Building Education for the Commons
The Global Center for Advanced Studies is proud to announce a new public series on Resistance, Protest and Social Struggles. This series brings critical theorists, philosophers, sociologists and poets to the GCAS online community for stimulating lectures and discussion on their latest research into contemporary social struggles. From movements such as Ferguson to Occupy, to anti-austerity movements in Europe, to workers struggles in China, this series will examine some of the most salient theoretical models for thinking resistance and protest against global capitalism, racism and neoliberalism.
The symposium begins on January 31st 2015 with a lecture from GCAS Vice President Azfar Hussain on the topic of re-reading Du Bois and Fanon in the era of late capitalism. Following Professor Hussain’s lecture, the theorist and poet Joshua Clover will lead two sessions on the emerging age of riots. Professor Clover’s talk will be followed by two lectures from the philosopher Farhang Erfani on the late theorist Ernesto Laclau and today’s social struggles.
We will meet weekly on Saturday’s starting January 31st to May 2nd. The series is free and open to the GCAS community of researchers, students and the general public. Registration is required but there is no cost. Students seeking credit for the symposium can discuss this option with the symposium convener, Professor Daniel Tutt at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Each session will meet online in the GCAS BigBlue Button classroom. Courses will include lecture and class discussion.
To register for one or more sessions in the series, go here: https://globalcenterforadvancedstudies.wufoo.com/forms/gcas-resistance-protest-and-social-struggles/
Lecture #1: January 31st at 2 pm EST
“Philosophy, Politics, Praxis: Rereading Du Bois and Fanon in the Era of Late Capitalism and ‘Post-racial’ Racism”
Instructor: Azfar Hussain
Azfar Hussain is Vice President of the Global Center for Advanced Studies and GCAS Professor of English, World Literature, and Interdisciplinary Studies. He is a prominent Bangladeshi theorist, critic, poet, translator, and activist. Hussain is also Associate Professor of Liberal Studies/Interdisciplinary Studies at Grand Valley State University in Michigan, while he has taught English and World Literature, Ethnic Studies, American Studies, and Cultural Studies at Washington State University, Bowling Green State University, and Oklahoma State University as well. In Bangladesh, he had worked as a national weekly magazine editor, a member of a national-level left activist alliance, and as a university professor before he came to the United States.
The lecture offers and mobilizes a re-reading of certain ignored aspects of the works of two major figures in what may be loosely called “Third-World Philosophy:” the African American philosopher-activist W.E.B. Du Bois and the Caribbean philosopher-activist Frantz Fanon. And this re-reading is undertaken in the light of the Latin American philosopher Enrique Dussel’s “philosophy of liberation” and the French philosopher Alain Badiou’s “philosophy for militants.” Calling attention to the racism underlying the formation of the Western philosophical canon, while also arguing that philosophy itself cannot but be–to use the French poet Arthur Rimbaud’s expression–les revoltes logiques (logical revolts) in the final instance, the lecture advances certain tentative propositions about the question of emancipation in the service of anticapitalist and anticolonial struggles in Asia, Africa, and Latin America and in the world at large today.
Lecture #2: February 7th and February 14th at 10 am PST / I pm EST
Instructor: Joshua Clover
Joshua Clover specializes in 20th Century anglophone poetry and poetics, political economy, crisis theory, with an emphasis on political struggle in literature, environment, feminism, and cultures of finance. He has two books of cultural theory, routed through film and popular music respectively. His book Of Riot, a theorization of riot as historical phenomenon, is forthcoming from Verso in 2016.
The emerging “Age of Riots” has begun to throw off its own theories, often trying to taxonomize these increasingly significant events and to situate them within political sequences. Our goal will be to understand them first as expressions not of given political subjectivities but of global capital’s necessary restructurations over the long durée, plotting a trajectory from the 17th century to the present. In so doing, we will try to understand riots neither as foreshortened revolt nor as irrational spasm, but as a genre within a larger material struggle with its own historical logic, one which will allow us to make certain predictions about the future of lived political antagonism. We will start with the simplest question: why, on November 24th of last year, did the riots that settled on the hashtag #blacklivesmatter take the form of freeway shutdowns in 20 cities? What does this have to do with bread riots before the Industrial Revolution? And what can this tell us about the revolutionary horizon before us?
Lecture #3: February 21st and 28th at 2 pm EST
“Populism without People? On Ernesto Laclau’s Timely Political Philosophy”
Instructor: Farhang Erfani
Farhang Erfani is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the American University in Washington, D.C., Research Associate at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in South Africa, and Faculty at the Global Center for Advanced Studies. He has previously published Aesthetics of Autonomy: Ricœur and Sartre on Emancipation, Authenticity, and Selfhood (2011), an anthology on Paul Ricœur, Shooting Truth: Philosophy and Iranian Cinema (2012), and scholarly articles on continental political philosophy. His current research is on Derrida and new forms of Eurocentrism as well as the Arab Spring and the Iranian Green Movement.
This lecture is conceptually grounded in Ernesto Laclau’s work. I would like to briefly revisit his remarkable trajectory with an eye toward the last decade or so, until his recent and untimely death. The primary focal point is accordingly Laclau’s work on populism, but it will require revisiting his earlier works from the 1970s-80’s on the Gramscian notion of hegemony. The rise of populist movements – at least conceived as such in everyday common parlance – indeed requires us to pay close attention to Laclau’s writings, but this lecture aims to tease out as much his political timeliness as his philosophical contribution.
The earlier work of Laclau – particularly his Hegemony and Socialist Strategy, co-authored with Chantal Mouffe – was rightly but reductively seen as a political “application” of contemporary philosophy and especially Derridean deconstruction. Similarly, his later work is often considered Lacanian. Such philosophical-genealogies, however, undermine Laclau’s innovative contributions. His notion of populism, in particular, is irreducible to either deconstruction or psychoanalysis. Better yet, it attends to some of the shortcomings of Lacan and Derrida., which I will tentatively call “critical political narcissism.” Without renouncing the now widely shared premise of decentered agency, Laclau’s political thought does not stop with a critical denunciation of illusionary mastery. He in fact accounts for the political logic through which the “other” gains a voice.
As much as I will rely on contemporary examples – ranging from the Arab Spring, Occupy, Tea-Party and the rise of the far-right in Europe – to demonstrate that Laclau’s insights are second to none, I will also raise a number of critical questions regarding his sophisticated apparatus. Although Laclau is all too careful not to conflate the categories of people and nation, the tie between the two is worth examining. That far-right movements are often associated with populism is no mere coincidence. That this under theorized tie may prevent the emancipatory goals championed by Laclau makes this critical inquiry all the more necessary.