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


Leave a comment

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

2017-9-Martel-Benjamin-2.gif

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.


Leave a comment

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

WB Benjamin Leibniz copy

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.

 

13814051_821216034645967_3423895807471059067_nrhcol-crmep-logo

london_graduatesSchool


1 Comment

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

OnExpression.jpgCall for Papers

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


Leave a comment

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

wb-reading-the-epistemo-critical-prologue

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


Leave a comment

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

gesture-poster

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

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.

Program:

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] bilderfahrzeuge.org

Event page at the Warburg institute.


Leave a comment

On Justice: Variations On a Theme Borrowed From Benjamin in 1916 (II)

Justice 2 poster w logo.jpg

Variation Two: Massimiliano Tomba (Padova) reconsiders Benjamin’s idea of justice as a transformative form of anticipation that carries its own criterion of its rightness.

28 Apr 2016
1:00pm – 6:00pm
LG01, Professor Stuart Hall Building

In the second of this two-part event, Massimiliano Tomba will reconsider Benjamin’s idea of divine violence—made famous in the essay “Towards the Critique of Violence”—as a form of anticipation that might be politically transformative because it carries its own criterion of its rightness.

Massimiliano Tomba is Professor of Political Philosophy at the University of Padova. His research focuses mainly on modern German philosophy, critical theory and globalization. He is co-organizer of an initiative titled ‘Next Generation Global Studies (NGGS)’ which aims at reconsidering predominant schemes of interpretation of global societies in order to overcome prevailing Eurocentric perspectives of political space and time. His work has involved theorists such as Kant, Hegel and post-Hegelian thought, Marx, Walter Benjamin, and Theodor Adorno. Among his  publications are Krise und Kritik bei Bruno Bauer. Kategorien des Politischen im nachhegelschen Denken, Frankfurt am Main, Peter Lang, 2005; La vera politica. Kant e Benjamin: la possibilità della giustizia, Macerata, Quodlibet, 2006; Marx’s Temporalities, Leiden, Brill, 2013.


In October 1916, Gershom Scholem copied into his diary a passage “from a notebook Walter Benjamin lent [him]” under the heading, “Notes Toward a Work on the Category of Justice.” Never included in either the two-volume or the seven-volume collected works and only reappearing upon publication of Scholem’s diaries, these “Notes” nonetheless represent a crucial juncture in the development of Benjamin’s thinking on the political. From one direction, the “Notes” are the culmination of intense discussions between Benjamin and Scholem on the concept of historical time, which issued into a number of important reflections on tragedy, time-reckoning, and language. In the other direction, the “Notes” inaugurated a series of objections and responses between the two friends that include Scholem’s own set of theses on the category of justice from 1919 and 1925, Scholem’s writings on Jonah, and texts surrounding Benjamin’s discussion of law and violence that come to a head with a number of fragments on lying circa 1923.

Using the “Notes Toward a Work on the Category of Justice” as its point of departure, this two-part event takes up the invitation to read together a “convolute” of shorter or lesser-known texts that contribute to a larger theme that Benjamin did not perhaps execute fully, but therefore provides a new context for understanding better known writings such as the Language essay or “Towards the Critique of Violence.” Each day will pivot around a variation on the theme, with presentations and seminar-style discussion based on pre-circulated texts.

For more information on the schedule and for a copy of the texts please visit https://benjaminonjustice.wordpress.com/


Leave a comment

On Justice: Variations On a Theme Borrowed From Benjamin in 1916 (I)

Justice 1 poster w logo.jpg

Variation One: Peter Fenves (Northwestern) discusses Benjamin’s concept of justice in relation to whether there can ever be a thing rightfully possessed.

20 Apr 2016
1:00pm – 6:00pm
Lecture Theatre, Ben Pimlott Building

In the first of this two-part event, Peter Fenves discusses the provenance of Benjamin’s notes on justice in Kant’s Doctrine of Right, and asks, with Benjamin, whether there can ever be a thing rightfully possessed.

Peter Fenves, Joan and Sarepta Harrison Professor of Literature, is professor of German, Comparative Literary Studies, and Jewish Studies as well as adjunct professor of Philosophy, Political Science, and English. He is the author of A Peculiar Fate: Metaphysics and World-History in Kant (Cornell University Press, 1991), “Chatter”: Language and History in Kierkegaard (Stanford University Press, 1993), Arresting Language: From Leibniz to Benjamin (Stanford University Press, 2001), and Late Kant: Towards Another Law of the Earth (Routledge, 2003), which was translated into German in 2010; and most recently The Messianic Reduction: Walter Benjamin and the Shape of Time (Stanford University Press, 2010).


In October 1916, Gershom Scholem copied into his diary a passage “from a notebook Walter Benjamin lent [him]” under the heading, “Notes Toward a Work on the Category of Justice.” Never included in either the two-volume or the seven-volume collected works and only reappearing upon publication of Scholem’s diaries, these “Notes” nonetheless represent a crucial juncture in the development of Benjamin’s thinking on the political. From one direction, the “Notes” are the culmination of intense discussions between Benjamin and Scholem on the concept of historical time, which issued into a number of important reflections on tragedy, time-reckoning, and language. In the other direction, the “Notes” inaugurated a series of objections and responses between the two friends that include Scholem’s own set of theses on the category of justice from 1919 and 1925, Scholem’s writings on Jonah, and texts surrounding Benjamin’s discussion of law and violence that come to a head with a number of fragments on lying circa 1923.

Using the “Notes Toward a Work on the Category of Justice” as its point of departure, this two-part event takes up the invitation to read together a “convolute” of shorter or lesser-known texts that contribute to a larger theme that Benjamin did not perhaps execute fully, but therefore provides a new context for understanding better known writings such as the Language essay or “Towards the Critique of Violence.” Each day will pivot around a variation on the theme, with presentations and seminar-style discussion based on pre-circulated texts.

For more information on the schedule and for a copy of the texts please visithttps://benjaminonjustice.wordpress.com/

Click here for further information.