CRITICAL THEORY BEYOND NEGATIVITY: THE ETHICS, POLITICS AND AESTHETICS OF AFFIRMATION
Summer School Utrecht
Call for Applications
18.08.2014 – 22.08.2014
Course Director: Professor Rosi Braidotti
The intensive course “Critical Theory Beyond Negativity: the Ethics, Politics and Aesthetics of Affirmation” explores critical theory in the Continental philosophy tradition, with special reference to the work of Gilles Deleuze, Luce Irigaray, Henri Bergson and Rosi Braidotti. The course offers an introduction to contemporary critical debates on the function of ‘the negative’ in the construction of subjects and of their epistemic and ethical values. Starting from an assumption that we are in the midst a ‘posthuman turn,’ it explores different aspects of posthuman subjectivity and stresses the productive potential of the posthuman condition, advocating for the politics of affirmation.
This is an intensive course convened and taught by Prof. Rosi Braidotti and an interdisciplinary team of co-teachers including Dr. Iris v.d. Tuin and Maria Hlavajova. It consists of keynote lectures in the morning and three thematic tutorials for four afternoons (the class ends at noon on Friday). The theme of the course this year is: “Critical Theory Beyond Negativity: the Ethics, Politics and Aesthetics of Affirmation.” The course is about contemporary critical theory in the Continental philosophy tradition, with special reference to the work of Gilles Deleuze, Luce Irigaray, Henri Bergson and Rosi Braidotti. The course offers an introduction to contemporary critical debates on the function of ‘the negative’ in the construction of subjects and of their epistemic and ethical values.
The starting assumption is that we are in the midst a ‘posthuman turn’ which both calls for and paves the way for affirmative politics. Cultural diversity, global migration, digital ‘second life’, genetically modified food, advanced prosthetics, robotics and reproductive technologies are familiar facets of our global and technologically mediated societies. How do they affect the self-understanding, the cultural representations and the social and political participations of contemporary subjects? How does a neo-Spinozist approach based on vitalist materialism illuminate these issues? The emphasis on Deleuzian nomadic theory aims to outline a project of sustainable modern subjectivity and to offer an original and powerful alternative for scholars working in cultural and social criticism. Arranged thematically, the sessions of the course explore the different aspects of critical theory debates about contemporary subjectivity: the function of the negative and the need for more affirmative praxis; embodiment, gender and racial differences, multi-cultural and post-secular citizenship, issues linked to globalization, network societies, contemporary art and techno-science. The course stresses the productive potential of these features of our culture and it promotes the politics of affirmation, which emphasize the importance of affects and the imagination. It establishes a theoretical framework that combines critique and creation, granting a major role to the arts and new media. By inscribing affirmative posthuman subjects in the context of contemporary culture, the course also assesses the extent to which intense technological mediation and global networks have blurred the traditional distinction between the human and its others, both human and non-human others, thus exposing the non-naturalistic structure of the human subject.
The course analyzes the escalating effects of the posthuman condition, which encompass new relationships to animals and other species and ultimately questions the sustainability of our planet as a whole. After delving into the inhumane and structurally unjust aspects of our culture by looking at new wars and contemporary conflicts, the course concludes by outlining new forms of cosmopolitan nomadic citizenship and new art practices that explore this complexity. Rather than perceiving the posthuman situation as a loss of cognitive and moral self-mastery, this course argues that it helps us make sense of our flexible nomadic identities. The challenge for critical theory today consists in seizing the opportunities for new social bonding and community building, while pursuing sustainability and empowerment.
Prof. Rosi Braidotti
Rosi Braidotti (B.A. Hons. Australian National University, 1978; PhD Cum Laude, Université de Paris, Panthéon- Sorbonne, 1981; Senior Fulbright Scholar, 1994; Honorary Degree ‘Philosophiae Doctrix Honoris Causa’, University of Helsinki, 2007; Knight in the Order of the Netherlands Lion, 2005; Honorary Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities, 2009) is Distinguished University Professor and founding Director of the Centre for the Humanities at Utrecht University. Her books include Patterns of Dissonance, Polity Press, 1991; Nomadic Subjects, Columbia University Press, 1994 and 2011a (second ed.); Metamorphoses, Polity Press, 2002; Transpositions, Polity Press, 2006; La philosophie, lá où on ne l’attend pas, Larousse, 2009; Nomadic Theory. The Portable Rosi Braidotti, Columbia University Press, 2011b and The Posthuman, Polity Press, 2013. Since 2009 she is a board member of CHCI (Consortium of Humanities Centres and Institutes). For more information please check http://www.rosibraidotti.com
Iris van der Tuin is Assistant Professor of Gender Studies and Philosophy of Science in the Graduate Gender Programme of Utrecht University, the Netherlands. A leading researcher in the next generation of feminist philosophers, she has edited Doing Gender in Media, Art and Culture (Routledge, 2009) with Rosemarie Buikema, and wrote New Materialism: Interviews & Cartographies (Open Humanities Press, 2012) with Rick Dolphijn. Her work on new feminist materialism has appeared in Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy, Australian Feminist Studies, European Journal of Women’s Studies, and Women’s Studies International Forum. She is currently holding the prestigious post-doctoral fellowship of The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) and has spent a semester as a visiting fellow in the Department of the History of Science at Harvard University in the US. For more information please check http://www.uu.nl/gw/medewerkers/IvanderTuin
Maria Hlavajova is founding artistic director of BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht, the Netherlands since 2000. She is also currently leading the project FORMER WEST (2008–2014), which she initiated and developed as a research, education, publication, and exhibition undertaking, realized through an international collaborative effort involving a dense network of researchers and art institutions. In 2011 Hlavajova organized the project of the Roma Pavilion in the framework of the 54th Venice Biennale entitled Call the Witness, and in 2007 she curated the three-part project Citizens and Subjects, the Dutch contribution to the 52nd Venice Biennale, which included a new video installation by Aernout Mik in the Dutch Pavilion, a critical reader (Citizens and Subjects: The Netherlands, for example, co-edited with Rosi Braidotti and Charles Esche), and a series of lectures, workshops, residencies, and master classes (Citizens and Subjects: Practices and Debates). Hlavajova has organized numerous exhibitions and projects at BAK including: Lawrence Weiner: Dicht Bij, 2010; Sanja Iveković: Urgent Matters, 2009 (a two-part exhibition at BAK and the Van Abbemuseum); The Return of Religion and Other Myths, 2008–2009; and many others. Hlavajova lives and works in Amsterdam and Utrecht. For more information please check http://www.formerwest.org/Team/MariaHlavajova
This interdisciplinary course is aimed at research-minded advanced master and PhD students with a critical and curious intellectual disposition. A strong background in at least one of the following disciplines is required: critical theory, Continental philosophy, gender studies, media and technology studies, social and political theory, postcolonial and race studies, cultural studies.
To provide an introduction to contemporary critical theory in the Continental philosophy tradition through the exploration of debates about contemporary subjectivity, globalization and power, and the politics of affirmation.
Students will be required to prepare thoroughly before the course by studying the reading material and preparing discussion questions. The one-week course will consist of lectures in the mornings and tutorials in the afternoon, except for the last day of the course (the class on the last day will end at noon).
• € 500 – Course + course materials + housing
• € 300 – Course + course materials
1 June 2014
Goda Klumbyte, Personal Assistant to Prof. Rosi Braidotti Achter de Dom 20, 3512 JP Utrecht, The Netherlands
E: BraidottiAssistant.firstname.lastname@example.org P: +31 30 253 5537
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