Aesthetics and Politics in Critical Theory

Reading Group organized by Ben Moore, Marc Farrant, and Steyn Bergs.

This reading group will explore a selection of seminal, and some lesser-known, works within twentieth and twenty-first century critical and cultural theory, with an emphasis on the intersection between the aesthetic and the political. Walter Benjamin argued in the conclusion of his ‘Work of Art’ essay of 1936 that one of the dangers of fascism is its ‘aestheticizing of politics’, and that communism must respond by ‘politicizing art’. As our contemporary political moment comes to increasingly resemble the conjuncture at which Benjamin was writing in the 1930s, we will ask how the relationship between politics and aesthetics has been theorised by thinkers since, and how we might use their work to analyse and rethink that relationship today.

We plan to meet once a month on Wednesday or Thursday afternoons for around two hours. Our first two meetings will serve as a theoretical orientation, looking at work from Jacques Rancière, Terry Eagleton and Fredric Jameson. After that, we plan to take particular artistic forms, genres, or themes to guide our reading through the year, including comedy (Zupančič, Berlant, Ngai), cinema (Rancière, Deleuze, Eisenstein), music (Adorno) and performativity (Sedgwick). The direction of our reading is flexible however, and depends partly on the interests of the participants. The format will be open and informal. All staff and graduate students, from inside or outside the UvA, are welcome to take part. Research Masters students who take part in the group will be eligible for 2ECs via NICA.

The first meeting will take place at 16.00-18.00 on Thursday 19 September. We will discuss the Terry Eagleton’s essay ‘The Ideology of the Aesthetic’ in parallel with work by Jacques Rancière on the distribution of the sensible.

Please contact Ben Moore (B.P.Moore@uva.nl), Marc Farrant (m.farrant@gold.ac.uk) and Steyn Bergs (s.bergs@vu.nl) if you would like to attend, and to receive a pdf copy of the readings.

Cultural Studies Now

Cultural Studies Now
As Cultural Studies emerged in the early 1960s, perhaps its most pressing call was for academic knowledge to relate actively to the present socio-political situation or ‘conjuncture.’ In that vein, this course aims to revisit and, if necessary, criticize and update the canonical concerns and priorities of the field. What did crucial terms such as identity politics, interdisciplinarity, and popular culture mean in the 1960s, and what can they still mean today, a time when so much once-progressive notions may seem obsolete or co-opted by power? In this course, we revisit the main areas of concern for Cultural Studies – revolving on conjuncture, (identity) politics, reality, interdisciplinarity, and (popular) culture — in relation to current developments. Should Cultural Studies maintain a certain canonical or disciplinary form, or fundamentally adapt to changed and changing circumstances? With key readings by Stuart Hall, Mieke Bal, Paul Smith, Lawrence Grossberg, Asad Haidar, Nancy Fraser, and others.

Instructor: Murat Aydemir (m.aydemir@uva.nl)

Time and Place: Tuesdays, from October 29 to December 10, 13:00-16:00. Places TBA.

Registration is open from 15 September 2019. Registration is limited to 25 participants.

Register by sending an e-mail to Eloe Kingma at nica-fgw@uva.nl. Please be sure to specify your research master program and university.

 

 

Cultures of Urban (In)Justice

The theme of the 2019-2020 ASCA Cities Seminar is “Cultures of Urban (In)Justice”. We are interested in examining dynamics of spatial (in)justice from the vantage point of creative, cultural, aesthetic and political practices in contemporary urban environments.

Spatial justice has long been recognized as an urgent and useful lens for understanding urban processes (Pirie 1983, Soja 2009). In this seminar, we will ask how it might be fruitfully expanded to both consider (in)justice as co-constitutive of contemporary urban cultures, social relations and forms of creative expression. In what ways are urban spatial processes bound up with frameworks of (in)justice at the local and ‘planetary’ scale? How are urban imaginaries articulated in relation to contemporary forms of geopower and its unjust consequences? What role does aesthetics – as negotiated by governments, art institutions, commercial actors, but also by artists and social or protest movements – play in diverse manifestations of urban (in)justice? And which inventive methods are being developed to take stock of spatial (in)justice, and intervene in its related assemblages, infrastructures and power structures?

Engaging with and expanding on these questions, the seminar seeks to analyse cultures of urban (in)justice by exploring a diverse set of topics and case studies. We will consider, for example, recent work on crisis and crisis-scapes in urban contexts, “black anthropocenes” (Yusoff, 2018), “ecologies of ‘making do’” (Mukherjee, 2017), “slow violence” (e.g. Nixon 2011, Davies, 2019), and “slow emergencies” (Anderson et al., 2019). In this way, we are not only interested in existing frameworks and manifestations of (in)justice, but also in ways of intervening, ‘repairing’, and ‘hacking into’ these structures and power relations, from a range of geographical locations and critical standpoints.

Semester 1 dates & places:

  • Friday 20 September 15:00-18:00 – PCH 104
  • Friday 1 November 10:00-12:00 -Potgieterzaal, UB;  15:00-18:00 -Potgieterzaal, UB
  • Friday 6 December  15:00-18:00 – PC Hoofthuis 1.04

Organisers: Carolyn Birdsall, Jeff Diamanti, Simone Kalkman and Kasia Mika

Contact: c.j.birdsall@uva.nl

 

Decolonial Studies and Political Philosophy

University of Amsterdam
Exact dates: TBA

Instructor: Yolande Jansen
Register: send an email to Eloe Kingma at nica-fgw@uva.nl before March 15 2020. Please be sure to specify your master program and university

In the humanities, globalization has until quite recently been studied from two rather distinct perspectives: either from a postcolonial or decolonial cultural-historical perspective, or from a normative, political theoretical perspective, often rooted in the liberal and human rights traditions. Over the last years, it has been increasingly recognized by scholars from both the cultural and political-theoretical fields that integrating these perspectives would be helpful to enhance the humanities’ critical and practical potential in today’s world. Criticism of the legacies of eurocentrism and colonialism in liberalism and the human rights traditions is then combined with cutting edge political philosophical work concentrating on questions of imperialism, freedom and global justice, f.e., increasingly, on resource and environmental justice.

This course looks at the intersection of decolonial studies and normative political philosophy, and tries to address them from a relatively integrated perspective. We bring together both fields in a systematic way by testing normative theories of global justice and human rights in political philosophy against the works of liberalism’s critics from a decolonial or critical theoretical perspective.

During the first three weeks, we will read a number of articles tracing the intricacies of colonialism and liberalism, both from an intellectual historical perspective, and from a systematic political theoretical perspective. After these readings we will concentrate on contemporary work on global justice. We will then compare the two traditions and discuss whether and in what ways they could be fruitfully combined for a decolonial philosophy of global justice, and discuss the the limitations of focusing on ‘justice’.

Teaching goals
Insight into political theory about global justice
Insight into critiques of the political philosophical liberal tradition from a decolonial perspective
Enhancing the capacity to formulate integrative perspectives on the merits of both traditions of criticism for formulating perspectives on global justice that are self-reflexive about the legacies of eurocentrism and imperialism

Content
During the first three weeks, we will read a number of articles tracing the intricacies of colonialism and liberalism, both from an intellectual historical perspective, and from a systematic political theoretical perspective. After these readings we will concentrate on contemporary work on global justice.

We will then compare the two traditions and discuss whether and in what ways they could be fruitfully combined for a decolonial philosophy of global justice, and discuss the limitations of focusing on ‘justice’. The course will take the form of intensive working groups.

Readings
James Tully. (2008) Public Philosophy in a New Key, Volume II; Imperialism and Civic Freedom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Duncan Bell. (2016) Reordering the World; Essays on Liberalism and Empire. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press
Aimé Césaire, Discourse on colonialism. Preferred edition: Monthly Review Press, NY, 1972, 2000
Charles Mills (2017) Black rights/white wrongs. The critique of racial liberalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

These books will both be available through the library of the UvA (they will be on the ‘workshelf’). The books can be scanned or copied but not you cannot borrow them during the course. Other articles will be provided during the course, see below for the full list and where to find them.

Examination
For those who take credits from this course: Presentation (20%) and either (a) final paper or (b) final paper and take home exam (80%). You can choose between two options for the final exam: (a) either you choose to do a take home exam containing three questions which will be published two weeks before the deadline, together with a final paper of around 1500 words, or (b) you choose to write a final paper of around 4000 words. The deadline for both will be on 28 June at 23.59 hrs. The deadline for the resit is 8 August. The paper should be written according to basic academic standards (contain a bibliography, research question, careful argument, conclusion) but you are free to write in a mostly argumentative or a more essayistic or exploratory style.

This is a NICA core activity. Completing this activity earns you a certificate specifying the number of EC credits at stake. You can have this certificate formally registered at your institution’s administrative office. You may need to acquire the permission of your program coordinator and/or board of examinations in order to participate and earn credits for this activity.

 

Queer Intersections (2020)

University of Amsterdam
Exact dates: TBA

In this course, we will explore a mix of seminal and very recent interventions in queer thinking. More specifically, we will study how queer theory can productively intervene in other fields, mainly critical race theories and disability studies. The aim is not to provide students with a comprehensive survey of queer intersectional interventions, but rather to give them a sense of how queerness and queer thinking are able to disrupt normative and oppressive assumptions in a variety of fields of study, including hopefully the students’ own research areas. (This said, we will also talk about how queerness can align itself with normativity.)
Possible readings are from Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/La Frontera, Roderick A. Ferguson’s Aberrations in Black, Jack Halberstam’s The Queer Art of Failure, Jasbir K. Puar’s Terrorist Assemblages, Paul Preciado’s Testo Junkie, José Muñoz’s Cruising Utopia, Dean Spade’s Normal Life, Melanie Yergeau’s Authoring Autism, and Telathia Nikki Young’s Black Queer Ethics. This list may change until the spring of 2020. The plan is to have a fixed reading list for the first two sessions (selected by the teacher) whereas the remainder of the course readings will be proposed and selected by the group of students themselves.

The course will be grounded in slow and close reading with ample room for discussions and student interventions. (You can think of it as a reading group.) At the end of the course, students will write a paper.

To register, please send an email to Eloe Kingma at nica-fgw@uva.nl. Be sure to specify your master program and university

This is a NICA core activity. Completing this activity earns you a certificate specifying the number of EC credits at stake. You can have this certificate formally registered at your institution’s administrative office. You may need to acquire the permission of your program coordinator and/or board of examinations in order to participate and earn credits for this activity.