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

Primitivism Now – a workshop (29.10)

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in collaboration with The Writing and Society Research Centre, Western Sydney University

29 October 2019


Deptford Town Hall Council Chamber 

[please note the venue change from a previous announcement]

PRIMITIVISM NOW is a one-day workshop featuring speakers from a range of disciplines, from literary theory to philosophy, politics to art history. They will consider whether it is possible to think anew about primitivism, a field whose theoretical underpinnings have largely lain dormant since the poststructural and postcolonial critiques of primitivism in the 1980s and 90s.

They will reflect on primitivism in the light of recent developments in theory (such as those connected with ecological critique, the adoption of global frames of analysis, and decolonial theory) and historiography (such as the turn to ‘deep’ history and revisionist approaches to the early history of agriculture), as well developments connected with uncovering new archives and revisiting the work of forgotten or less-studied figures.

The workshop will also question whether there are modes of primitivism aside from those developed in reference to major languages and culture at the centres of the European empires? This includes thinking about articulations of primitivism from the Caribbean, Latin America, and Africa as well as within European Jewry. Does ‘primitivism’ offer a critical vocabulary and conceptual framework to adequately describe the full range of literary and visual works we may wish to place under its rubric?

Speakers: Miri Davidson (Queen Mary) / Ben Etherington (Western Sydney) / Nicola Gess (Basel) / Jill Lloyd (Independent curator) / Erhard Schüttpelz (Siegen) / Samuel Spinner (Johns Hopkins) / Maria Stavrinaki (Paris 1) / Carole Sweeney (Goldsmiths) / Alberto Toscano (Goldsmiths)

Attendance is free.

10.30 – 12.00 Panel 1
Erhard Schüttpelz: ‘Primitivism and the Category of the Primitive’
Nicola Gess: ‘Alfred Döblin and the Poetics of Primitivism’
Samuel Spinner: ‘Literary Primitivism and Visual Primitivism: Carl Einstein’s Theory and Der Nister’s Practice’
Chair: Ben Etherington

12.00 – 13.30 Lunch

13.30 – 14.30 Panel 2
Carole Sweeney: ‘Progressive Primitivism? Nancy Cunard and the Negro Anthology (1934)’
Alberto Toscano: ‘The Tragic and the Primitive: Césaire, Soyinka, Nietzsche’
Chair: Maria Stavrinaki

14.30-15.00 Break

15.00-16.00 Panel 3
Ben Etherington: ‘Are the Ends of Primitivism the Beginnings of the Marvellous Real?’
Miri Davidson: ‘The Political Primitivism of Pierre Clastres’
Chair: Alberto Toscano

16.00-16.20 Break

16.20-17.30 Roundtable

Responses and reflections from Jill Lloyd and Maria Stavrinaki

This workshop has been supported by funding from the School of Humanities and Communication Arts and the Writing & Society Research Centre at Western Sydney University and the Centre for Philosophy and Critical  Thought at Goldsmiths, University of London.

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