Possessive Individualism and Transatlantic Slavery in Early Modern Philosophy

NOG Masterclass by Katja Diefenbach, Thursday November 22, 2018, Utrecht University, 10:00-12:45

Possessive Individualism and Transatlantic Slavery in Early Modern Philosophy

One of Spinoza’s first biographers noted that the philosopher’s ink-and-charcoal drawings included a self-portrait in the pose and costume of Masaniello. The Neapolitan revolutionary was involved in one of the first mass insurrections of the Modern era. Recurrently, the existence of this portrait was used to illustrate Spinoza’s position in early modern philosophy as an »Anti-Hobbes« (Negri) who – under the influence of Machiavelli’s realism – was early to formulate a « mass standpoint in philosophy » (Balibar) with which he affirmed that legal authority « does not equal real force » (Montag) in that the stability of democracy rests on the potentialities of the masses which can never be subsumed under the name of the People, the Party or the State. Our Master Class will start by showing that at the foundation of this doctrine of the conflictual constitution of the Republic by and through the passions of the multitude, we find a concept of natural law which Spinoza took from Hobbes in order then, step by step, to turn it against the latter’s conception of ego-logical drives, possessive individualism and absolute sovereignty. What was thereby inscribed, deep in the origins of modern philosophy, is a fundamental disagreement about questions of appropriation, guilt and sovereignty, which also reflects the violent conflicts of early modern state foundation and colonial globalization. The seminar will revisit the pinnacle of Spinoza’s intellectual blockages, his silence on colonial slavery, while being a contemporary of Dutch colonialism, of the colonial engagement of the Amsterdam Jews in Northern Brazil and of the slave resistance shaking the region during the entire 17th century. By reading Spinoza’s texts with and against its author, we will put his concepts of conatus, affect, imitation and potentia multitudinis into the context of marronage and the fugitive communities of escaped slaves in 17th century Dutch Brazil.

Possible students’ presentations (10 to 20 min.) can engage with one of the texts from the reading list or with a selection of arguments from different texts. PhD and RMA students can receive 2 ECTS for attending the Masterclass and the Symposium ‘Caring for the World. Ethos and Partisanship’ (on November 23). And an extra 1 ECTS when writing a paper of 4.000-5.000 words. Please note if you wish to receive credit for the Masterclass with your registration at nog@uu.nl. You can register for the masterclass until November 12, 2018.

Katja Diefenbach is Professor of Aesthetic Theory at the Merz Akademie, Stuttgart. Her research interests are French philosophy and epistemology of the 20th century, with a special focus on the relations between Marxism and Poststructuralism. She recently published Spekulativer Materialismus. Spinoza in der postmarxistischen Philosophie (Turia + Kant, 2018). She is co-editor of the volume Encountering Althusser: Politics and Materialism in Contemporary Radical Thought (Bloomsbury, 2013), and author of numerous articles on political philosophy, aesthetics and cultural theory. She has taught at various universities, such as the Berlin University of the Arts, Humboldt University, and Jan van Eyck Academy in Maastricht. She is an Editorial Board member of the publishing collective b_books, Berlin.

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The Politics of Translation and Adaptation

Film and Literary Studies | LUCAS @ Leiden University invites you to: Two 20 Minute Lectures on African Theatre!
Thursday 6 December, 16:00-18:00 in Lipsius 148, Leiden

Dr. Paulina Aroch Fugellie
Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Mexico City

“Shakespeare, Nyerere and the Politics of Translation”
This lecture explores Mabepari wa Venisi (1969), a Swahili translation of William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice by Julius Nyerere, Tanzania’s first independent president. Shifting attention from the all too frequent reduction of African literature to its thematic interest, Aroch Fugellie claims that politics inhers in Nyerere’s adroit and complex handling of form. Nyerere’s “migratory cliches” produce meaning by engaging with the context of reception, with his own political writings, and with the Elizabethan play itself.

Dr. Sola Adeyemi
Goldsmiths University, London

“Negotiating the Landscape of Postcolony through a Spectral Frame”
This lecture explores the issue of “authenticity” in recuperating traditional performance culture among the Yoruba of West Africa, in particular the Egúngún – masquerades – masks, and using the narratives to translate and adapt Western literature for the African audience. Adeyemi locates the interrogation of the postcolony in the dramatic interpretation that questions the encounter between the African orature and Western literature


The DEADLINE for the ROSANNA Fund Scholarship applications is coming up: December the 1st, 2018!

The ROSANNA Fund supports talented and disadvantaged women students and researchers who intend to build their careers at Utrecht University. The fund offers women students and researchers financial support to help them achieve academic success. The ROSANNA Fund wishes to make higher education more accessible to women, so that no female researcher has to be excluded because of limited financial means.

Interested in applying for a scholarship? The ROSANNA Fund offers short-term scholarships between € 2.500 and € 5.000. The awarded amount depends on the candidate’s financial situation, academic record, and feasibility of the plans. A ROSANNA Fund scholarship can differ for each candidate, depending on the specific needs of the candidate in question. For more information, please visit our website or send an e-mail.


With best wishes, Prof. Rosi Braidotti and Prof. Anneke Smelik

Graduate School of North American Studies Freie Universitat Berlin offers Doctoral Grants

Application Procedure

Applications for doctoral grants (funded by the DFG or DAAD-GSSP) and doctoral memberships (Promotionsplätze) for candidates with third-party funding for the academic year 2019 can now be submitted via our application platform. Applicants will have to upload the documents listed below and can either prepare their application dossiers offline or (in several steps) online. Please note that only projects related to the field of North American Studies can be considered (i.e. the dissertation has to relate to the U.S. and/or Canada). We will be glad to answer any further questions via email.
The deadline for applications is November 30, 2018.

The following documents will have to be included in the online application. You will find all relevant details on the specificities (length, file size, etc,) of the documents listed below after registering on our application platform. We therefore kindly ask you to refrain from inquiries on application documents before accessing the online application form.
You can revise your application before submitting the complete application dossier and hence complete the application process in several steps. Please note that the referees who are supposed to submit a reference letter will not be informed before the application has been submitted. Deadline for the upload of reference letters is December 15, 2018.

  1. Curriculum Vitae (in English)
  2. Statement of Purpose of approx. 2 pages (in English)
  3. Copies of Earned Degrees/Diplomas/Graduation Certificates (High School, BA, MA, etc.)
    Please note: Applicants who have not obtained their MA/MSc degree by the deadline must provide a transcript of records specifying that the coursework for the master’s degree has been completed. In addition, applicants must provide a written confirmation that the MA/MSc thesis has been submitted. The final grade of the MA thesis/program must be sent to the attention of the GSNAS office before the interviews. The official diploma for the final degree (MA, MSc) must be submitted no later than May 31, 2019 in order to ensure the admission by the respective school/department (Fachbereich).
  4. An Outline of the Dissertation Project of 8-10 pages (in English)
  5. work plan/timeline (in English)
  6. Writing Sample based on a chapter of the M.A. thesis or an already published journal article (in English or German)
  7. Proof of Language Proficiency (TOEFL, IELTS, CAS, CPE)
    All applicants who are neither native English speakers nor have earned a degree at a university with English as language of instruction are required to submit certification of their English proficiency: minimum TOEFL scores of 600 (paper-based), 250 (computer-based) and 100 (internet-based) or equivalent minimum CAE (A and B), CPE (A, B, C) or IELTS (7.0) scores. A degree in North American Studies or English Language and Literature, earned at a German university is not sufficient as a proof of English language skills. It will only be accepted if the entire curriculum was taught in English. In addition, stays/semesters abroad will not be accepted as a substitute for a language test.
  8. Two Recent Letters of Reference (to be uploaded separately by the respective referee until Dec 15, 2018)

See: http://www.jfki.fu-berlin.de/en/graduateschool/application/application_forms/index.html

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]vu.nl and c.c. to RMeS-fgw[at]uva.nl. 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]vu.nl and c.c. to RMeS-fgw[at]uva.nl. Please be sure to specify your master programme, national research school and university.