Samantha Frost teaches political theory and feminist theory at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Her early research focused on elaborating the philosophical, ethical, and political implications of Thomas Hobbes’s materialist metaphysics, work that took systematic form in Lessons from a materialist thinker: Hobbesian reflections on ethics and politics (Stanford UP, 2008). Subsequently, she worked to articulate how materialist conceptual frameworks transform thinking; this work was most visible in the volume she co-edited with Diana Coole, New Materialisms: Ontology, Agency, and Politics (Duke UP, 2010). More recently, she has undertaken training in molecular and cellular biology so as to be able to think more substantively about the materiality of the subject. Biocultural Creatures: Towards a New Theory of the Human (forthcoming Duke UP, 2016) is the beginning of that project. The University of Kent CCT seminar begins the work of elaborating and extending that ontologically-oriented rethinking of the human.
James Martel teaches political theory in the department of political science at San Francisco State University. He is the author of several books, most recently The One and Only Law: Walter Benjamin and the Second Commandment (Michigan, 2014). This course will be based on a book that is forthcoming entitled The Misinterpellated Subject, to be published by Duke University Press. He writes on questions of law, anarchism, political theology, critical race studies, and political theory and philosophy.
Bernard Stiegler is director of the Institute for Research and Innovation (IRI) at the Georges Pompidou Center in Paris, a Professorial Fellow at the Centre for Cultural Studies at Goldsmith College in London, and a professor at the University of Technology of Compiègne where he teaches philosophy. Before taking up his post at the Pompidou Center, he was program director at the International College of Philosophy, Deputy Director General of the Institut National de l’Audiovisuel, then Director General at the Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique (IRCAM).
Bernard Stiegler has published widely on philosophy, technology, digitization, capitalism, and consumer culture. His numerous writings include the three volumes of Technics and Time; Acting Out, three volumes of Disbelief and Discredit, two volumes of Symbolic Misery and of Constituer l’Europe, among many others.
Professor Stiegler has a long term engagement with the relation between technology and philosophy; not only in a theoretical sense, but also in situating them as practices within industry and society. He is one of the founders of the Paris-based political group Ars Industrialis, which calls for an industrial politics of spirit and explores the possibilities of the technology of spirit in bringing forth a new “life of the mind”. He has published extensively on the problem of individuation in consumer capitalism, and is currently working on the new possibility of an economy of contribution.
Samantha Frost - Matters of perception: objects and materialities of affect
This seminar will constitute an experiment in ontological thinking about the human. It will draw on theories of materiality, post-humanism, the environment, affect, feminism, zoosemiosis, and various fields of the life sciences to push against the ideas of subjectivity and politics elaborated in theories of biopolitics. Through our readings and discussion, we will consider how the social and material environments that enter and transform human bodies might be thought as the matters or objects of non-neurological forms of perception. By extension, the response of human organisms to those forms of perception will be considered as specifically material and variously durable forms of affect. Focusing on the materiality of perception and affect and expanding what falls under their rubric, we will explore how to trace linkages between the aspiration to transform lived environments and the possibility of democratic forms of politics.
Indicative Reading List
Selections from works by Giorgio Agamben, Stacey Alaimo, Georges Canguilhem, David Chamovitz, Mel Chen, Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, Philippe Descola, Roberto Esposito, Alexander Galloway, Felix Guattari, Tim Ingold, Eduardo Kohn, Hannah Landecker, Becky Mansfield, Jose Munoz, Michel Serres, Michael Taussig, Jacob van Uexkull, Alexander Wehiliye, and Elizabeth Wilson.
James Martel - How to be a bad subject: misinterpellation and the anarchisation of the soul
In Plato’s Republic, we are told that there is an analogy between the City and the Soul, that our interiority is as multiple and potentially disharmonious as the collectivity that forms the polis. Nominally, the purpose of the Republic is to produce an order that controls and regulates this potential anarchism. We are told that the philosopher king must rule the city and that reason must rule the soul. On the collective level, this advocates for some kind of archism; some rule or command, however benign or all-knowing the leadership. On the individual level, this amounts to a form of interpellation (as defined by Louis Althusser) that produces a form of subjectivity that is indeed subject, for being under the command of a central authority. Thus, as law is produced in the community, a subject is produced who is ready to obey and internalize that law. In this course, we will examine a way to subvert and complicate this form of authorization, a way that allows the anarchist subject—the intended object of interpellation—to resist that process via an operation that could be called misinterpellation.
The key theorist for this course will be Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche provides both a critique of the contemporary subject and a means by which to subvert and destroy that subjectivity. In part, he does this through his own radical take on theology. Because for Althusser the original subject (and source of interpellation) is God, a critical theology is required to address the occult theology that underlies the political subject. By providing us with a figure like Zarathustra, who appears messianic but who refuses to save (i.e interpellate) the subjects that he encounters, Nietzsche goes to the heart of the interpellating process and negates it. Nietzsche also offers a sense of what the subject is (if we can continue to use that ambiguous word) after she emerges out of the failure of interpellation. For Nietzsche, the subject is always multiple, always in conflict with herself. Yet rather than seeking to overcome this complexity in favor of some imposed harmony, Nietzsche welcomes that multiplicity as constituting the very self that the process of interpellation seeks to colonize and control.
We will examine texts by Nietzsche, Kafka, Benjamin and Fanon, in order to look at how interpellation can be resisted in ways both theological and political, as well as what understandings of subjectivity emerge when that great organizing principle of the self is disrupted. We will ask whether such individuals remain subjects of the law, or what law becomes when it is not correlated with interpellated identities. That is, we will learn what law becomes when it is anarchized, both at the level of the collectivity and the individual.
Indicative Reading List
Plato The Republic
Benjamin Critique of Violence
Althusser, Ideology and the State, in Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays
Jacques Ranciere, On the Theory of Ideology: Althusser’s Politics, in Althusser’s Lesson
Judith Butler, The Psychic Life of Power: Theories in Subjection
Nietzsche, The Genealogy of Morals and Thus Spoke Zarathustra
Machiavelli, The Discourses
Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks
Bernard Stiegler - From German ideology to the Dialectic of nature: Reading Marx and Engels in the age of the Anthropocene
This course will be dedicated to an interpretation of Marx’s and Engels’s philosophy of technics in the light of phenomenological (Husserl and Heidegger), post-phenomenological (Derrida, Simondon), anthropological (Leroi-Gourhan, Merlin Donald) and scientific questions – mainly thermodynamics and biology according to theories of entropy and negentropy (Schrödinger).
The aim of the course is to reconsider the contemporary forms of capitalism in the light of what will be described as a general organology, itself constituting the political question of a “pharmacology” (in the Derridean sense of the word “pharmakon”). The Anthropocene is often apprehended as the transformation of anthropogenesis by the capitalist industrial revolution. The process of automation provoked by the digitalization engages an acceleration that we will try to consider according to the concepts of Gestell and Ereignis, interpreted with the help of Rudolf Bœhm’s analysis.
Indicative Reading List
Marx and Engels, German ideology
Engels, Dialectic of nature
Husserl, The origin of geometry
Heidegger, Time and being
Heidegger, Identity and difference
Leroi-Gourhan, Gesture and speech
Merlin Donald, Origin of the modern mind
Schrödinger, What is life?
Samantha Frost - Ten theses on the subject of biology and politics
More information coming soon
James Martel - Unburied Bodies: Sovereign power, human rights and the subversion of the corpse
There are in numerous examples, both in literature and real life, where a dead body, perceived to be an enemy of the state, is left unburied, unattended to and in plain sight. Recently in the United States, we have the example of Michael Brown left dead in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri. In literature, there is the famous example of Polynices, left unburied by his uncle Creon in the play Antigone. Normally such a display is seen as a sign of the state’s power, its contempt for its enemies, and an example of the state’s trampling of human rights (which are in turn seen as a bulwark against this kind of power). In my talk I will make a different claim; that in leaving bodies unburied, the state is demonstrating not its strength but its vulnerability. Working off Walter Benjamin’s insight that the corpse is the body when it is freed from projections of identity and agency, I argue that the unburied body possesses a subversive power, a power to break with projection of state authority and interpellation. Rather than argue that this is a vindication of human rights, I will argue that the very idea of human rights partakes in the language and imagery of sovereignty, a projection which is equally resisted by the dead body as the idea of absolute state power. The unburied body offers an opportunity to see the state at its most vulnerable. it shows the counter power of human beings, not as bearers of universal principles and rights (of which the state is then necessarily the protector) but of their own agency, their possession of an anarchic power that is visible each time the state shows both its contempt for its victims and its inability to project beyond a body that is animated by its own phantasms.
Bernard Stiegler: Questions of neguanthropology
More information coming soon