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Jodi Dean

Jodi Dean


With Jodi Dean, Mladen Dolar, Eric Santner, Marina Vishmidt, Samo Tomsic, Alexei Penzin

University of Amsterdam, June 4-5. PC Hoofthuis 104, Spuistraat 135.

Sponsors: ASCA, NICA, Sandberg Institute

Organizers: Joost de Bloois (, Robin Celikates (, Aaron Schuster (

Registration is free, please email: Joost de Bloois (

Since 2008, debt and speculation have emerged as key concepts for contemporary cultural and political theory. The global crisis has not only impacted the wider fields of politics and culture, but has equally shaken the critical vocabulary we use to scrutinize these. The Debt Drive explores the many sediments of ways in which ‘debt’ and ‘speculation’ have restructured contemporary theory. What drives debt? How do debt and speculation affect subjectivity? How does debt forge and undo (inter)subjective relationships? In all its ghostliness, is debt opposed to the real?

The Debt Drive gathers some of today’s major theorists on ‘debt’, ‘speculation’ and ‘drive’ and their political and cultural significance. The conference focuses on ‘the debt drive’ as a key instrument for contemporary governmentality and its cultural and the oretical ramifications.

The conference will address debt and speculation as a mode of production: as the drive behind cognitive capitalism, but equally as a mode of cultural production; the peculiar relationship between art and speculation; the minutiae of debt’s seeming hostility towards autonomy. Moreover, The Debt Drive investigates the crucial role played by debt’s affective dimension: is there such a thing as the debt drive? Can we speak of speculative desire? Can the debt drive be transformed into its antipode: communist desire? How does the debt drive relate to neoliberal affect, such as depression, anxiety and mania, and on which (affective) resources could a political response to it build?




June 4:

10-11hrs: Mladen DolarThe Quality of Mercy is Not Strained (University of Ljubljana, Jan van Eyck Academy)

11-12hrs Discussion


12-13hrs Lunch


13-14hrs: Samo Tomšič (Humboldt University Berlin): The Capitalist Discourse: from Marx to Lacan

14-15hrs Discussion


15-16hrs Eric Santner (University of Chicago): The Weight of All Flesh: On the Subject-Matter of Political Economy

16-17hrs Discussion


17-18hrs Round Table


June 5:

10-11hrs Jodi Dean (Hobart and William Smith Colleges) Debt and Subjectivity

11-12hrs Discussion


12-13hrs lunch


13.00-14 hrs Marina Vishmidt (Art Critic, London): ‘Less Than Nothing to Sell: From Living Labour to Living Currency to Default’

14-15hrs Discussion


15-16hrs Alexei Penzin (Russian Academy of Sciences Moscow, Chto Delat): When There’s No Time: An Ontological Hypothesis for 24/7 Capitalism

16-17hrs Discussion


17-18hrs Round Table




The Quality of Mercy is Not Strained

Mladen Dolar

The Merchant of Venice pits against each other two kinds of logic: on the one hand Shylock, the merciless usurer, the miser, the Jew, extorting a pound of flesh to collect his debt; on the other hand Portia, the harbinger of Christian charity and mercy. Shylock, a figure announcing capitalist modernity, would thus stand for the cruel and ruthless part of the budding capitalism, accumulation and exploitation, based on interests and extracting the pound of flesh – Marx often referred to him in this light. He is inscribed in the long line of misers, stretching back to Plautus and forth to Molière’s Harpagon, Balzac’s Gobsec and finally Dickens’s Scrooge, the last miser who miraculously converted to charity and mercy. Portia seems to stand for a pre-modern logic of mercy, a magnanimous free gift not expecting anything in return, yet a gift which opens up a debt that cannot be repaid. In a historical reversal Portia could be seen as the figure annou ncing the new stage of capitalism, the economy of endless debt, of being at the mercy of an unfathomable Other, constantly falling short, unable to acquit one’s debt, grateful for one’s means of survival. Maybe one could read Shakespeare’s parable as a two stage-scenario: first the economy of avarice conditioning accumulation and extortion, then the economy of mercy and infinite debt.


The Capitalist Discourse: From Marx to Lacan

Samo Tomšič

After May 68 Jacques Lacan systematically oriented his teaching toward Marx’s critique of political economy. This shift inaugurates his” second return to Freud”, in which Marx replaces Saussure and Jakobson, enabling Lacan to account for an insufficiency of classical structuralism, its incapacity to address the real consequences of discursive production. For Lacan, one such consequence is the subject of the unconscious, which, as Freud has already discovered, knows different determinations. Lacan’s reference to Marx – and its central idea that a strong homology operates in the fields opened up by Marx and Freud – confronts psychoanalysis with the contradictions, instabilities and critical reality that mark the capitalist mode of production. In my presentation I will focus on one specific aspect of this homology, the one that concerns the production of capitalist subjectivity, for which various thinkers, from Nietzsche to Lazzarato, assoc iate with the invention of “abstract debt” and the constitution of capitalist social relations on this abstraction. I will first discuss Marx’s analysis of “primitive accumulation”, where Marx tries to grasp the subjective and the social consequences of public debt. I will then pass over to Lacan’s formalisation of the capitalist discourse, in order to indicate where psychoanalysis essentially continues the Marxian critical project.


The Weight of All Flesh: On the Subject-Matter of Political Economy

Eric Santner

In recent work (The Royal Remains: The People’s Two Bodies and the Endgames of Sovereignty) I have argued that Ernst Kantorowicz’s elaboration of the doctrine of the King’s Two Bodies in late medieval and early modern Europe offers rich resources for an understanding of multiple features of modern politics, culture, and the arts. My guiding hypothesis in this work was that the complex symbolic and imaginary supports of the political theology of sovereignty described by Kantorowicz do not simply disappear from the space of politics once the body of the king is no longer available as the primary incarnation of the principle and functions of sovereignty; rather, these supports—along with their attendant paradoxes and impasses–“migrate” into a new location which thereby assumes a semiotic density previously concentrated in the “strange material and mythical pres ence” (Foucault), in the sublime flesh, of the monarch. A central problem for an ostensibly disenchanted, secular modernity is how to figure the remains of this royal double now dispersed among the sovereign people. The problem for cultural and political analysis becomes, in turn, that of tracking the vicissitudes of the People’s Two Bodies.

At the core of my argument is the claim that Freud’s elaboration of unconscious mental activity is an attempt to do just that; that the missing cause at the heart of the somatic symptoms plaguing his hysterical patients and intensifying their bodies must be thought in conjunction with the passage of the king’s “other body” into one now “enjoyed” by the people (thus properly understood as a Genossenschaft, a collective of enjoyment). My lecture will attempt to develop this line of thought further into the sphere of political economy. I will argue that what Marx referred to as the spectral materiality—the gespenstische Gegenständlichkeit—that constitutes the substance of value in capitalism can be thought of as another locus of the “people’s two bodies,” one managed and administered in the sphere of economic relations. In this way I hope to give further force to Freud’s concept of “libidinal economy” as well as to “flesh out” Giorgio Agamben’s analysis of the theology of glory (his own effort to shift from an analysis of sovereignty to one addressed to political economy).


Debt and Subjectivity
Jodi Dean
This paper has two parts. The first is a critique of Maurizio Lazzarato’s The Making of the Indebted Man. I focus on Lazzarato’s treatment of debt primarily in terms of the production of subjectivity. My argument is that not only does debt fail to produce the singular subject Lazzarato imagines but even if it did this would not be adequate as the subject of a communist politics. In the second part of the paper I draw from Badiou’s Theory of the Subject  to sketch a view of such a political subject at the point of overlap of crowd and party, anticipation and retroactive determination.


Less Than Nothing to Sell: From Living Labour to Living Currency to Default

Marina Vishmidt

I will present an itinerary of the ‘convertibility’ of negativity to revolutionary politics seen as a result of a position in the social relations of production.  From Marx’s positing and later post-workerist expansion of the category of value-producing living labour to contemporary iterations of ‘going on debt strike’, structural negativity seems to grow ever more hypothetical as an impetus to far-reaching change in an age of worsening living conditions and growing pessimism – in fact negativity seems entirely individualized whether or not it is theorized.  The politics of reproduction can be seen at work in the attempt to find a revolutionary subject in a financialised rather than productive relation to capital, i.e. the class character of debt, but this can also be prey to forms of conservatism and moralism as feminist critics such as Miranda Joseph has charged – the spiral of reproduction which keeps the system going, just like the structure of de bt.  Thinking along this critique and alongside Klossowski’s ‘living currency’ and certain instances of poetry (Ashbery and Boyer), I will try to bring the itinerary to a more-than-metaphorical close which can


When There’s No Time: An Ontological Hypothesis for 24/7 Capitalism

Alexei Penzin

The essential feature of the contemporary or “terminal” capitalism is uninterrupted or permanently “wakeful” continuity of production, exchange, consumption, indebting, communication and control. Taking as a point of departure recent theorizing of 24/7 and “no time” temporality, as well as my own theorizing of sleeplessness in modern and late capitalism, I would like to move at a more abstract level of discussing a possible ontology exposed by this terminal conjuncture. As Marx once said, only the late, ripe and developed social forms fully discover their origins, some “primitive” forms. A hypothesis I would like to suggest is that this monotonous continuum of power/capital can be considered as an immense symptom of an ontological dispositif of a continuous, violent and incessant forcing “to be”. Only one choice is allowed in this dispositif – just to continue endlessly in empty 24/7 temporalities or, as an “alternative”, to exit from the continuum without any possibility of return. The grip of this ontological “double bind” now is fully visible in devastating evidence of continual capitalism, and its possible deactivation is a question of a radical politics to come.


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Dear All

We’re writing to announce the publication of several recent reviews accessible at We’d also like to invite you to contribute to RCT by offering to review one of the books listed in the latter half of this message.


Recent Reviews

No Faith in Form: Claire Bishop. Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship. Verso, 2012. 388 pp.

“Working in the Space Between”: Understanding Collaboration inContemporary Artistic Practice: Grant H. Kester. The One and the Many: Contemporary Collaborative Art in a Global Context. Duke University Press, 2011. 309 pp.

Moving Mountains: Art History for the Neoliberal Era: Nato Thompson, ed. Living as Form: Socially Engaged Art from 1991-2011. Creative Time Books and MIT Press, 2012. 280 pp.

Psycho-History: Joan Wallach Scott. The Fantasy of Feminist History. Duke University Press, 2011. 187pp.

Rethinking Race and Digital Divides: Lisa Nakamura and Peter A. Chow-White, eds. Race After the Internet. Routledge, 2012. 343 pp.

Colonial Trains, Postcolonial Tracks: Marian Aguiar. Tracking Modernity: India’s Railway and the Culture of Mobility. University of Minnesota Press, 2011, xxiv +226 pp.

The Art World’s Dark Matter: Gregory Sholette.  Dark Matter: Art and Politics in the Age of Enterprise Culture. Pluto Press, 2011. 240 pp.

Deconstructing the “Middle Class”; Constructing its Transnational History: A. Ricardo Lopez and Barbara Weinstein (eds.) The Making of the Middle Class: Toward a Transnational History. Duke University Press, 2012. 446pp.

No Local: Globalization and the Remaking of Americanism: Sarika Chandra. Dislocalism: The Crisis of Globalization and the Remobilizing of Americanism. OhioStateUniversity Press. 2011. 303pp.

Critical Practice as Desire: Robyn Wiegman. Object Lessons. Duke University Press, 2012. 398 pp.


Books Available for Review

In addition to inviting reviewers for the books listed below, we also welcome proposals for longer review essays, focusing on recent or forthcoming (2012-) titles. If you are interested in contributing a review or a review essay to RCT, please write to us at

Aliyyah Abdur-Rahman. Against the Closet: Black Political Longing and the Erotics of Race. Duke UP, 2012.

Dora Apel. War Culture and the Contest of Images. Rutgers UP, 2012.

Chadwick Allen. Trans-Indigenous: Methodologies for Global Native Literary Studies. University of Minnesota Press, 2012.

Andrew Baldwin, Laura Cameron, and Audrey Kobayashi, eds. Rethinking the Great White North: Race, Nature, and the Historical Geographies of Whiteness in Canada. University of British Columbia Press, 2012.

James Cairns and Alan Sears. The Democratic Imagination: Envisioning Popular Power in the Twenty-First Century. University of Toronto Press, 2012.

Eric Cazdyn. The Already Dead: The New Time of Politics, Culture, and Illness. Duke UP, 2012.

Hamid Dabashi. The Arab Spring: The End of Postcolonialism. Zed Books, 2012.

Élisabeth de Fontenay. Trans. Will Bishop. Without Offending Humans: A Critique of Animal Rights. University of Minnesota Press, 2012.

Mel Y. Chen. Animacies: Biopolitics, Racial Mattering, and Queer Affect. Duke UP, 2012.

Wolfgang Ernst. Digital Memory and the Archive. University of Minnesota Press, 2012.

Judith Farquhar and Qicheng Zhang. Ten Thousand Things: Nurturing Life in Contemporary Beijing. Zone Books, 2012.

Roderick A. Ferguson. The Reorder of Things: The University and Its Pedagogies of Minority Difference. University of Minnesota Press, 2012.

Melissa S. Fisher. Wall Street Women. Duke UP, 2012.

Stephanie Foote and Elizabeth Mazzolini, eds. Histories of the Dustheap: Waste, Material Cultures, Social Justice. MIT Press, 2012.

Margot Francis. Creative Subversions: Whiteness, Indigeneity, and the National Imaginary. University of British Columbia Press, 2012.

Philip S. Gorski, ed. Bourdieu and Historical Analysis. Duke UP, 2012.

Dianne Harris. Little White Houses: How the Postwar Home Constructed Race in America. University of Minnesota Press, 2013.

Marie-Hélène Huet. The Culture of Disaster. University of Chicago Press, 2012.

Engin F. Isin. Citizens Without Frontiers. Contiuum, 2012.

Ralina L. Joseph. Transcending Blackness: From the New Millennium Mulatta to the Exceptional Multiracial. Duke UP, 2012.

Sarah Kember and Joanna Zylinska. Life After New Media: Mediation as a Vital Process. MIT Press, 2012.

Maurizio Lazzarato. Trans. Joshua David Jordan. The Making of the Indebted Man. MIT Semiotext(e), 2012.

Jonathan Levy. Freaks of Fortune: The Emerging World of Capitalism and Risk in America. Harvard UP, 2012.

Denise Markonish, ed. Oh, Canada: Contemporary Art from North North America. MIT Press, 2012.

Michelle Murphy. Seizing the Means of Reproduction: Entanglements of Feminism, Health, and Technoscience. Duke UP, 2012.

Sianne Ngai. Our Aesthetic Categories: Zany, Cute, Interesting. Harvard UP, 2012.

Bruce Robbins. Perpetual War: Cosmopolitanism from the Viewpoint of Violence. Duke UP, 2012.

Hilary Rose and Steven Rose. Genes, Cells and Brains: The Promethean Promises of the New Biology. Verso, 2012.

Jacqueline Rose. The Last Resistance. Verso, 2013.

Srila Roy, ed. New South Asian Feminisms: Paradoxes and Possibilities. Zed Books, 2012.

Tony D. Sampson. Virality: Contagion Theory in the Age of Networks. University of Minnesota Press, 2012.

Roberto Schwarz. Two Girls. Trans. Francis Mulhern. Verso, 2013.

Gilbert Simondon. Trans. Drew S. Burk. Two Lessons on Animal and Man.University of Minnesota Press, 2012.

Matt Stahl. Unfree Masters: Recording Artists and the Politics of Work. Duke UP, 2012.

Jonathan Sterne. MP3: The Meaning of a Format. Duke UP, 2012.

Linda Tuhiwai Smith. Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples. Zed Books, 2012.

John Urry. Societies Beyond Oil: Oil Dregs and Social Futures. Zed Books, 2013.

McKenzie Wark. Telesthesia: Communication, Culture & Class. Polity, 2012.

Sara Warner. Acts of Gaiety: LGBT Performance and the Politics of Pleasure. University of Michigan Press, 2012.

Cary Wolfe. Before the Law: Humans and Other Animals in a Biopolitical Frame. University of Chicago Press, 2012.

Matthew Wolf-Meyer. The Slumbering Masses: Sleep, Medicine & Modern American Life. University of Minnesota Press, 2012.


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The Johns Hopkins Guide

Edited by Michael Groden, Martin Kreiswirth, and Imre Szeman


Contemporary Literary and Cultural Theory: The Johns Hopkins Guide is a clear, accessible, and detailed overview of the most important thinkers and topics in the field. Written by specialists from across disciplines, its entries cover contemporary theory from Adorno to Žižek, providing an informative and reliable introduction to a vast, challenging area of inquiry. Materials include newly commissioned articles along with essays drawn from The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism, known as the definitive resource for students and scholars of literary theory and for philosophical reflection on literature and culture.

“This comprehensive and easily understood reference book will serve as an indispensable guide for helping students or scholars assess and discuss an overwhelming body of material, especially such ‘buzz’ topics as multiculturalism.”—Bloomsbury Review, reviewing The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism

Michael Groden is a distinguished university professor of English at the University of Western Ontario. Martin Kreiswirth is a professor of English and associate provost, dean of graduate and postdoctoral studies at McGill University. Imre Szeman is a professor of English and film studies and Canada Research Chair of Cultural Studies at the University of Alberta.

To Order Call: 1-800-537-5487

Or Visit:

(Book can be found at:


Imre Szeman

Canada Research Chair in Cultural Studies

Professor of English and Film Studies

University of Alberta




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Eric Hobsbawm


History, Memory and Green Imaginaries

A symposium presented by the Centre for Research in Memory, Narrative and Histories, University of Brighton
Friday 30th November 2012
9.30am – 5.00pm
M2, Grand Parade, University of Brighton

This symposium invites reflection on the ways in which history and memory inform and shape contemporary green imaginaries. It brings together cultural theorists, historians, cultural geographers, educators and policy actors.

Keynote: ‘The problem of the past’
Alastair Bonnett, Professor of Social Geography, Newcastle University

Roundtable: ‘Austerity and Sustainability’
The Home Front and ‘austerity Britain’ are significant points of reference in current debates about sustainability. What kinds of possibilities and limitations follow from the use of historical resources in public debate about environmental issues?

Tim Cooper, Senior Lecturer in History, University of Exeter, ‘The limits of history in green imaginaries’.
Victoria Johnson, Head of Climate Change and Energy, New Economics Foundation, ‘“Ration me up” and other nef projects’
James Piers Taylor, British Film Institute Documentation Editor and permaculture educator, ‘Re-member, re-vision and re-claim: using archival film to facilitate local conversations about community resilience’.

Panel: ‘Ecological history’
How can historical research inform environmental thinking? Three historians discuss this question in relation to their research and practice.

Vinita Damodaran, Senior Lecturer in South Asian History, University of Sussex, ‘“Primitive places and wild tribes”: colonial and indigenous understandings of nature in Eastern India in the nineteenth century’.
Erin Gill, environmental journalist and historian, ‘“Lost” environmental histories: the stories we’ve forgotten’.
Karin Jaschke, Senior Lecturer in Architecture, University of Brighton, ‘Historiography as process: towards an Ecological History of Architecture’.

Closing remarks: ‘Culture is natural: biosemiotics, recycling, and the evolutionary structurations of biological and cultural change’
Wendy Wheeler, Professor Emeritus of English Literature and Cultural Inquiry, London Metropolitan University.

This event is open to all. Please register in advance by following the link below. The registration fee is £35, or £25 for students/unaffiliated delegates, including lunch and refreshments. The deadline for registration is 23rd November 2012.

Enquiries: Cheryl Roberts /
More information and abstracts:,-memory-and-green-imaginaries




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We’re pleased to announce the publication of a Special Issue of Reviews in Cultural Theory, “On the Commons“, featuring work contributed by participants at the inaugural Banff Research in Culture residency: . This issue of RCT is guest edited by Margrit Talpalaru and Matthew MacLellan.

For info on Banff Research in Culture, which just finished its second iteration, visit: and .


With best wishes,

Sarah Blacker and Justin Sully

Reviews in Cultural Theory
Department of English and Film Studies
3-5 Humanities Centre
University of Alberta
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
T6G 2E5



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Walter Benjamin


Call for Papers:

‘The Philosophy of Walter Benjamin’

One-Day Conference, December 14th, 2012 – Goldsmiths College, University of London

InC – Goldsmiths Continental Philosophy Research Group

The work of the German-Jewish critic and philosopher Walter Benjamin (1892-1940) spans a vast array of themes, ranging from the metaphysics of youth to the Paris arcades. His writings on Goethe and Scheerbart; Kafka and Baudelaire, as well as his work on the relationship between art and technology continue to fascinate and polarize in equal measure. His singular intersection of Marxian and Jewish thought is amply evidenced in the extensive correspondence with Ernst Bloch, Theodor Adorno, Bertold Brecht and Hannah Arendt, amongst others. Undoubtedly it is the sheer breadth of Benjamin’s interests that accounts for the enduring concern with his often fragmentary work across academic disciplines. That is to say, Benjamin is no longer a stranger at the Academy. Nevertheless, a central aspect of Benjamin’s work is all-too-often overlooked when his aesthetic and literary works are treated in isolation. The manifest content of Benjamin’s writing is never merely incidental: rather, it is shot through with a burgeoning philosophical project – from the ‘Programme of the Coming Philosophy’ (1917) to the ‘Theses on the Concept of History’ (1940). In this regard it appears that recent anniversary of Benjamin’s birth in 1892 warrants a re-appraisal of this legacy by asking the question: how can the various strands of Benjamin’s work be engaged to illuminate the unfolding of his philosophical position, and – vice versa – how does Benjamin’s philosophy illuminate other aspects of his thought?

This conference aims, then – on the one hand – to explore Benjamin’s thought in relation to the various philosophical traditions that inform his project (Leibniz, Kant, Schlegel, Lukács etc.), and – on the other hand – to ask how these influences continue to operate between the lines even where Benjamin is not explicitly concerned with the philosophical canon? In short: how are we to understand the philosophy of Walter Benjamin?

We ask potential speakers to submit abstracts of no more than 200 words to: by September 30th. The full programme will be announced in due course.

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Cultural Marxism


Call for Essays: Culture, Theory and Critique special themed issue on Marxism and Cultural Studies (special thanks to Indiana University’s Cultural Studies Program)

Many accounts of the emergence and development of Cultural Studies accord a central place to Marxism, both as a body of knowledge and as an important ideological component of the New Left. The rediscovery of the writings of Antonio Gramsci, George Luckacs, Walter Benjamin, and Theodor Adorno, among others, along with the formation of the Birmingham Centre for Cultural Studies, led to a general renaissance of Marxist theory and cultural analysis, which in turn resulted in ground-breaking studies of working class culture, the political role of new social movements that were not class based, the power of ideology and mass culture in sustaining existing social relations, and critical analyses of state-authoritarianism. As Cultural Studies crossed the Atlantic and gained an institutional foothold in the United States, some have feared that its engagement with Marxism has been diluted through an over emphasis on the subversive potentialities of mass media and consumer capitalism.

Some possible questions to consider:

 * How do we understand the relationship between the base and superstructure today?

* Does ideology critique still have an ongoing usefulness?

* Do globalization and the world recession require new objects of study?

* To what extent does Marxism provide a utopian impulse for existing social movements?

* Do iterations of Cultural Studies in South Asia, Africa, Central and Latin America, the Middle East, and
Eastern Europe retain a commitment to Marxism and how is this work revitalizing the field more broadly?

* Does the Marxist imperative to historicize challenge current paradigms of cultural analysis such as
the “New Formalism”?

* What exactly does a historical materialist methodology enable?

* How do we articulate media analyses with questions of political economy, geo-politics, and activism?

* What is the role of the intellectual in Cultural Studies?

We welcome essays that address any of these issues. The questions are not meant to be proscriptive, however, and we welcome queries about possible article content.

Abstracts (250-500 words) due September 15, 2011; final essays need to be submitted for peer review by October 31, 2011. Length 5,000-7,000 words including notes.

Send proposals and essays to Joan Hawkins, editor and Jen Heusel, editorial assistant

Culture, Theory and Critique is a refereed, interdisciplinary journal for the transformation and development of critical theories in the humanities and social sciences. It aims to critique and reconstruct theories by interfacing them with one another and by relocating them in new sites and conjunctures. Culture, Theory and Critique’s approach to theoretical refinement and innovation is one of interaction and hybridisation via recontextualisation and transculturation.


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Guy Debord


Spectacular Capitalism Release Party and Presentation 
Saturday June 25th @ 7PM @ X Marks the Bökship (
210/ Unit 3 Cambridge Heath Road London E2 9NQ

Over the past forty years the ideas and practices of Guy Debord and the Situationist International have become a constant reference point for those involved in radical politics, the arts, and cultural theory. Despite this ubiquity Debord’s work has been reduced to a palatable cliché rather than being used as a tool for crafting an ongoing practice of critique and engagement. Come on join us to celebrate the release of Richard Gilman-Opalsky’s new book, Spectacular Capitalism: Guy Debord and the Practice of Radical Philosophy, as we excavate this potential from the historical wreckage. 

Drawing on the work of Guy Debord, Gilman-Opalsky argues that the theory of practice and practice of theory are superseded by upheavals that do the work of philosophy. Spectacular Capitalism makes the case not only for a new philosophy of praxis, but for praxis itself as the delivery mechanism for philosophy – for the field of human action, of contestation and conflict, to raise directly the most irresistible questions about the truth and morality of the existing state of affairs.

Commentary and response from Gavin Grindon:

“Richard Gilman-Opalsky’s Spectacular Capitalism rescues Situationist theory and praxis from merely antiquarian and art-historical commentary and puts it in dialogue with the project of a radical philosophy for leaving the 21st century.” – McKenzie Wark, author of A Hacker Manifesto and Gamer Theory

Organized by Minor Compositions ( and the Centre for Ethics and Politics @ Queen Mary, University of London (

Spectacular Capitalism: Guy Debord and the Practice of Radical Philosophy
Richard Gilman-Opalsky
To be released June 2011
ISBN 978-1-57027-228-8

Bio: Richard Gilman-Opalsky is Assistant Professor of Political Philosophy in the Department of Political Science at the University of Illinois at Springfield. He is the author of Unbounded Publics: Transgressive Public Spheres, Zapatismo, and Political Theory (Lexington Books, 2008), as well as numerous articles.

Released by Minor Compositions, London / New York / Port Watson
Minor Compositions is a series of interventions & provocations drawing from autonomous politics, avant-garde aesthetics, and the revolutions of everyday life.
Minor Compositions is an imprint of Autonomedia |


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A one-day conference presented by:
Centre for Cultural Studies Research, University of East London
Faculty of Social Sciences, Open University
Media Industries Research Centre, University of Leeds

May 20th 2011
11:00 – 18:00
University of East London
Docklands Campus
Room EB.2.43

Can music change anything, or does its potency lie merely in its exemplary status as an organised human activity? What are the effects of power relations on music and to what extent is music itself a site at which power relations can be reinforced, challenged or subverted? What are the economic, affective, corporeal or ideological mechanisms through which these processes occur? Has the age of  recorded music as a potent social force now passed, a relic of the twentieth century; or with the music industry in crisis, is music culture in fact the first post-capitalist sector of the cultural economy, only now emerging from the long shadow of the culture industry? What historical or contemporary examples can we draw on to address some or all of these questions?

This conference is programmed by Jeremy Gilbert (Centre for Cultural Studies Research, University of East London), David Hesmondhalgh (Media Industries Research Centre, Institute of Communications Studies) and Jason Toynbee (Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change, Open University).

The conference is free to attend, but pre-registration is recommended.
To register email with the subject “Music, Politics and Agency Registration”
For any further information, email

UEL Docklands Campus is best reached via Cyprus DLR (Docklands Light Railway) station, which is literally located at the campus.
For information about the campus, see

Room EB.2.43 is on the second floor of the main building (‘East Building’) which is to the left of the main square upon entering from the square from Cyprus DLR .
See to plan your journey.

Speakers and Papers

Anne Danielsen
Power, mediation, and aesthetics in the music of Public Enemy

Anne Danielsen is Professor and Head of Research in the Department of Musicology at the University of Oslo. Her publications include Pleasure and Presence: the Funk Grooves of James Brown and Parliament (2006) and Musical Rhythm in the Age of Digital Reproduction (2010).

Barry Shank
The political agency of music

Barry Shank teaches popular music, American studies and cultural theory in the department of Comparative Studies at Ohio State University.  He is the author ofDissonant Identities: The Rock’n’Roll Scene in Austin, Texas and A Token of My Affection: Greeting Cards and American Business Culture.  He is currently completing a book for Duke University Press entitled Silence, Noise, Beauty: The Political Agency of Music.

David Hesmondhalgh
Music and human flourishing

David Hesmondhalgh teaches and researches at the University of Leeds. His books include Creative Labour: Media Work in Three Cultural Industries (2011), co-written with Sarah Baker, and Western Music and its Others: Difference, Appropriation and Representation in Music (with Georgina Born, 2000).

Helen Reddington
The sound of women musicians in the punk era

Helen Reddington lectures in songwriting and production on the University of East London’s Music Cultures BA. Her research interests include the punk subculture and women’s engagement with music technology. Her book The Lost Women of Rock Music will appear revised in paperback in January 2012 and a double CD of archive material by her punk-pop band is due to be released by the label Damaged Goods later this year.

Jeremy Gilbert
Music after capitalism? Culture, creativity and markets

Jeremy Gilbert is Reader in Cultural Studies at the University of East London. His publications include (with Ewan Pearson) Discographies: Dance Music Culture and the Politics of Sound (Routledge 1999) and Anticapitalism and Culture: Radical Theory and Popular Politics  (Berg 2008). He is co-director of the Centre for Cultural Studies Research, editor of new formations and a founder member of Lucky Cloud Sound System.

John Street
Music as political thought and action: the arguments and the evidence

John Street is a professor of politics at the University of East Anglia. His latest book is Music and Politics, which is due to be published by Polity later this year. He is a member of the editorial group of the journal Popular Music.

Martin Stokes
Scale, agency and music in religious movements

Martin Stokes is University Lecturer in Ethnomusicology and Tutorial Fellow at St. John’s College, University of Oxford. Martin is an ethnomusicologist with a particular interest in social and cultural theory. His most recent book The Republic of Love: Cultural Intimacy in Turkish Popular Music, has just been published by the University of Chicago Press (2010).

Tim Lawrence
Rhizomatic musicianship: Arthur Russell and after

Tim Lawrence is a Reader in Cultural Studies at the University of East London and the programme leader of the Music Culture: Theory and Production degree. He is the author of Love Saves the Day: A History of American Dance Music Culture, 1970-79 (Duke University Press, 2003) and Hold On to Your Dreams: Arthur Russell and the Downtown Music Scene, 1973-92 (Duke University Press, 2009). He is a founding member of the Centre for Cultural Studies Research and Lucky Cloud Sound System.

Tuulikki Pietilä
Body politic: youth musics in the “New South Africa”

Tuulikki Pietilä is a social anthropologist and a research fellow in the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies. She has published a monograph and a number of articles on trade and gender in Kilimanjaro and the post-colonial Africa more broadly. Currently she is studying South African music and music industry.


‘I believe in the afterlife.

It starts tomorrow,

When I go to work’

Cold Hands & Quarter Moon, ‘Human Herbs’ at: (recording) and (live)

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Radical philosopher, polymath, film star, cult icon, and author of over 30 books: Slavoj Žižek is one of the most controversial and leading contemporary public intellectuals, simultaneously acclaimed as the ‘Elvis of cultural theory’ and denounced as ‘the most dangerous philosopher in the West’. He regularly features on lists of the top public intellectuals and remains a thorn in the side of both the right and the liberal left.

Hitchcock gets onto the analyst’s couch in this extraordinary volume of cinematographic case studies. The wide range of contributors bring to bear an unrivalled enthusiasm and theoretical sweep to the entire Hitchcock oeuvre, analyzing movies such as REAR WINDOW and PSYCHO.

An extraordinary landmark in Hitchcock studies, this new edition features a brand-new essay by Slavoj Žižek, psychoanalyst, philosopher and presenter of THE PERVERT’S GUIDE TO CINEMA. The contributors include Fredric Jameson, the leading American literary critic and Marxist political theorist.





Alfred Hitchcock, or, The Form and its Historical Mediation – Slavoj Žižek

PART ONE – The Universal: Themes

Hitchcockian Suspense – Pascal Bonitzer

Hitchcock’s Objects – Mladen Dolar

Spatial Systems in NORTH BY NORTHWEST – Fredric Jameson

A Perfect Place to Die: Theatre in Hitchcock’s Films – Alenka Zupaničič

PUNCTUM CAECUM, or, Of Insight and Blindness – Stojan Pelko

PART TWO – The Particular: Films

Hitchcockian SINTHOMS – Slavoj Žižek

The Spectator Who Knew Too Much – Mladen Dolar

The Cipher of Destiny – Michel Chion

A Father Who Is Not Quite Dead – Mladen Dolar

NOTORIOUS – Pascal Bonitzer

The Fourth Side – Michel Chion

The Man Behind His Own Retina – Miran Božovič

The Skin and the Straw – Pascal Bonitzer

The Right Man and the Wrong Woman – Renata Salecl

The Impossible Embodiment – Michel Chion

PART THREE – The Individual – Hitchcock’s Universe

‘In His Bold Gaze My Ruin Is Writ Large’ – Slavoj Žižek

What’s wrong with THE WRONG MAN? – The Hitchcockian Allegory – From I to A – PSYCHO’S Moebius band – Aristophanes reversed – ‘A triumph of the gaze over the  eye’ – The narrative closure and its vortex – The gaze of the Thing – ‘Subjective destitution – The collapse of intersubjectivity



“The most formidably brilliant exponent of psychoanalysis, indeed of cultural theory in general, to have emerged in many decades.” Terry Eagleton

“The most dangerous philosopher in the West.” Adam Kirsch, NEW REPUBLIC

“Slavoj Žižek has put the Soul back into philosophy.” TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT

“He is the closest thing philosophy currently has to a superstar.” Hermione Eyre, INDEPENDENT

“Žižek is the undisputed spritz master of international cinema studies.” VILLAGE VOICE


SLAVOJ ZIZEK is a professor at the European Graduate School , Intern ational Director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, Birkbeck College , University of London , and a senior researcher at the Institute of Sociology, University of Ljubljana , Slovenia . His other books from Verso include LIVING IN THE END TIMES, FIRST AS TRAGEDY, THEN AS FARCE, IN DEFENSE OF LOST CAUSES, THE SUBLIME OBJECT OF IDEOLOGY, WELCOME TO THE DESERT OF THE REAL, THE PLAGUE OF FANTASIES and DID SOMEBODY SAY TOTALITARIANISM? He has also appeared in the films ZIZEK! and THE PERVERT’S GUIDE TO CINEMA.


ISBN: 978 1 84467 621 7 / $26.95 / £16.99 / CAN$33.50 / Paperback / 304 pages

ISBN: 978-1-84467-622-4 / $100.00 / £55.00 / $125.00 / Hardback / 304 pages


For more information and to buy the book visit:





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New reviews in Reviews in Cultural Theory are now accessible online at We’re also seeking reviewers for new and forthcoming books. Please see our list of books for which we’re seeking reviewers below and email us at, if you are interested in contributing a review.

Summer reviews:

Erin Wunker reviews Barbara Godard’s Canadian Literature at the Crossroads of Language and Culture.

Will Straw reviews Davin Heckman’s A Small World: Smart Houses and the Dream of the Perfect Day. 

Evan Mauro reviews Seth Moglen’s Mourning Modernity: Literary Modernism and the Injuries of American Capitalism.

Matthew MacLellan reviews Gerald Raunig’s A Thousand Machines: A Concise Philosophy of the Machine as a Social Movement.

Gerry Canavan reviews Mark Bould and China Miéville’s Red Planets: Marxism and Science Fiction.

Melissa Aronczyk reviews Guy Julier and Liz Moor’s Design and Creativity: Policy, Management and Practice.

Books for review:

Anderson, Patrick. So Much Wasted: Hunger, Performance, and the Morbidity of Resistance. Duke UP, 2010.

Aronczyk, Melissa, and Devon Powers, eds. Blowing Up the Brand: Critical Perspectives on Promotional Culture. Peter Lang, 2010.

Blanco, Maria del Pilar and Esther Peeren. Popular Ghosts: The Haunted Spaces of Everyday Culture. Continuum Press, 2010. 

Bowman, Paul, ed. The Rey Chow Reader. Columbia UP, 2010. 

Chatterjee, Partha. Empire and Nation: Selected Essays. Columbia UP, 2010.

Coole, Diana and Samantha Frost, eds. New Materialisms: Ontology, Agency, and Politics. Duke UP, 2010.

Dabashi, Hamid. Brown Skin, White Masks. Pluto Press, 2010.

The Edu-factory Collective. Toward a Global Autonomous University: Cognitive Labor, The Production of Knowledge, and Exodus from the Education Factory. Autonomedia, 2009.

Foley, Barbara. Wrestling with the Left: The Making of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. Duke UP, 2010.

Floyd, Kevin. The Reification of Desire: Toward a Queer Marxism.  University of Minnesota Press, 2009.

Fumagalli, Andrea and Sandro Mezzadra, eds. Crisis in the Global Economy: Financial Markets, Social Struggles, and New Political Scenarios. Semiotext(e), 2010.

Gregg, Melissa and Gregory J. Seigworth, eds.  The Affect Theory Reader. Duke UP, 2010.

Grossberg, Lawrence. Cultural Studies in the Future Tense. Duke UP, 2010.

Hill, Rod and Tony Myatt. The Economics Anti-Textbook: A Critical Thinker’s Guide to Microeconomics. Zed, 2010.

Hitchcock, Peter. The Long Space: Transnationalism and Postcolonial Form. Stanford UP, 2010.

Holmes, Brian. Unleashing the Collective Phantoms: Essays in Reverse Imagineering. Pluto Press, 2010.

Johnson-Woods, Toni. Manga: An Anthology of Global and Cultural Perspectives. Continuum Press, 2010.

Kim, Jodi. Ends of Empire: Asian American Critique and the Cold War. U of Minnesota Press, 2010.

Kusch, Rodolfo. Indigenous and Popular Thinking in America. Duke UP, 2010.

Lanza, Fabio. Behind the Gate: Inventing Students in Beijing. Columbia UP, 2010.

Latour, Bruno. On the Modern Cult of the Factish Gods.  Duke UP, 2010.

Lepecki, Andre and Jenn Joy, eds. Planes of Composition: Dance, Theory and the Global. U of Chicago P, 2010.

Merrifield, Andy. Magical Marxism: Subversive Politics and the Imagination. Pluto Press, 2010.

Nguyen, Vinh-Kim. The Republic of Therapy: Triage and Sovereignty in West Africa’s Time of AIDS. Duke UP, 2010.

Paik, Peter. From Utopia to Apocalypse: Science Fiction and the Politics of Catastrophe. U of Minnesota P, 2010.

Pasotti, Eleonora. Political Branding in Cities: The Decline of Machine Politics in Bogota, Naples, and Chicago. Cambridge UP, 2010.

Rancière, Jacques, and Steven Corcoran. Chronicles of Consensual Times. Continuum, 2010.

Seth, Vanita. Europe’s Indians: Producing Racial Difference, 1500–1900. Duke UP, 2010.

Sharpe, Christina. Monstrous Intimacies: Making Post-Slavery Subjects. Duke UP, 2010.

Sholette, Gregory. Dark Matter: Art and Politics in the Age of Enterprise Culture. Pluto Press, 2010.

Toscano, Alberto. Fanaticism: On The Uses of An Idea. Verso, 2010.

Reviews in Cultural Theory

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University of Alberta

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