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


Translating Global Critical Theory

All seminars will take place on Zoom at 5pm UK time. Links to be found underneath each session description.

– Spring Term –

Feb 24 – 5.30pm GMT

The Birth of Chinese Feminism: Translating He-Yin ZhenA conversation with Rebecca E. Karl and Lydia H. Liu

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He-Yin Zhen (1886-1920?) was a theorist who figured centrally in the birth of Chinese feminism. Unlike her contemporaries, she was concerned less with China’s fate as a nation and more with the relationship among patriarchy, imperialism, capitalism, and gender subjugation as global historical problems. The Birth of Chinese Feminism (ed. & transl. Lydia Liu, Dorothy Ko, Rebecca Karl; Columbia UP 2013) is the first translation and study of He-Yin’s work in English. It critically reconstructs early twentieth-century feminist thought in a transnational context by juxtaposing He-Yin Zhen’s writing against works by two better-known male interlocutors of her time. He-Yin Zhen complicates conventional accounts of feminism and China’s history, offering original perspectives on sex, gender, labor and power that remain relevant today. The seminar will take the form of a dialogue with Rebecca Karl and Lydia Liu on He-Yin Zhen’s theoretical work, its intellectual and historical context, and the challenges of translation.

Rebecca E. Karl teaches History at New York University. Her most recent book is China’s Revolutions in the Modern World: A Brief Interpretive History (Verso 2020). She is co-founder of the Critical China Scholars collective and founding co-editor of the website,  

Lydia H. Liu is Wun Tsun Tam Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University. She is the author of The Freudian Robot (2010), The Clash of Empires (2004), and Translingual Practice (1995). Her new book Global Language Justice (co-edited) will be published by Columbia University Press in Fall 2023.

Jan 18 – 5.30pm

Hicham Safieddine and Angela Giordani – Reflections on Translating Arab Marxism

Arab Marxist Mahdi Amel (1936-1987) applied class analysis during the era of national liberation to themes like sectarianism, political Islam, orientalism, culture and revolution, and the relationship of cultural heritage to modernity. His anti-colonial framing of capitalism in a colonial context sought to produce a new Marxist methodology. His work, which has been translated to English for the first time, challenges contemporary readings of leftist histories that are postmodern, liberal or Eurocentric. In this session we will discuss the volume Arab Marxism and National Liberation: Selected Writings of Mahdi Amel with its editor and translator and explore the relation of Amel’s thinking and writing to broader trends in Arab Marxism and critical theory.

Hicham Safieddine is Assistant Professor of History at the University of British Columbia. His research focuses on the political economy of finance and the intellectual history of modern Arab and Islamic thought. He is author of Banking on the State: The Financial Foundations of Lebanon (Stanford University Press, 2019) and editor of Arab Marxism and National Liberation: Selected Writings of Mahdi Amel ; Trans. Angela Giordani (Brill, 2021).

Angela Giordani is a historian of the modern Arab world with diverse interests in Islamic and global intellectual history. She holds a PhD in History (Columbia 2021) and is completing a book manuscript titled Scions of Ibn Sina: Arab Humanists and Islamic Philosophy in the Twentieth Century Currently, she is teaching modern Middle Eastern history at Smith College.

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– Autumn Term –

Oct 26 – 5pm

Sora Han – Translation in Black

This talk will offer a few comments on R.A. Judy’s, Sentient Flesh (2020), and the implications of his theory of para-semiosis for translating non-Western critical theory. If Judy’s text opens up the confluence of colonial language imposition as a para-semiotic field within which translation operates, I explore the unique problematic of a necessarily improvisational temporality of the signifier. I call the retention of this temporality “translation in black,” whose mode is historically and formally of the African American blues tradition, but can be performed in wholly other colonial linguistic contexts. I demonstrate this through a dystranslation of Fanon’s writing between French, English and Korean hangul and hanja.

Sora Han is the Chair of the Department of African American Studies at the University of California, Irvine, and an Associate Professor of the Culture & Theory Ph.D. Program, Criminology, Law & Society, Comparative Literature and the School of Law. Her first book, Letters of the Law (2015), extends the theoretical insights of critical race theory to produce new readings of American law’s landmark decisions on race and civil rights. She is also the co-author of the law casebook, Comparative Equality and Anti-Discrimination Law, Third Edition (2020), and Lacan and Chan Buddhist Thought (2022). Her newest book, Mu: 49 Marks of Abolition, to be published in 2022, is an experimental text on the poetics of the unconscious materiality of law in the wake of racial slavery. Recent publications on these new lines of research include ‘Slavery as Contract’, in Law and Literature (2016) and ‘Poetics of Mu’ in Textual Practice (2018). Her first book of poetry, ㅁ: to regard a wave, is forthcoming.

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Dec 8 – 5pm

Ken Kawashima and Gavin Walker – Theory & Crisis: Translating Marxism in Japan

This session will stage a dialogue with Kawashima and Walker on their work editing, translating, interpreting and creatively applying the work of Tosaka Jun, Uno Kōzō and Kōjin Karatani to our current theoretical conjuncture.

Ken Kawashima is Associate Professor in the Department of East Asian Studies, University of Toronto. To date, his work has focused on how to advance Marxist critiques of political economy after the critique of “essentialism”. Refusing to accept contemporary interpretations of Marx’s own discourse as “determinist”, Kawashima has focused on the antinomies of the logic of capital in the work of Marx to pursue a deceptively simple question: What does it mean to say, “The commodification of labor power?” He has answered this question by elaborating upon Marx’s concept of “surplus populations” and exchange, which has led him to examine the relationship between contingency and repetition in the process of commodification. But more historically, his research never ignores the many ways in which imperialism and colonialism pervert the antinomies of the logic of capital through discourses (among others) of national culture, race and multi-ethnic pluralism. His book, The Proletarian Gamble: Korean workers in interwar Japan (Duke UP, 2009) fleshes out these questions and concepts while also mining the Japanese colonial and metropolitan archives of the 1920s and 1930s. He is the the co-editor of Tosaka Jun: A Critical Reader (Cornell UP, 2014) and the editor and translator of Uno Kōzō’s Theory of Crisis (Brill, 2022), for which he also contributed a co-authored essay with Gavin Walker.

Gavin Walker is Associate Professor of History at McGill University, the author of The Sublime Perversion of Capital (Duke, 2016), Marx et la politique du dehors (Luc Éditeur, 2022), and a member of the editorial collective of positions: asia critique. He is the editor of The End of Area (Duke, 2019, with Naoki Sakai), Marx, Asia, and the History of the Present, a special issue of positions: politics (, 2020), and The Red Years: Theory, Politics, and Aesthetics in the Japanese ‘68 (Verso, 2020), as well as editor and translator of Kōjin Karatani’s Marx: Towards the Centre of Possibility (Verso, 2020) and a special issue edited for South Atlantic Quarterly on Foucault’s Late Politics (2022).

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