Research Master’s Seminar: “Imagining the Image” (VU University)

When? February – June 2019
Where? VU University, TBA
For? RMa Students
Credits? 9 ECTS
Coordinator? dr Sven Lutticken (VU University)
Registration? Please send a short motivation before 16 November 2018, to s.lutticken[at] and c.c. to RMeS-fgw[at] Please be sure to specify your master programme, national research school and university.

This course examines different conceptualizations of the image in the context of historical transformations of the arts. This year’s edition will focus on critical theories of representation and visibility, including not only art and media theory but also in philosophy, feminist theory and postcolonial studies. Looking into representation both in the sense of depiction (Darstellung) and of political delegation (Vertretung), we will discuss the multiple valences, ambiguous past and uncertain future of this concept. Contemporary artistic and activist practices will be analysed in conjunction with the theoretical writings.

Participants in this course will:
1) analyse and compare relevant theories of the image in art history, media studies, design studies and the history of architecture.
2) actively apply theories to selected case studies.
3) examine the historicity of theories of the image and the potential contemporary relevance of older writings.
4) reflect on the wider social and cultural relevance of various conceptualizations of the image and visibility.

Lecture and seminar. The focus is on active participation and the ability to articulate and discuss one’s analysis.

Students write an essay that counts for 60% of the final grade; presentations during class (30%) and participation in the discussions (10%) make up the remaining 40%. Students are expected to be able to discuss and critique theoretical texts at a high level of sophistication.

Matching of course objectives and assessment
Objective 1: Discussion about readings (10%), presentation (30%)
Objective 2: Essay, 3000 words (60%)
Objective 3: Discussion, presentation, essay
Objective 4: Discussion


To be announced


Admission to Research Master’s programme Critical Studies in Art and Culture. Students from other tracks in the Humanities Research Master, and students from comparable research master’s programmes elsewhere, may be admitted individually, depending on their background knowledge.
To register: Please send a short motivation to s.lutticken[at] and c.c. to RMeS-fgw[at] Please be sure to specify your master programme, national research school and university.

Sexuality and Borders

Call for Papers Symposium, 4-5 April 2019. Department of Media, Culture, and Communication, New York University, NYC

In her path-breaking work Borderlands/La Frontera (1987), Gloria E. Anzaldúa parsed out the relationship between heteronormativity and the stretching of the border into various borderlands, subjectivities, and temporalities. In the context of ongoing migration and the intensification of border regimes, this formative thesis on the relationship between borders and sexuality needs renewed attention and

consideration. How do sexuality and borders intersect? What role does sexuality play in the production, maintenance, and disruption of contemporary border regimes? How do borders as features of racial capitalism multiply inequalities via sexuality and, conversely, how is sexuality mediated through racialized border regimes? While people continue to move across borders, sexuality becomes a dominant frame through which such movement is attempted to be captured, framed, and contained. At the same time, the border becomes understood, organized, and contested through sexuality and sexual discourse.

In response to these phenomena, this symposium conceptualizes sexuality as a method of bordering and thinks sexuality beyond identity towards its multifarious entanglements with contemporary border regimes. From moral panics about migrant sexuality, the pornotropic gaze of surveillance technologies, to media discourses about reproduction and contagion, sexuality can be said to play a key role in how borders are policed and managed. At the same time, intimacy, desire, and sexuality have become rallying points in challenging borders as seen in queer activism against deportations, critiques of homonationalism and imaginations of different sexual futures and political horizons. Bringing together scholars from a variety of disciplinary and regional contexts, this symposium aims to show how sexuality matters for the study of and struggles around borders.

Topics include but are not limited to

  • Intimacy of border control, touch, and the haptic
  • Sexual transmission, deviancy, and national health
  • Family, state and, national reproduction
  • Sexual panics and the intensification of border regimes
  • Trans perspectives on gendered and sexualised border regimes
  • Sexual violence, detention, and state violence
  • Sex work, discourses of trafficking, and migrant sex work activism
  • Digital borders, pornography, mediation
  • Homonationalism(s)
  • Technologies of border control and sexuality
  • Surveillance, voyeurism, pornotropics
  • Entanglement of anti-migrant and anti-queer/feminist politics
  • Virality, sexuality, and contagion across borders
  • Queer of colour critique and critical migration studies
  • Affect, desire, and queer/no border futurities
  • Biopolitical borders, demography, and population
  • Queer temporalities, archives, and histories of migration
  • LGBTQ refugees and migrants
  • Queer and feminist activism around/against borders

Sexuality and Borders is a two day symposium hosted and funded by New York University’s Department of Media, Culture, and Communication. It is co-sponsored by NYU’s Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality, the DFG-funded research training group “Minor Cosmopolitanisms” (University of Potsdam, Germany) and is supported by LSE’s Department of Gender Studies.


  • Radha Hegde (Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication, NYU)
  • Miriam Ticktin (Associate Professor of Anthropology, New School for Social Research)
  • Alyosxa Tudor (Lecturer in Gender Studies, SOAS University of London)


Please send proposals for papers (no longer than 350 words) and a short bio (150 words) by November 1st, 2018 to As an interdisciplinary symposium, we encourage applications that engage a variety of theoretical and methodological approaches and focus on different geopolitical contexts. We aim to enable discussions across academic, artistic and activist debates and also welcome applications from participants outside the academy.

Organizing team

  • Michelle Pfeifer (NYU, Department of Media, Culture, and Communication)
  • Billy Holzberg (London School of Economics, Department of Gender Studies)
  • Anouk Madörin (University of Potsdam, RTG Minor Cosmopolitanisms)

For updates and more information see

For questions please contact

Fascism? Populism? Democracy? Critical Theory in a Global Context

January 23-25, 2019 University of Brighton, UK

Keynote Speakers: Lorenzo Bernini; Luciana Cadahia; Jean Comaroff; Kelly Gillespie; Saygun Gökarıksel; Donna Jones; Maurizio Lazzarato; Christoph Menke; Leigh-Ann Naidoo; Suvendrini Perera; Enzo Traverso

The International Consortium of Critical Theory Programs invites 300-word abstracts for a conference, hosted jointly by the Centre for Applied Philosophy, Politics and Ethics at the University of Brighton, UK, and the Department of Politics at Boğaziçi University, Turkey. Please send abstracts to before September 10, 2018.

The conference has three aims:

(a) to reanimate the analytical and critical tools of the past in addressing the xenophobic, fascistic, racist, and sexist tendencies of the present;
(b) to engage in debate with critical theoretical scholars from every part of the globe;
(c) to address the inequalities intrinsic to the global political order, while identifying the places, spaces and practices which inspire democratic politics today.

Organising Committee
Volkan Çıdam (Boğaziçi University); Mark Devenney (University of Brighton); Zeynep Gambetti (Boğaziçi University); Clare Woodford (University of Brighton).

This conference takes place at an unprecedented time. The early years of the 21st century have seen the reemergence of fascisms; the naturalization of nationalist, populist, sexist, xenophobic and provocative hate speech and conduct; and the marginalization of local and global progressive politics. Many events suggest a return to the 1920s and 1930s:  “democratically” elected politicians in the United States, Hungary, Turkey, and India have resorted to nationalist tactics, undermining law and parliamentary sovereignty; resentment of culturally or religiously distinctive “others” is nurtured to reactionary ends; millions of immigrants, refugees, and stateless people are refused recognition as rights-bearing human beings. Yet the world today is also profoundly different than it was in the 1930s. Political discourses are mediatized in real time across the globe and a single mode of networked and financialized production structures all economic and political activity. Class structures, resource distribution, and the forms that inequality takes have changed in unprecedented ways.

Critical theory has never contented itself with describing surface appearance—and there is no reason why it should today. Fascism, capitalism, and inequality have assumed new forms, and taken on different significance in novel social conditions. This conference aims to reinvigorate critical and theoretical approaches to the present, devoid of dogmatism, but committed to a politics of equality.

Suggested topics include (but are not limited to):

1. Conceptualising the convergence and divergence of populist and/or fascistic tendencies in different contexts across the globe;
2. Reframing critical theoretical work for emancipatory politics in the 21st century;
3. Critiques of (neoliberal) capital including associated processes of accumulation, precarization, flexible labour, xenophobia, and prejudice;
4. Decolonial critiques of “Western” conceptualisations of domination, violence, and critique;
5. Conceptualising new forms of domination and violence, and their specificities, across the globe;
6. Analysis of the economic, social, and political dynamics which limit emancipatory politics;
7. Theoretical reflections on movements and ideas which enact and animate equality across the globe.

Conference attendance and participation is free. However, we will limit the number of presentations in order to ensure that we can structure the conference as a set of on-going conversations.

Full financial support for flights and accommodation in Brighton is available to scholars from around the globe who cannot otherwise attend.


Keynote Speakers

Lorenzo Bernini is Associate Professor of Political Philosophy at the University of Verona, Italy. He is co-founder and director of the Research Center PoliTeSse (Politics and Theories of Sexuality). His interests range from classical political philosophy and French thought of the 20th century to contemporary theories of radical democracy, critical race and queer theories.

Luciana Cadahia is Professor of Political Theory and Problems of Modern and Contemporary Philosophy at FLASCO, Ecuador. Her research focuses on the connections between modern and contemporary political thought. She is the editor of Indignation and Rebellion. Critique of a critical time (with Felix Duque, 2013) and Normality of the crisis / crisis of the normality (with Gonzalo Velasco, 2013). Most recently, Fondo de Cultura Económica published her book Mediaciones de los sensibles (2017). Her work has been central to the recent British Academy funded project on Theorizing Transnational Populist Politics.

Jean Comaroff is Professor of African and African American Studies and of Anthropology at Harvard University. She was educated at the University of Cape Town and the London School of Economics. Her research, primarily conducted in southern Africa, centres on processes of social and cultural transformation—the making and unmaking of colonial society, the nature of the postcolony, and the late modern world viewed from the Global South.

Kelly Gillespie is a political and legal anthropologist focusing on how criminal justice in South Africa has become a vector for the continuation of Apartheid relations. She writes and teaches about law and justice, urbanism, sexualities, race and the praxis of social justice. In 2008, she cofounded the Johannesburg Workshop in Theory and Criticism (JWTC), an experimental project tasked with recrafting the work of critical theory beyond the global north. She has been involved in work on the decolonisation of the university in South Africa, supporting student movement activism and disciplinary/curriculum reconstruction. Gillespie also works beyond the university in popular education projects supporting a broad range of social justice formations.

Saygun Gökarıksel is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Boğaziçi University, Turkey. He researches the communist past in Poland and Eastern Europe, with a focus on law, state and class formation, right wing populism, and neoliberal globalization. He was a co-editor of an online forum on social movements at the Council for European Studies, Columbia University. Gokariksel has been involved in collectives engaging in themes of equality, justice, and emancipation.

Donna Jones is Associate Professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley, where she serves as core faculty for the Program in Critical Theory and the Science, Technology and Society Center. Jones researches Caribbean, African American, and American literature. Her book The Racial Discourses of Life Philosophy: Négritude, Vitalism and Modernity won the MLA’s Jeanne and Aldo Scaglione Prize in Comparative Literary Studies in 2010. She is currently working on two projects: The Ambiguous Promise of European Decline: Race and Historical Pessimism in the Era of the Great War and The Tribunal of Life: Reflections on Vitalism, Race and Biopolitics.

Maurizio Lazzarato is an Italian sociologist and philosopher. In the 1970s, he was in activist in the workers’ movement (Autonomia Operaia) in Italy. He was a founding member of the editorial board of the journal Multitudes. Lazzarato is a researcher at Matisse/CNRS, Pantheon-Sorbonne University (University Paris I), and a member of the International College of Philosophy in Paris.

Christoph Menke is Professor of Philosophy at Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main. A German philosopher, Menke is a key representative of the so called “third generation” of the Frankfurt School. Among other topics, he has written about democracy and equality, the history and concept of rights, theories of subjectivity, and the aesthetics of modernity.

Leigh-Ann Naidoo lectures in the School of Education at the University of Cape Town. Her research interests include education and social justice, social movements as sites of knowledge production, the roles of education in resistance movements, radical education and student resistance, and rethinking the figure of the intellectual and the teacher. She has been an activist in the #RhodesMustFall, #FeesMustFall and #EndOutsourcing movements that took place across South African campuses in 2015 and 2016 and has insisted on the urgent need to decolonise education.

Suvendrini Perera is John Curtin Distinguished Professor and Research Professor of Cultural Studies in the School of Media, Creative Arts and Social Inquiry at Curtin University, Australia. She has published widely on issues of social justice, including decolonization, race, ethnicity and multiculturalism, refugee topics, critical whiteness studies and Asian-Australian studies. She has combined her academic career with participation in policymaking, public life and activism. She is a founding member of “Researchers Against Pacific Black Sites” which aims to expose government practices of offshore detention of asylum seekers and refugees seeking protection in Australia.

Enzo Traverso is Susan and Barton Winokur Professor of the Humanities at Cornell University. A historian of modern and contemporary Europe, his research focuses on the political ideas of the 21st century, in particular the impact of violence and fascism in European culture. He developed the notion of post-Fascism in his book Les Nouveaux Visages du Fascisme to describe the rise of xenophobic, right wing parties across Europe.



The International Consortium of Critical Theory Programs, co-directed by Judith Butler and Penelope Deutscher, is housed at the University of California, Berkeley and Northwestern University and is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The task of this international consortium is to document, connect, and support the various programs and projects that now represent critical theory across the globe. Through its work, the Consortium aims to document the global contours of critical theory today, supporting critical thought both inside and outside the university in the arts, humanities, social sciences, and science and technology studies, and seeking collaborative ways to become critically responsive to pressing global challenges.

For information, contact

Villains! Constructing Narratives of Evil

Call for Papers: International Conference 6-8 February 2019
International Graduate Center for the Study of the Culture
(Justus Liebig University,Gießen, Germany)

Villains are not always simply agents of evil. They can represent the moral decay of a society. They can attract unexpected sympathy as misunderstood products of trauma. As symbols of revenge, they can produce a sense of justice or of closure. As harbingers of change and revolution, they can open us up to feelings of hope. This conference will have a focus on villains from historical, religious and cultural perspectives. Rather than as a subservient Other of the hero, we would like to conceptualize the villain as its own archetype.

The difficulties to define villains, their relation to heroes, and the purpose of their construction, are already visible in antiquity. The word “hero” itself derives from the Greek word heros (ἥρως). A heros was venerated within the context of a cult, but was not necessarily a hero according to our modern understanding of the term. Instead, the heros could also be a villain: e.g. Eurystheus, the counterpart of the famous hero Herakles. This ambivalence persisted in history. For instance, some villains are despite their evil deeds still admired for certain elements of their character (e.g. Hannibal for his military genius). Furthermore, the villain was subject to transformation in relation to changes in societies and their underlying systems of norms and values (e.g. Prometheus, who was seen as an evildoer by Hesiod, but as a cultural hero by Aischylos). The rhetorical and philosophical exemplary traditions, on the other hand, offer more clear-cut definitions: i.e. villains are defined either by the absence of moral virtues or the presence of vices, often styled with topoiand stock characteristics. In these traditions, the aim of constructing narratives of evil was to learn from the evildoers’ vices.

Early Christians, too, strove to fight and oppose evil, by means of the thorough examination of its manifestations and appearances, such as demons, as well as the Devil himself. Demons already were part of the religious culture in antiquity (e.g. Xenocrates’ tripartite classification of gods, men and demons). In early Christianity, demonology and the linked rituals of exorcism were not a marginal phenomenon, but played a part in shaping Christian life, faith and power relations. Many Christian authors were engaged in demonologies (e.g. Augustine or Thomas Aquinas), constructing narratives of evil, its origins and its manifestations in their present world. The Devil as ultimate villain tempted souls while hiding behind many faces: e.g. traitors, evil magicians, heretics and corrupted people thirsty of power and earthly pleasures.

During Romanticism, the lack of mortal virtues was not necessarily a problem, due to an emphasis on the dynamics of the soul. Passion, inspiration and honesty were pivotal virtues. Villains therefore often no longer functioned primarily as warnings or reminders, but instead as tragic characters who remained faithful to themselves. Villains of Romanticism, even when they were radical (e.g. insane criminals, consumed by the flames of their desires), still deserved admiration for their struggles. Specific genres (e.g. the Schauerroman, Gothic fiction) developed in the mid-18th century, that showed a fascination with the dark passions of their protagonists.

Such attempts to romanticize the villain can also be detected in contemporary literature and culture: e.g. criminal masterminds, mysterious outlaws, mad scientists, maniacal supervillains. This fascination has frequently been addressed in academic research. Walter Benjamin was not the only one to notice the public’s general admiration for “great” criminals, figures who are remembered for defying the law (“Critique of Violence”, 1921, 281). Eric Hobsbawm devoted a full study on the positive evaluation of defiant figures, including sects, the mafia, and anarchist movements (Primitive Rebels, 1959). More recently, Samuel Weber has suggested that “the cult of the ‘outlaw’” is a result of villains often functioning as “antilegal, antistate, anticentralist agents and institutions, representing the individual and the local against the anonymous powers of the State, Big Business, and ‘the Law’ in general” (Theatricality as Medium, 2009, 121).


We invite proposals for papers pertaining (but not limited to) the following topics:

  • villains of antiquity/the Middle Ages/modernity
  • demonology
  • villains of war and terrorism
  • constructing villains in popular culture, (modern) literature, theater and film
  • visual representations of evil
  • villains and gender
  • villains and power
  • non-personal villains (institutions, groups, etc.)

We encourage young scholars, PhD and MA students from myriad disciplines and fields within the Humanities and Social Sciences, including Memory Studies, Literary and Cultural Studies, and Religious Studies, to send in their abstracts (300 words max., and an additional short bio) for 15-20 minute presentations. Please send your abstracts to no later than 12 August 2018.