Apr 16 2017

Futures of Political Theology: Nomos, Demos, Pseudos

Daniel_4_Beasts

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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