May 6 2016

Critical Theory and Life: Ethics, Religion, Ecology











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


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:

Apr 13 2016

Risking the Future: Vulnerability, Risk, Hope







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

 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

Oct 2 2015

On Creaturely Life










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:

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












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.

Apr 16 2015

Anne-Lise Francois on Climate Change



‘Climate Change and the Cumulus of History’

A lecture by Professor Anne-Lise Francois (University of California, Berkeley) at the University of Leeds

Anne-Lise Francois is Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. Her book Open Secrets: The Literature of Uncounted Experience (Stanford UP, 2007) was awarded the René Wellek prize for Comparative Literature in 2010.

Thursday, 7th May 5.15 pm.

Seminar Room 5,

School of English,

University of Leeds.

This talk is generously funded by the Leverhulme Foundation.