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


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


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.


Jan 24 2015

Lorraine Daston to give Inaugural Northern Theory School Public Lecture

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Inaugural Rowman & Littlefield International Annual Public Lecture

‘Rules, Models, and Paradigms: Before Rules Became Rigid’

Lorraine Daston (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin)

Rules – in the form of everything from traffic regulations and government directives to etiquette manuals and parliamentary procedures – structure almost every human interaction. Increasing use of computers has intensified a trend that began in the eighteenth century of ever more, ever more rigid rules for ever more domains of public and private life. But the algorithm became the prototypical rule only relatively recently, in the late nineteenth century. The long history of rules prior to that point shows surprising affinities with concepts now considered to be the antithesis of rule-following, such as thinking in terms of models and paradigms. Sources as disparate as the rules of monastic orders to textbooks of commercial arithmetic to cookbooks reveal a hidden history of the premodern rule.

Professor Lorraine Daston is Executive Director of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (MPIWG) in Berlin, and Visiting Professor in the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Corresponding Member of the British Academy, and Member of both the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and the Leopoldina Academy of Sciences. In 2010 she was awarded the Orden Pour le Mérite of the Federal Republic of Germany, and in 2012 the History of Science Society’s Sarton Medal.

She has taught at Columbia, Harvard, Princeton, Brandeis, the University of Göttingen, and the University of Chicago and held visiting positions at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris, the University of Vienna, and Oxford University (Isaiah Berlin Lectures in the History of Ideas).

Her books include Classical Probability in the Enlightenment (Princeton University Press, 1988), Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150-1750 (Zone, 1998, with Katharine Park), both of which were awarded the Pfizer Prize of the History of Science Society, Thinking with Animals (Columbia University Press, 2006, with Gregg Mitmann), Things That Talk (Zone, 2007), Objectivity (MIT, 2007, with Peter Galison) and Histories of Scientific Observation (Chicago University Press, 2011).

6.00 pm

23rd March 2015

Cavendish Colloquium Room

Faraday Building

Lancaster University

This lecture is sponsored by Rowman & Littlefield International Publishers.

Please contact Arthur Bradley (a.h.bradley@lancaster.ac.uk) to reserve a place.