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A two day conference hosted by the Centre for the Study of Democracy, Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Westminster.

Dates: Thursday 15 and Friday 16 May 2014
Venue: Board Room, 309 Regent Street, London

This inter-disciplinary conference brings together researchers from media, technology studies, law, sociology, planning, geography and political theory to discuss the implications of the rise of new strands of pragmatist, complexity and new materialist approaches to democracy and the public sphere. We have five keynote presentations – from Clive Barnett, Andrew Barry, Jon Coaffee, John Law and Sarah Whatmore – and four panels, discussing new perspectives on the conceptualisation of public space, the construction and emergence of publics, and the relevance of post-human, actor-network and new materialist approaches to how we might rethink the spaces and practices of the public today.

Attendance is free and refreshments will be provided. If you wish to attend please register with Eventbrite here:

Provisional Programme:



9.30-10.45 – KEYNOTE

John Law (Professor of Sociology, Open University)
title to be confirmed

10.45-11.00 COFFEE

11.00-12.30 – PANEL 1 – PUBLIC SPACE

Regan Koch (Department of Geography, University College, London)
Justifications of public and private: Notes from the not-quite-public spaces of underground restaurants
Manuela Kölke (independent researcher)
Ontological registers as the medium of convergence between political theory and spatial disciplines
Antonia Layard (University of Bristol Law School)
The Legal Production of Public Space (or not)
Nikolai Roskamm (Institut für Stadt- und Regionalplanung, TU Berlin, Germany)
The in-between of public space: Sitting on the fence with Hannah Arendt

12.30-1.30 – LUNCH

1.30-2.45 – KEYNOTE

Clive Barnett (Professor of Geography and Social Theory, University of Exeter)
Emergent Publics



Nick Mahony and Hilde C. Stephansen (Centre for Citizenship, Identities and Governance, The Open University)
What’s at stake in Participation Now? Exploring emergent configurations of ‘the public’ in contemporary public participation
Helen Pallett (Science, Society & Sustainability group, University of East Anglia)  Producing the publics of UK science policy: public dialogue as a technology for representing, knowing and constructing publics
Yvonne Rydin and Lucy Natarajan (Bartlett School of Planning, University College, London)
Materialising public participation: community consultation within spatial planning for North Northamptonshire, England
Peer Schouten (School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg, Sweden)
The infrastructural construction of publics: the Janus face of representation by international actors in Congo

4.30-4.45 BREAK

4.45-6.00 – KEYNOTE

Sarah Whatmore (Professor of Environment and Public Policy, University of Oxford)
Experimental Publics: Science, Democracy and the Redistribution of Expertise



10.00-11.15 KEYNOTE

Andrew Barry (Professor of Human Geography, University College, London)
Material Politics and the Reinvention of the Public

11.15-11.30 COFFEE


Andreas Birkbak (Department of Learning and Philosophy, Aalborg University, Denmark)
Facebook pages as ’demo versions’ of issue publics
Gwendolyn Blue (Department of Geography, University of Calgary, Canada)
Animal publics: Political subjectivity after the human subject
Ferenc Hammer (Institute for Art Theory and Media Studies, Eötvös Loránd University, Hungary)
The Hungarian Roundabout and Further Settings for the Authoritarian Subject: Technologies of Self-Governance in Everyday Practices
Jonathan Metzger (Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden)
Moose re:public – traversing the human/non-human divide in the politics of  transport infrastructure development

1.00-1.45 LUNCH


Lindsay Bremner (Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment, University of Westminster) The Political Life of Rising Acid Mine Water
Ana Delgado and Blanca Callén (Centre for the Study of the Sciences and the Humanities, University of Bergen, Norway)
The making of obsolescence: how things become public in the age of precariousness
Michael Guggenheim, Joe Deville, Zuzana Hrdlickova (Department of Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London)
The Megaphone and the Map: Assembling and Representing the Public in Disaster Exercises
Owain Jones (Environmental Humanities, Bath Spa University)
Is My Flesh Not Public? Thinking of bodies and ‘the public’ through water

3.15-3.30 COFFEE

3.30-4.45 KEYNOTE

Jon Coaffee (Professor in Urban Geography, University of Warwick)
Citizenship and Democracy in the City 2.0: Balancing the Quest for Resilience and the Public Interest in Urban Development

4.45-5.00 BREAK

David Chandler, Professor of International Relations, Director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy, Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Westminster, 32-38 Wells Street, London, W1T 3UW. Tel: ++44 (0)776 525 3073.
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Call for Papers: Permanent Seminar Conference 2014: Critical Theory, Film and Media: Where is “Frankfurt” Now?

Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt, DE, Aug. 20-24, 2014

Deadline for Papers: February 28th

This is an international conference at Goethe Universität Frankfurt, Germany, August 20 through 24, 2014, organized by the Institut für Sozialforschung and the Institut für Theater-, Film- und Medienwissenschaft in cooperation with the Permanent Seminar on Histories of Film Theories.

In 2010, Alexander Kluge releases a DVD called “Wer sich traut, reißt die Kälte vom Pferd” (Those who dare tear the cold down from his horse), the third installment in a series that started with a ten-hour film based on Eisenstein’s project of filming Marx’ “Das Kapital”. Picking up on an unfinished project developed with Adorno in 1967 on the theme of coldness, the 2010 DVD presents a media mix of 31 different types of short films and 41 stories in an accompanying booklet. The project is a collaboration between 12 artists, scholars and experts from various disciplinary backgrounds, two of them being fictive characters.  Reading theory has become a collaborative effort, involving various disciplines on different platforms, and dealing with unfinished projects. About the project Kluge writes:

“The possibility of a revolution in Europe has disappeared, and with it the confidence in a historical process that can be directlyshaped by people’s consciousness. With this confidence, a certain unrest and urgency have disappeared. … As if in a quiet garden we can now study strange thoughts from [x] and weird projects from [y], because they are like messages from an ideological antiquity. … We do not have to announce anything new, we do not have to pass final judgments, can change little and do not have to imitate [x] or [y]. One can see this as a goodbye, or as a beginning.”

Kluge then goes on to make a statement about Marx that we could paraphrase for our purposes in the following way: “The analytical instruments of the Frankfurt school are not outdated. … Sifting through the rubble of history we find useful tools.”

With a combination of social philosophy, philosophical aesthetics, political economics and a particular focus on technology the Frankfurt school and its kindred spirits Benjamin and Kracauer have paved the way for film and media studies as a critical discipline.

Now, at a time, when the generational project of 1968, the march through the institutions under the assumption that a revolution in Europe is possible, has largely run its course, it is time to sift through the rubble of history, collect the tools, pick up on unfinished projects and think about new beginnings.

What, then are the analytical instruments that the Frankfurt school provided that will be useful going forward? How did the Frankfurt School of critical theory shape the course of film and media theory in the 20th century, and how will its tools continue to shape the study and critical analysis of media and culture?

„Critical Theory, Film and Media: Where is ‘Frankfurt’ now?“, an international conference organized by the Institut für Sozialforschung and the Institut für Theater-, Film- und Medienwissenschaft in cooperation with the Permanent Seminar on Histories of Film Theories (, proposes to address  these questions through a series of panels, keynote lectures and panel discussions.

Contributions are welcome on various aspects of critical theory, film and media, from the impact of critical theory on the history of film theory and media studies and film and media practice to debates about media and politics and the continuing relevance of critical theory to postcolonial, queer and other recent strands of cultural theory.

In particular, the conference proposes to address, but will not limit itself to, the following areas of study

From the critique of the culture industry to the “creative industries”: Without doubt the culture industry chapter of the “Dialectics of Enlightment” is among the most influential texts in the history of film and media theory. Together with Adorno’s notes on cinema in the “Minima moralia” this chapter constitutes a damning indictment of commercialized culture as exemplified most notably by Hollywood cinema. Among other things, with its strong focus on Hollywood, the “Culture industry” chapter laid the groundwork for the institutional histories of Hollywood proposed by the New Film History and continues to echo in current debates about creativity and the “creative industries”. One of the aims of this conference is to trace how the Frankfurt school critique of the culture industry has shaped the study of commercial and popular culture, but also to inquire into the possible continuing relevance of some of the basic tenets of Adorno and Horkheimer’s critique to digital network culture.

Essayism, Criticism and Critical Theory: In his famous essay on the “Essay as form” from 1958 Adorno argues for a kind of critical writing that strategically subverts and transgresses disciplinary boundaries. Going back even further, criticism constituted a crucial part of the project of critical theory since its beginnings, whether the film criticism of Kracauer or the music criticism of Adorno. One could argue that film studies emerged as a field in precisely the area carved out by Adorno – indebted to criticism, in a space in between disciplines, borrowing tools and approaches from neighboring field, avoiding for a long time the ossifications of disciplinary protocol. Emerging roughly a decade after film studies, “Medienwissenschaft” occupied a similar trans- or non-disciplinary space. Revisiting the Frankfurt legacy of criticism as theory and of disregarding disciplinary protocol this conference proposes to explore the power and potential of essaysism in the academic study of film and media culture today.

Philosophy of History and the History of Media: The Institut für Sozialforschung was created in response to a failed revolution, the German revolution of 1918. Combining Marx with Freud to explain why the revolution did not happen led the Frankfurt school to develop a theory of power and subjectivity of which Foucault later acknowledged that it would would have saved him a lot of trouble had he known about it earlier. The idea of history as process evolving around the possibility of a revolution remained central to later generations of critical theorists. From the outset, Kracauer and Benjamin in particular tied the question of historical process and historical consciousness to the question of media technology, in particular photography and film. In the wake of the emergence of digital network communications and the current transformation of moving image culture the positions the work of Benjamin and Kracauer have re-emerged as key reference in film and media theory. This conference proposes to explore why, even though the urgency that comes with a confidence in history as process has been lost, as Kluge argues, this work appears to be immediately relevant to the study of media and history in contemporary media culture.

Critical Theory, Feminist Film Theory and the Politics of Desire: One of the most important and powerful contributions of the Frankfurt School to the field of critical theory in the 20th century consisted in linking the critique of capitalism to sexual politics and the politics of desire. Drawing on the Frankfurt School’s signature combination of neo-marxist analysis with Freudian psychoanalysis, Herbert Marcuse discussed the capitalist system of production in terms of a sublimation of desire in his book 1955 “Eros and Civilization” that an important reference for the generation of 68. Feminist film theory, from Laura Mulvey onwards, emerged in the 1970s from a similar convergence of Freud and Marx (and from Althusser and Lacan), while later approaches to sexual politics and media, from gender studies to queer theory, owe a significant debt to Frankfurt school critical theory in their own ways, in particular to Kluge and Negt’s critique of Habermas’ concept of the public sphere, but also to Benjamin and Kracauer and their interest in the historically changes modes of mediated affect. One of the aims of this conference is to explore how the critique of capitalism and the analysis of sexual politics intersect and re-align in contemporary media culture and in the face of what has variously been called “information capitalism” or “digital capitalism”.

Critical Theory, Artistic Practice and the Category of the Art Work: Critical theory, from Benjamin’s works on the theater to his essay on the author as producer and the artwork essay to Kracauer’s film theory and Adorno’s sociology of music has left a significant imprint on film art and on media practice more broadly speaking. German experimental theater and radio in the 1920s, the television programs with avant-garde composes curated by Mauricio Kagel in the 1960s and 1970s and the new German cinema of Kluge and beyond all in varying degrees have use critical theory as a frame of reference. Jean-Luc Godard, a former critic who never ceased to be a critic, continues to acknowledge his debt to critical theory and to Benjamin and Adorno in particular in his work for cinema and television as does, of course, Kluge in his television work. Of particular interest in these examples is a critique of the category of “work” that can be traced back to Adorno but is probably now more relevant than ever. This conference proposes to trace the Frankfurt lineage of the critique of the category of art work across a variety of artistic and media practices.

Critical Theory and the Critique of Institutions: The Institut für Sozialforschung was created in the late 1920s as a research institution outside the university, even though it had ties with the University of Frankfurt, which itself had only been founded in 1914. Benjamin’s troubles with academic protocol are well known, and Kracauer consistently worked outside the university until very late in his life. Critical theory emerges outside of, or in tension with, the established institutions of academic life and carries the critique of institutions as its birthmark, so to speak. The Frankfurt school’s critique of institutions further extends to cultural institutions, from Benjamin’s critical analysis of Brecht and Brechtian theater to Adorno’s critique of the practices and institutions of classical music. One of the key legacies of the Frankfurt school is to keep the critique of institutions alive in film and media studies in areas where the focus tends to either be on representations of social and gender roles or on technologies regardless of their institutional dynamics.

Critical Theory and Gesture as Interruption: Few other concepts from early critical theory have developed a more virulent afterlife in the theory of theater, film and media than the concept of the “gesture”. Emerging from the theory of language and theater from his early essay on language an the book on the German “Trauerspiel” Benjamin defines “gesture” as a interruption of an action and as the “frozen dialectic” that later becomes a key to his theory of film and of the images, as well as to his readings of Kafka. Roland Barthes draws on Benjamin’s theory of gesture in his analysis of Eisenstein, as does Heiner Müller in his re-readings of Brecht, Jeff Wall in his tableaus or Godard in his “Histoire(s)”. This conference proposes to explore the prehistory and afterlife of this key concept of both critical theory and modern art theory.

Critical Theory and the History of Media Technology: Over the last few years a strain of Medienwissenschaft focused on the history technology and particularly computer technology has gained prominence in the Anglophone world under the label “German media theory”. Inspired mostly by the work of Friedrich Kittler and deriving from Heidegger rather than Adorno – or from Freiburg rather than Frankfurt –, this strain of media theory has proposed what we might call “Technohegelianism”, i.e. a philosophy of history as driven by technology and information technology in particular, as an alternative to a critical theory approach to media. This conference intends to explore the relative merits as well as the points of convergence and communication between “German media theory” and FrankfurtSchool critical theory, with a particular focus on the question of media technology.

The conference will be held at the Campus Westend, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt.

Proposals for papers and panels should be submitted to before February 28, 2014.

Notifications of acceptance will be sent out before March 15, 2014.

Scientific committee:

Dr. Sidonia Blättler, Institut für Sozialforschung, Frankfurt
Prof. Dr. Eva Geulen, professor of German literature, Frankfurt
Prof. Dr. Vinzenz Hediger, professor of cinema studies, Frankfurt
Prof. Dr. Axel Honneth, director of the Institut für Sozialforschung, Frankfurt
Prof. Dr. Rembert Hüser, professor of media studies, Frankfurt
Prof. Dr. Nikolaus Müller-Schöll, professor of theater studies, Frankfurt
Prof. Dr. Juliane Rebentisch, professor of philosophy and aesthetics, HFG Offenbach
Prof. Dr. Marc Ries, professor of media sociology, HFG Offenbach
Prof. Dr. Martin Seel, professor of philosophy, Frankfurt
Dr. Marc Siegel, assistant professor of cinema studies, Frankfurt

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Critical Pedagogy



Educational Spaces of Alterity
University of Nottingham, Tuesday 26th April 2010

Nottingham Critical Pedagogy invites contributions for a day of workshops considering spaces (both inside and outside the academy) that may help challenge the dominance of neoliberal logics, alienated practices and Eurocentric hegemony in contemporary educational practice, and in so doing contribute to radical social change. We are pleased to announce that John Holloway will be hosting a keynote workshop at the event.

We hope to welcome contributions from a variety of disciplines and from inside and outside the academy. These can be in any format, but we especially encourage those that break from traditional conference paper models: workshops, artistic engagements, poster presentations and performances would all be welcomed. We welcome suggestions for entire workshop sessions (90 minutes), or single contributions, which we will group into workshops.

Our event partners Spaces of Alterity: a conference hosted by the University of Nottingham’s Department of Culture, Film and Media on Wed 27th-Thurs 28th April, with keynote addresses by China Miéville and Alberto Toscano. Both events are designed to work on their own, but participants are more than welcome to attend both should they wish, and we will be co-curating an Annexinema film night with Spaces of Alterity (details tbc) to show short films which touch upon the themes of the two events.

A non-exhaustive list of themes you may wish to consider is offered over the page. Please do not feel these are mutually exclusive:

Critical Education and ‘The Crisis’

  • How can critical education respond to the crisis in higher education and wider societal crises?
  • Do these crises close down or create spaces of hope for critical education?
  • Defending the university? Transforming the university? Abandoning the university?


Education and the Affective

  • Emotional epistemologies and pedagogies.
  • The role of hope in critical education.
  • ‘Radical love’.


Community Education

  • Skillshare workshops.
  • Social movements/community politics.
  • Challenging the borders between HE and community.
  • The role of non-traditional educational spaces (art galleries, social centres, etc).


Border Thinking and Hybridity

  • The importance of identity and difference for critical education.
  • Challenging hegemonic and Eurocentric perspectives.
  • How can we introduce the subaltern into the classroom?


Reflections on Practice

  • Experiences of critical education.
  • What can we learn from past experiences, experiments and struggle?


Art, Music and Critical Education

  • The role of art and music in critical education.
  • Resonances between critical education and contemporary theory and practice in art and music.
  • Problems of assessment in critical and artistic education: or is assessment the problem?


Please send abstracts and information on the format you wish your presentation to take to no later than Tuesday 8th February. These should be no more than 300 words, but may contain links to further reading regarding your chosen method of presentation.

Registration is free for Educational Spaces of Alterity but there are fees for Spaces of Alterity: attendance for one day is £25/£35; for both days it’s £45/55 (cheaper price for students and unwaged).

We have a limited amount of money to help cover the travel and accommodation costs of participants who would not otherwise be able to attend, or to help with fees for those who wish to stay for Spaces of Alterity. Details will be announced once abstracts have been received. Food and drink will be provided for all.

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Neoliberalism continues to transform public space in geographically uneven and variegated ways, with far reaching and profound consequences.  On the first day, the conference will provide context for various means of privatization and elaborate on language and visions for discussing this issue.  On the second day, workshops will bring together students, activists, artists, and organizations engaged in imagining and practicing new and creative means of resistance to the new round of enclosures taking place on a global scale.

Day 1 Conference: Wednesday, April 21, 2010 Elebash Recital Hall, CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue, New York City

9:00 a.m. Introduction and Welcome – Setha Low, President; William P. Kelly; and Provost Chase F. Robinson of CUNY Graduate Center

9:30 – 11:00 a.m.
Privatization of Public Space: Historical and Contemporary New York City – with Sharon Zukin, Gregory Smithsimon, Andrew Newman


11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Reconsidering Privatization: Neoliberal Strategies, Securitization and Privacy – with Kevin Ward, Setha Low, Kurt Iveson

1:00 – 2:00 p.m. Lunch

2:00 – 3:30 p.m.
Beyond Public and Private: Privatization and the Global Fiscal Crisis – with Neil Smith, Katherine Verdery, Bill McKinney


4-5:30 Visions of the Future: Race, Class and Gender – with Mindy Fullilove, David Harvey, Cindi Katz

5:30-6:00 p.m.

Wrap up and further discussion

6:00-7:00 p.m. Reception

Day 2 Workshops: Thursday, April 22, 2010 Rooms 5414 and 5409 (5th Floor) CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue, New York City

To RSVP for Day 2, find us on Facebook (search “resisting enclosure”) or RSVP by sending an email to! RSVP is not require d for entrance but helps us make sure we accommodate everyone! (Please include any special needs information.)

9:00 a.m.  Registration

9:30 a.m. Opening discussion, with David Harvey

10:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon
Workshop 1:  Anti-Gentrification and Community Self-Determination, with CAAAV’s Chinatown Tenants Union and Picture the Homeless Workshop 2:  Artistic Interruptions in Everyday Life, with Dara Greenwald, Manu Sachdeva, Jeff Stark and Jordan Seiler

12:00 – 1:00 p.m. Lunch (on site)

1:15 p.m. – 3:15 p.m.

Workshop 3:  Neoliberalism, Securitization and Enclosures in South Asia, with Ahilan Kadirgamar, Biju Mathew, Preeti Sampat and Saadia Toor

Workshop 4: The University and the Commons, with Silvia Federici, Malav Kanuga, Mary Taylor and the Coalition to Preserve Community

3:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
“Asking We Walk”: Collective Theorizations/Mapping Emancipations?

5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Recept ion

Free and Open.  Food and refreshments will be provided.

Public Space Research Group at the Center for Human Environments, Center for Place, Culture, and Politics, Ph.D. Programs in Earth and Environmental Sciences and Sociology, Doctoral Students’ Council, SpaceTime Research Collective (STRC) and the South Asia Solidarity Initiative (SASI)

Organized by:
Setha Low, The Graduate Center, CUNY; Kevin Ward, University of Manchester; Lalit Batra, Doctoral Student in Earth and Environmental Sciences; Fiona Jeffries, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Center for Place, Culture and Politics; Erin Siodmak, Doctoral Student in Sociology; Laurel Mei Turbin, Doctoral Student in Earth and Environmental Sciences

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