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

 


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


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

 

 


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.


Feb 22 2015

Derrida’s Faith and Knowledge: A Workshop

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Re-reading Derrida’s ‘Faith and Knowledge’

A Northern Theory School/Department of Theology and Religious Studies Workshop at the University of Nottingham

In his enigmatic 1994 essay ‘Faith and Knowledge: The Two Sources of “Religion” within the Limits of Reason Alone’, Jacques Derrida explores the troubled place of religion in late modernity. If Derrida’s essay largely precedes the ‘post-secular’ turn in contemporary thought, it anticipates many of post-secularism’s defining concerns and questions: secularisation, ‘globalatinzation’, the return of the religious, the ‘religion’ of technological modernity, religious fundamentalism, violence and terror.

This workshop will be the first ever event dedicated to exploring the implications of Derrida’s landmark essay 20 years after its original publication. What is the significance of Derrida’s essay today? How do his reflections upon religion anticipate, deepen or question the turn to religion in figures like Habermas or Taylor? To what extent might Derrida’s essay  (which also contains important reflections on Kant, Bergson, Heidegger and Levinas) serve as a point of departure to explore the past, present and future of philosophy of religion?

We invite proposals for 20-minute papers that address any aspect of Derrida’s ‘Faith and Knowledge’ and/or use the text as a point of departure to address larger questions such as secularisation, the messianic, political theology, reason, technology, religious violence and terror. This workshop is free and open to all.

Speakers include:

Agata Bielik-Robson, Arthur Bradley, Joseph Cohen, Joanna Hodge, Adam Lipszyc, Laurent Milesi, Christopher Müller, Danielle Sands, Donovan Schaefer, Daniel Weiss, Raphael Zagury-Orly.

In order to register, please contact Agata Bielik-Robson [Agata.Bielik-Robson@nottingham.ac.uk]

June 1st-2nd 2015

Department of Theology and Religious Studies

Room A100, Law and Social Sciences Building, Monday-Tuesday

University of Nottingham


Sep 22 2014

Modern Tragedy: Antigone in Contemporary Thinking

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A Symposium with Professor Kathrin Rosenfield (Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil) at Lancaster University.

Speakers:

Kathrin Rosenfield (University of Rio Grande do Sul)

Michael Dillon (Lancaster University)

James Smith (University of Exeter)

Hegel calls the ‘heavenly’ Antigone ‘the most magnificent figure ever to have appeared on earth’. Hölderlin brought this heavenly figure to life all over again in a startlingly original German translation of Sophocles’ play, at the time dismissed by the circle around Goethe as unorthodox.  Heidegger, Derrida, Butler – indeed successive waves of German, French and Anglophone writers – have revisited both the play and the figure to develop interpretations across the spectrum of contemporary thought.  Antigone and her meaning (or the absence of any) haunts the thought of modernity.

Lancaster University, in conjunction with the Northern Theory School, has invited Professor Kathrin Rosenfield to present the fruits of more than a decade’s research into the Greek and German presentation of Antigone at a public event on Friday, 28th November. In addition to invited speakers, we also welcome brief contributions to the day (papers of 15 minutes maximum) on any aspect of Antigone, on Hölderlin or Hegel’s understanding of ‘the tragic’, and on the contemporary reception of her person, the play, or its tragic consequences, for consideration for inclusion in the event.

Kathrin Rosenfield is Professor in the Faculty of Literature and Philosophy at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil.  Educated in Salzburg, Vienna and Paris, she has authored two books on Sophocles and Hölderlin: Antigone: Sophocles’ Art, Hölderlin’s Insight (Aurora CO: Davies, 2010) and Oedipus Rex: The Story of a Palace Intrigue (Aurora CO: Davies, 2012).  Both books were simultaneously published in French. As well as being a philosopher and literary theorist, Kathrin Rosenfield is an accomplished performance artist.  Her book Desenverdando Rosa won Brazil’s foremost literary award in 2007.

Please note: attendance at the event is free, but requires advance registration. Please contact either Laurence Hemming (l.p.hemming@lancaster.ac.uk) or Arthur Bradley (a.h.bradley@lancaster.ac.uk) to register.

1.00 pm – 5 pm, Friday 28th November

Management School Lecture Theatre 9

Lancaster University


Apr 25 2014

Cressida Heyes on Rape

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‘Sleep, “Night”, and Bodily Anonymity: The Harms of Rape While Unconscious’

A Public Lecture at Durham University by Professor Cressida Heyes (University of Alberta)

Recent media coverage has drawn attention to cases of women sexually assaulted while unconscious. The most sensationalized involve young white women being assaulted by young men at parties while drunk. But case law and reports from advocacy groups indicate the problem of sexual assault of unconscious women is widespread and more complex–including violation of women who are medically vulnerable, pre-meditated drug-facilitated sexual assault, and opportunistic sexual violence that disproportionately affects women marginalized by poverty, under-housing, domestic abuse, and sexualized racism. This lecture draws on existential phenomenology to make sense of the distinctive bodily harms of sexual assault–especially rape–on unconscious, semi-conscious, and waking women. While rape clearly fails to recognize subjectivity understood as individuality, it also negates the possibility of anonymity, and, as it involves unconsciousness, the possibility of balancing the experience of “night” with moving out into the world.

Cressida Heyes holds the Canada Research Chair in Philosophy of Gender and Sexuality at the University of Alberta. Her publications include Self-Transformations: Foucault, Ethics, and Normalized Bodies (2007), The Grammar of Politics: Wittgenstein and Political Philosophy (Ithaca 2003), and the volume Cosmetic Surgery: A Feminist Primer (2009, with Meredith Jones). She holds a BA (Hons) in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics from Oxford University, an MA in Political Science, and a PhD in Philosophy, both from McGill University.

7th May 2014, 5 pm, ER140, Elvet Riverside, Durham University

This lecture is jointly hosted by the School of Modern Languages and Cultures and the Institute of Advanced Study, as part of the Languages of Light series. All welcome. For further details contact caitriona.nidhuill@durham.ac.uk.