The Centre for Philosophy and Critical Thought, Goldsmiths University of London

Research Centre run jointly between the Departments of Sociology and English and Comparative Literature at Goldsmiths University, London

Gesture: A Seminar and Workshop with Werner Hamacher (WBLRN / Warburg Institute), 1-2 Dec 2016

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Thursday, 1 December 2016 – A Seminar with Werner Hamacher

4-6pm, Richard Hoggart Building 256, Goldsmiths

** PLEASE NOTE: Due to personal reasons Professor Hamacher is no longer able to come to London, and the seminar has been cancelled. The workshop on Friday 2 December will still take place.

Prof. Werner Hamacher will lead a seminar on his essay, “The Gesture in the Name: On Benjamin and Kafka” (from Premises) / “Die Geste im Namen” (from Entferntes Verstehen), in Richard Hoggart Building 256 at Goldsmiths, University of London. 

Prof. Hamacher asks all participants to please read the text and prepare questions for him in advance of the seminar. (Click here for English translation; German original

All welcome; seats available on a first come, first served basis.

Contact: [at]

Friday, 2 December 2016 – A Workshop

9:30am-6pm, Lecture Room, The Warburg Institute

An interdisciplinary workshop on the philosophic, literary, art historical “language of gestures,” with special attention to the work of Walter Benjamin and Giorgio Agamben.

Participants: Andrew Benjamin (London Graduate School / Kingston University / Monash University), Philipp Ekardt (Warburg Institute / Bilderfahrzeuge Project), Christopher Johnson (Warburg Institute / Bilderfahrzeuge Project), David Freedberg (Warburg Institute), Werner Hamacher (European Graduate School), Eckart Marchand (Warburg Institute / Bilderfahrzeuge Project), Julia Ng (Goldsmiths, University of London), Caroline van Eck (University of Cambridge).

** PLEASE NOTE: Due to personal reasons Professor Hamacher is no longer able to attend the workshop.

The Workshop on Gesture addresses a truly interdisciplinary topic currently being explored by scholars from art history, dance studies, cinema studies, and philosophy. Drawing on research in ethnology, anthropology, psychology, and neuropsychology, art historians, like Aby Warburg, Rudolf Wittkower, Caroline van Eck, and David Freedberg, have variously redescribed and theorized gesture. Philosophers and literary theorists, like Walter Benjamin, Bertolt Brecht, Giorgio Agamben, Judith Butler, Werner Hamacher, and Andrew Benjamin, have plumbed gesture for its ability to mediate meaning(s). Given this, the Workshop will variously attempt to revaluate the corporeality, contingency, and temporality that enable gesture in the first place, even as it assesses the various ways gesture has been, for better or worse, abstracted. Its working premise is that nowadays we see a gradual fading of the symbol in the face of other forms of mediation, and that this lends urgency to the study of gesture. More particularly still, the Workshop will attempt to trace the lines that join gesture in life, on stage, and in the visual arts and the conceptions of gesture promoted by Walter Benjamin and Giorgio Agamben.

This Workshop, then, affords an opportunity, then, to address questions such as: How might a history of gesture be written? What kinds of aesthetic, rhetorical, and/or truth claims does gesture make? In what sense is gesture an event, a sign, or a form of expression? What are the qualitative and conceptual differences between gestures that occur in the laboratory, a play, a painting, or on a page of philosophy? To address such questions, the Workshop will consider the dynamics of producing and receiving gesture as a historical, empirical, and philosophic problem.


10:00 Christopher Johnson (WI/BFZ), Welcome: Some Gestures towards Gesture

10:20 Caroline van Eck (University of Cambridge), “Eloquentia corporis as a Theory of Mind: Intentionality and Inanimate Movement”

11:05 Eckart Marchand (WI/BFZ), “Baxandall meets Belting: Gestures in Fifteenth-Century Florentine Paintings”

11:50 Philipp Ekardt (WI/BFZ), “Gesture and Discernment: The Power of Feelings according to Alexander Kluge”

12:35 Lunch

1:30 David Freedberg (WI), “The Paradox of the Pathosformel”

2:15 Julia Ng (Goldsmiths), “Sketching the Sky Torn Asunder: Gesture in Benjamin’s Kafka”

3:00 Coffee, tea break

3:15 Andrew Benjamin (London Graduate School, Kingston University), “Empathy and the Doubling of Gesture”

4:00 Roundtable discussion, led by Josh Cohen (Goldsmiths)

If you wish to attend please register by clicking here.

Contact: johnson [at]

Event page at the Warburg institute.

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