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

Research Centre based in Sociology and run jointly with the Centre for Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths University, London


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After Benjamin: A Symposium on the Wherewithal of Political Thinking Today (28 September 2017)

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After Benjamin

A Symposium on the Wherewithal of Political Thinking Today

Hosted by the Walter Benjamin London Research Network

Thursday, 28 September 2017

3-6pm

Richard Hoggart Building 137a, Goldsmiths, University of London

 

James Martel (San Francisco State University)

Unburied Bodies: The Power and Vulnerability of the State

Andrew Benjamin (Kingston / University of Technology, Sydney)

Two Catastrophes? Divine Violence and Climate Change

Julia Ng (Goldsmiths)

After the Fact

**This event is free and open to the public.

 

About the Speakers:

James Martel is Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science at San Francisco State University. He is the author of The Misinterpellated Subject (Duke University Press, 2017); a trilogy of books on Walter Benjamin: The One and Only Law, Walter Benjamin and the Second Commandment (Michigan 2014); Divine Violence: Walter Benjamin and the Eschatology of Sovereignty (Routledge/GlassHouse 2011); and Textual Conspiracies: Walter Benjamin, Idolatry and Political Theory (Michigan, 2011); Subverting the Leviathan: Reading Thomas Hobbes as a Radical Democrat (Columbia, 2007) and Love is a Sweet Chain: Desire, Autonomy and Friendship in Liberal Political Theory (Routledge 2001). His talk is drawn from a book currently under review with Amherst College Press entitled Unburied Bodies: the Subversive Power of the Corpse.

Andrew Benjamin is Professor of Philosophy and the Humanities, Kingston University London and Distinguished Professor of Architectural Theory at the University of Technology, Sydney. He co-convenes the Walter Benjamin London Research Network and is the author of numerous books on Benjamin, most recently Working with Walter Benjamin: Recovering a Political Philosophy (Edinburgh University Press 2013).

Julia Ng is Lecturer in Critical Theory in the Department of English and Comparative Literature and the Co-Director of the Centre for Philosophy and Critical Thought at Goldsmiths, University of London.


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Thomas Khurana (Essex): The Art of Second Nature (21 June 2017)

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A CPCT lecture on the theme of Concepts of Life / The Life of the Concept

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

5:00-7:00pm

RHB 137a

With a response from Josh Robinson (Cardiff).

The lecture delineates a modern conception of second nature that takes shape around 1800. Instead of just repeating, once again, the ancient topos that habit is a second nature, this modern conception makes use of a different paradigm for the understanding of cultural self-production, namely the work of art. According to this conception, the development of a second nature is not a question of mere habituation, but rather an essentially creative and expressive process whereby we take up nature and reorganize it in such a way that it points beyond itself and becomes expressive beyond subjective mastery. The formation of culture and the production of a second nature is thus revealed as an aesthetic practice, a complex dialectical exercise, and a social practice of objectification. This conception of second nature which the lecture will trace back to Kant, Schiller, and Hegel not only allows us to grasp the relationship between spirit and nature more adequately than some of the neo-Aristotelian conceptions that dominate the current philosophical debate. It also opens up an instructive critical perspective on our contemporary aesthetic self-understanding.

Bio

Thomas Khurana is Lecturer of Philosophy at the University of Essex. Previously, he has taught Philosophy at the University of Potsdam, Goethe-University Frankfurt/M., and the University of Leipzig. He was a Heuss Lecturer at the New School for Social Research, a Humboldt fellow in the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago and is the recipient of a three-year Heisenberg fellowship by the German Research Foundation. His most recent book is Das Leben der Freiheit: Form und Wirklichkeit der Autonomie (Berlin: Suhrkamp, 2017).

Josh Robinson is Lecturer in the School of English, Communication and Philosophy at Cardiff University. He works primarily on twentieth-century and contemporary poetry, and on the theoretical implications of the study of literature, and is the author of a forthcoming book on Adorno’s aesthetic theory.

Free and open to the public.

Contact: j.ng[at]gold.ac.uk


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Benjamin and Leibniz: On Expression. A conference at Goldsmiths on 27-28 June 2017.

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Hosted by the Walter Benjamin London Research Network and the Centre for Philosophy and Critical Thought, Goldsmiths. Supported by the London Graduate School and the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy, Kingston University.

***Free and open to all, but please register here.***

Keynote Speaker: Professor Peter Fenves, Northwestern University

‘The idea is a monad—that means briefly: every idea contains the image of the world’, writes Walter Benjamin in The Origin of the German Mourning Play. ‘Expression’, in the writing of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, denotes an isomorphic relation between the universe and its components, or monads. Every monad contains an image, or reflection of the universe; ‘each simple substance has relations which express all the others, and (…) consequently it is a perpetual living mirror of the universe (§56, Monadology). This conference seeks to reanimate Benjamin’s encounter with Leibniz, and considers, particularly, the manner in which Leibniz’s concept of expression informs Benjamin’s thought.

As Gilles Deleuze writes in Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza, the concept of expression, rediscovered by Spinoza and Leibniz, ‘already had behind it a long philosophical history, but a rather hidden, and a rather forbidden history’. Walter Benjamin’s engagement with Leibniz’s philosophy was an enduring one as well. Explicit references to Leibniz’s philosophy may be found from Benjamin’s doctoral dissertation on early German romanticism to his final text, the ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History’. Yet the Leibniz-Benjamin encounter might be considered a hidden one too, and—from the dearth of critical commentary on the subject—the scope of Leibniz’s influence on Benjamin may appear equally forbidding. Whence the furtive nature of those themes appropriated from Leibniz in Benjamin’s writing, and to what extent might ‘expression’ be the sign under which less visible dimensions of such themes can, paradoxically, be made legible?

Both the concept of expression—as a point of convergence between the philosophy of Leibniz and Benjamin—and its bearing upon their philosophy more generally, have gone underinvestigated. This conference will bring together researchers working on different aspects of expression in Benjamin and Leibniz’s philosophy, and will investigate the role played by the themes of expression and monadology in and between disciplines in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Organized by Noa Levin (CRMEP, Kingston University) and Christopher Law (Goldsmiths, University of London)

Please visit https://onexpressionwblrn.wordpress.com/ for more information on the programme, abstracts, and directions.

 

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Call for Papers: Benjamin and Leibniz – On Expression (WBLRN / Goldsmiths, 27-28 June 2017; deadline 20 April)

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Benjamin and Leibniz: On Expression

Conference and Workshop

Conference: 27 June 2017 @ RHB 342
Workshop: 28 June 2017 @ RHB 142
Location: Goldsmiths, University of London

Walter Benjamin London Research Network 
Hosted by the Centre for Philosophy and Critical Thought, Goldsmiths

Supported by the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy and the London Graduate School, Kingston University

Keynote Speaker: Professor Peter Fenves, Northwestern University

Deadline for abstracts: 20 April 2017 

‘The idea is a monad—that means briefly: every idea contains the image of the world’, writes Walter Benjamin in The Origin of the German Mourning Play. ‘Expression’, in the writing of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, denotes an isomorphic relation between the universe and its components, or monads. Every monad contains an image, or reflection of the universe; ‘each simple substance has relations which express all the others, and (…) consequently it is a perpetual living mirror of the universe (§56, Monadology). This conference seeks to reanimate Benjamin’s encounter with Leibniz, and considers, particularly, the manner in which Leibniz’s concept of expression informs Benjamin’s thought.

As Gilles Deleuze writes in Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza, the concept of expression, rediscovered by Spinoza and Leibniz, ‘already had behind it a long philosophical history, but a rather hidden, and a rather forbidden history’. Walter Benjamin’s engagement with Leibniz’s philosophy was an enduring one as well. Explicit references to Leibniz’s philosophy may be found from Benjamin’s doctoral dissertation on early German romanticism to his final text, the ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History’. Yet the Leibniz-Benjamin encounter might be considered a hidden one too, and—from the dearth of critical commentary on the subject—the scope of Leibniz’s influence on Benjamin may appear equally forbidding. Whence the furtive nature of those themes appropriated from Leibniz in Benjamin’s writing, and to what extent might ‘expression’ be the sign under which less visible dimensions of such themes can, paradoxically, be made legible?

Both the concept of expression—as a point of convergence between the philosophy of Leibniz and Benjamin—and its bearing upon their philosophy more generally, have gone underinvestigated. This conference will bring together researchers working on different aspects of expression in Benjamin and Leibniz’s philosophy. The workshop—to be held on the following day—will offer participants an opportunity to read texts by Leibniz, Benjamin and others, and to investigate the role played by the themes of expression and monadology in and between disciplines in the 20th and 21st centuries.

We welcome papers on a range of topics including but not limited to:

* The role of the
Monadology in Benjamin’s ‘philosophy of ideas’ and philosophy of language
* Between expression (
Ausdruck) and perception (Wahrnehmung) in Walter Benjamin’s writing
* The place of Leibniz in Benjamin’s encounter with Romanticism

* Leibniz’s concept of expression in Benjamin’s philosophy of history

* The concept of expression between Leibniz, Deleuze and Benjamin

* Monadic/expressive use of philosophical terminology in Benjamin

* Benjamin’s disputations with infinitesimal calculus

* Leibniz’s concept of expression and Benjamin’s writing on poetics

* The ‘virtual’ in Leibniz; virtuality in Benjamin and Derrida

* Leibniz, Benjamin and theories of the coming philosophy

* Logical expression, historical expression: Benjamin’s responses to Cohen

Proposals (250-300 words) for 20 minute long papers, accompanied by a brief biographical note (100 words) should be submitted to onexpressionwblrn@gmail.com by April 20th, 2017.

Organization: Noa Levin / Christopher Law


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Neurosis, Poetry, and the Present (Benjamin Noys / Daniel Katz)

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A Workshop organised by Professor Daniel Katz (Warwick) and Professor Benjamin Noys (Chichester), hosted by CPCT.

Saturday, 18 March 2017
10:45am – 6:30pm
RHB 342, Goldsmiths, University of London

(Free) registration here.

The current theoretical scene has often swung between invocations of affirmative joy and melancholic meditations. This oscillation is figured in the assumption of a joyous continuity between philosophy and politics, or the melancholy and chastened consideration of their sundering. Instead, this event focuses on neurosis as a missing term, a form of ‘blockage’, of delay and prevarication, which could open-up the tensions of the present moment. In particular this also involves a re-consideration of poetry as a site that has witnessed a resurgence in political engagement and the thinking through of the damaged subjectivities of contemporary capitalism. Poetry, often dismissed under the signs of neurosis or of lack of relevance or popularity, offers another ‘minor’ site for interrogating the theoretical and political moods and affects of the present moment. This unstable combination of neurosis and poetry is a deliberately fragile construction that we hope can allow the exploration of the fragilities of our subjectivities and experiences.

 

SCHEDULE

10:45-11:00 am – Introduction

11:00-12:00 pm – Professor Emma Mason (Warwick): “Critical Vulnerability and the Weakness of Poetry”

12:15-1:15 pm – Professor Daniel Katz (Warwick): “Real Ruins: Modernist Neurosis, Impersonal Politics”

1:15-2:45 pm – Lunch

2:45-3:45 pm – Dr. Natalia Cecire (Sussex): “The Cell, the Shell, and the Death Drive: Marianne Moore and the Open Secrets of the Natural World”

4:00-5:00 pm – Professor Benjamin Noys (Chichester): “The Cosmogony of Revolution: Diane di Prima’s Revolutionary Letters and Anti-Neurosis”

5:15-6:15 pm – Roundtable

 

PRELIMINARY READINGS

(For PDFs copies please visit https://www.dropbox.com/sh/ll0vsfxjzmxq0yr/AACeRSwFZ9905X6cwPV42Kusa?dl=0)

Berardi, Franco, The Uprising: On Poetry and Finance (Semiotext(e), 2012).

Carson, Anne, “Gnosticisms,” in Decreation (New York: Vintage Books, 2006)

Noys, Benjamin, ‘Long Live Neurosis!’ (2016): https://www.academia.edu/27780212/Long_Live_Neurosis_

Katz, Daniel, “‘I did not walk here all the way from prose’: Ben Lerner’s virtual poetics”, Textual Practice online, 24 March 2016: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/0950236X.2015.1119987

Lysack, Krista, ‘The Productions of Time: Keble, Rossetti and Victorian Devotional Reading’, Victorian Studies, 55.3 (2013), 451-470.

Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky, “Paranoid Reading and Reparative Reading, Or, You’re So Paranoid, You Probably Think This Essay Is About You,” in Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity, ed. by Adam Frank, 123-51. Series Q. Durham: Duke University Press, 2003.

Seltzer, Mark, The Official World (Duke University Press, 2016).

Vattimo, Gianni, “The Shattering of the Poetic Word,” in The End of Modernity: Nihilism and Hermeneutics in Postmodern Culture (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1988, orig. in Italian, 1985).

Taussig, Michael T. Defacement: Public Secrecy and the Labor of the Negative. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1999.

Contact: j.ng[at]gold.ac.uk

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Reading the Epistemo-Critical Prologue: Workshop (13-14 January 2017)

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A Workshop

Friday, 13 January 2017
14.00-18.00
Room: DTH B9

Saturday, 14 January 2017
11.00-17.00
Room: DTH 109

The prologue to Walter Benjamin’s Trauerspiel book, written between 1923-25 and published in 1928, takes up a pivotal position in his work. More than a mere introduction, the text is a culmination and summary presentation of the philosophical concepts that Benjamin had begun to develop systematically at least since his early reflections on language of 1916 – the same year in which he had drafted the first outlines for his later book. In its attempt to articulate a new form of historico-philosophical interpretation, the text arguably serves as a point of transition between the metaphysics of the early writings and the materialist conception of history that would inform the later work. Even though the significance of the Vorrede has been consistently acknowledged by commentators, its dense and often forbidding prose has continued to puzzle readers. In this two-day event, we will undertake a close reading of a selection of key excerpts from the text, focusing on a number of philosophical concepts that will continue to play a crucial role in Benjamin’s work well beyond the Trauerspiel book: Presentation, Truth, Idea, Constellation, Name, Origin, and Monad. True, if only in their infidelity, to Benjamin’s recognition of language’s unruly relation to intention, such concepts simultaneously enact and resist philosophical closure, including the kind that would guarantee their privileged status as points of transition between metaphysics and materialism. Throughout these two days, then, we hope to shed light on Benjamin’s persistent concern with philosophy – a concern that is always at the same time an attempt to problematise the philosophical enterprise as such.

If you wish to participate, please send an email to tvand049@gold.ac.uk before January 11 to receive the required readings.

Organised by Tom Vandeputte and Christopher Law

Reading sessions chaired by Mijael Jiménez, Christopher Law, Noa Levin, Florence Platford, Sebastian Truskolaski, Tom Vandeputte


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Michael Löwy – The Romantic Marxism of José Carlos Mariátegui

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29 Nov 2016 5:30pm – 7:00pm

144, Richard Hoggart Building

Explore the work of Latin America’s foremost Marxist thinker with one of his most acute interpreters

Mariátegui is not only the most important Marxist thinker of Latin America, but an author who can be compared to some of the greatest European Marxist thinkers of the 1920’s (the young Gramsci, Walter Benjamin, Ernst Bloch). The key innovation of his heterodox Romantic interpretation of Marxism is the concept of “Inca communism” and the emphasis on indigenous communitarian traditions for the development of a modern socialist strategy for Peru and Latin America.