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Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities

The Luddites, without Condescension – A Conference on the 200th Anniversary of the Frame-breakers’ Uprising

Friday 6th May  10am – 6pm  Room B34  Birkbeck Main Building
This event is free and open to all

In the Spring of 2011 Birkbeck will host a one-day conference to mark the 200th anniversary of the uprising of the handloom weavers in the dawn of the industrial revolution under the command of the mythic General Ludd. Even though the movement was sparked by skilled artisans, “luddite” has ever since been a byword for technophobes facing backwards and mindless rejection of progress. The conference will gather historians of luddism and others interested in what in 1800 was called “the machinery question”, to consider not only the historical luddites, urban and rural, but also contemporary movements of direct resistance, north and south, to capitalist modernization – for example, anti-nuclear movements, opposition to agricultural transgenics, resistance to big dams. The concluding session will address the issue of modernity itself, its model of temporality and the assumption that history is future-directed.

Speakers: Amita Baviskar, Iain Boal, T.J. Clark, Peter Linebaugh

More information:
Julia Eisner
Institute for the Humanities (BIH)
Institute for Social Research (BISR)
Birkbeck, University of London
Malet Street
London WC1E 7HX
T:  (0) 20 7631 6612

‘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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UNEVEN DEVELOPMENT: Nature, Capital and the Production of Space


New and updated edition with a new foreword by DAVID HARVEY
“Smith provides a brilliant formulation of how the production of a particular kind of nature and space under historical capitalism is essential to the unequal development of a landscape that integrates poverty with wealth.” –– EDWARD SAID
In UNEVEN DEVELOPMENT, a classic in its field, NEIL SMITH offers the first full theory of uneven geographical development, entwining theories of space and nature with a critique of capitalism.

Featuring groundbreaking analyses of the production of nature and the politics of scale, Smith’s work anticipated many of the uneven contours that now mark neoliberal globalization.

DAVID HARVEY’S new foreword highlights the increasingly uneven nature of the globalized economy, and notes that this inequality, along with accelerating levels of urbanisation and environmental degradation, have only accelerated since the book was first published. Smith’s analysis is thus more urgent and relevant than ever.

While globalisation has not led to a weakening of state power in the political sphere, it is increasingly difficult to conceive of distinct state economies – for example by the 1980s the majority of trade across national borders took place within corporations. National and international organisations rival states in economic power – in 2007 Harvard University had more money in its bank account than the GDP of some 39 countries. Thus, Smith argues, the global system can increasingly be defined more in terms of geoeconomics than traditional geopolitics.

In recognition of the dramatic changes in capitalism and its geography over the quarter century since this volume was written, Neil Smith has updated the text with a discussion of the current crisis of neoliberalism and the rise of geoeconomics.

UNEVEN DEVELOPMENT is a radical attempt to reconstruct the politicalbasis of society, in order to produce a genuinely social geography by encouraging a revolutionary imaginary.

“A foundational text of great historical significance, constantly worthy of reappraisal…You will not be disappointed.” David Harvey

“Smith attempts no less than the integration of nature and space in the Marxian theory of capitalist development … he improves the clarity even of the arguments made in disagreement with him. His book should be widely read, used, and discussed.’ –ENVIRONMENT AND PLANNING

“UNEVEN DEVELOPMENT provides a theoretical discussion of immense range – from nature through space and the economy – whereby Neil Smith extends David Harvey’s Marxist conception of the geography of capitalism” – GEOGRAPHICAL REVIEW

“One of the most important books of specifically geographical social theory to be written in the English language in the last thirty years.” – Scott Prudham, author of KNOCK ON WOOD: NATURE AS COMMODITY IN DOUGLAS-FIR COUNTY
NEIL SMITH is Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Geography at the City University of New York and Director of the Center for Place, Culture, and Politics. He is author or editor of nine books that explore the broad intersection between space, nature, social theory, and history and is co-organizer of the International Critical Geography Group. His website is
ISBN: 978 1 84467 643 9 / £16.99 / Paperback / 344 pages
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Re-visioning the Future: Modernity between Utopia and Dystopia  


Call for Papers

International Social Theory Consortium (ISTC)
MARCH 20, 2009
Since the 1980s, social theorists have become increasingly reluctant to relate constructively to the future of western societies, modern democracy, and human civilization. Both in the social sciences and the humanities, postmodernist critics highlighted the affinity between utopianism and forms of totalitarianism. As a consequence, social theorists refrained from recognizing as part of their unique responsibility efforts to refine existing and to delineate new perspectives on the future. Social Theorists began to pay focused attention to problematic patterns of thought that need to be overcome, in order to reduce the odds that the kind of socially, politically and economically induced catastrophes that influenced the direction of historical change during the twentieth century will recur—both directly and indirectly, positively and negatively.  Yet whether we appreciate it or not, in the context of globalization, the imminence of change has pushed itself aggressively to the forefront of social-theoretical concerns. The inevitability of change is inescapable, and its centrality to modern civilization undeniable. Concordantly, the imperative to engage in informed and critically reflexive discourses about the kind of world we will, should, or might live in, continues to increase rapidly. The conference will serve to facilitate interdisciplinary exchange relating to the continuing challenge of capturing the warped nature of modernity at the intersection of the past and the future and of utopia and dystopia.



Harry F. Dahms (Sociology)
Steven P. Dandaneau (Sociology)
Allen R. Dunn (English and Religion)

Papers accepted for inclusion in the program will be considered for publication in Current Perspectives in Social Theory (ed. Harry F. Dahms) or Soundings: An Interdisciplinary Journal (ed. Allen R. Dunn).

The organizers welcome proposals on any topic in social theory, and request submission of abstracts (between 150-250 words), 5-page outlines, papers, or proposals for sessions. Papers will receive preferred consideration.  For a list of conference theme-related topics, submission deadline, and registration fees, see the full call below:

The conference will be hosted by the University of Tennessee, in Knoxville, May 21-23 of 2009.  It is the 8th annual conference of the International Social Theory Consortium. Recent meetings have taken place in Singapore, Dubrovnick, Lexington, KY, Toronto, Tampa and Sussex. The submission deadline for proposals is March 20, 2009.


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