humanity and Animality at the University of Leeds

In the first meeting, the group will discuss the opening chapter of Eric Santner’s Creaturely Life and Rainer Maria Rilke’s “The Eighth Duino Elegy”. Please see the Creaturely Life webpage for links to the reading material: http://creaturelylife.tumblr.com/

3-5 pm, Wednesday, October 7th

Medical Humanities Suite

School of English

University of Leeds


Jun 8 2015

Futures of the Archive: Theory, Criticism, Crisis

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A new book series from Rowman and Littlefield International in partnership with the Northern Theory School

Edited by Arthur Bradley (Lancaster University) and Simon Swift (University of Geneva)

What will be the future of critical theory’s past? This new series offers a set of radical interdisciplinary interventions which explore how the history of critical theory can contribute to an understanding of the contemporary.

By returning to classic critical debates in philosophy, politics, aesthetics, religion and more, the volumes in this series seek to provide a new insight into the crises of our present moment: capitalism, revolution, biopolitics, human rights, the animal and the anthropocene.

In this way, Futures of the Archive shows that the past – and in particular critical theory’s own past – is not a dead letter, but an archive to which we still belong and which continues to shape our present and future.

International Advisory Board: 

Robert Appelbaum (University of Uppsala)

Howard Caygill (Kingston University)

Terry Eagleton (Lancaster University)

Paul Hamilton (Queen Mary, University of London)

J. Hillis Miller (University of California at Irvine)

Yvonne Sherwood (University of Kent)

Lyndsey Stonebridge (University of East Anglia)

Rei Terada (University of California at Irvine)

Samuel Weber (Northwestern University)

In order to discuss or propose a submission, please contact Arthur Bradley and Simon Swift.


Nov 7 2014

Bill Brown on Obsolescence

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‘The Obsolescence of the Human’

A Lecture by Professor Bill Brown (University of Chicago) at the University of Leeds.

This lecture will focus on questions of obsolescence in general before addressing the eagerness (in the work of Bruno Latour above all) to do away with the human/unhuman distinction.

Professor Brown is Karla Scherer Distinguished Service Professor in American Culture at the University of Chicago and works at the intersection of literary, visual, and material cultures. He is author of, amongst other works, A Sense of Things: The Object Matter of American Literature and co-editor of Critical Enquiry.

5.00 pm

Thursday, 4th December

The Alumni Room, House 10 of The School of English.

University of Leeds  

Please contact Dr Sam Durrant at s.r.durrant@leeds.ac.uk for further information.