On behalf of the academic directors, welcome to the Kent Summer School in Critical Theory. An initiative of the University of Kent, the KSSCT is supported by the Kent Law School and its interdisciplinary Centre for Critical Thought.

We are excited to announce that the school will run for the first time in 2015, from 29 June to 10 July at the University of Kent’s centre in Paris, and we are honoured that Professor Peter Goodrich (Cardozo, USA) and Professor Davide Tarizzo (Salerno, Italy) will be the inaugural teachers. We are also delighted to welcome distinguished guests, Professor Davina Cooper, Professor Roberto Esposito and Professor Geoffrey Bennington, who will present lectures to the 2015 participants.

We hope you will be able to join us in Paris this summer!

Maria Drakopoulou and Connal Parsley

We believe it is increasingly important to proliferate and defend spaces for critical thinking in the contemporary academy. Equally important is the maintenance of spaces within the PhD and early career calendar to pursue the kind of academic practice that engenders genuine and sustained intellectual activity.

For two weeks in Paris in June-July, a small group of junior scholars will work intensively with thinkers carefully selected from year to year, for the contemporary significance of their work and their ability to enrich the ethos of the school. The school has been arranged to create the conditions for an intimate and intensive collaboration between students and teachers, outside the formal institutional frame, so as to bring together participants who may not otherwise encounter each other.

Successful applicants will work with just one of the seminar teachers for the duration of the school, but will also have the opportunity to hear lectures by each of the seminar teachers, in addition to other invited guests. Participants will of course also be able to make the most of the school’s location in Paris.

Davide Tarizzo

Professor Davide Tarizzo is an Italian philosopher, who teaches at the University of Salerno. A former student of Gianni Vattimo and Jacques Derrida, he has lectured in several European, South American and North American Universities. Over the past years, he has written extensively on psychoanalysis (Freud, Lacan), French Theory, political theory, and biopolitics. He has also edited the Italian translation of contemporary philosophers such as Hannah Arendt, Gilles Deleuze, Stanley Cavell, Jean-Luc Nancy, Alain Badiou and Ernesto Laclau.

His recent publications include: Introduzione a Lacan (2003), Il pensiero libero. La filosofia francese dopo lo strutturalismo (2003), Giochi di potere. Sulla paranoia politica (2007) La vita, un’invenzione recente (2010; forthcoming in English translation as Life, a Recent Invention with Minnesota University Press). He is currently working on two new books. The first, provisionally entitled The Biopolitical Turn: Theory and Practice of Pure Life, aims at promoting a new approach to biopolitical studies. The second, entitled The Missing People. Freud, Lacan, and the Enigma of Modern Politics, focuses on psychoanalysis and political theory.

Peter Goodrich

Professor Peter Goodrich embarked upon his ontological journey as a foetus in India and then a childhood in Singapore. His epistemological trajectory was triggered by encountering the work of the philologist jurist turned Lacanian legal theorist, Pierre Legendre. While this could well have led to the demise of his career, he picked up the pieces, kept quiet, and published his thesis, Legal Discourse, and then a later day enchiridion, Reading the Law, in quick succession. Working to expand his conusances and the amplitude of theoretical jurisdictions, later works combined semiotics, history and psychoanalysis, and Languages of Law and Oedipus Lex vied (largely unsuccessfully) for shelf space beside the bibliomysteries and existential noir that you were reading back then. The inevitable emotional crises engendered by being English resulted in works on Law in the Courts of Love and Laws of Love, and departure to the United States in the hope of irritating a larger cohort of complacent academic lawyers than are available targets in the shrinking United Kingdom. Things are different in the United States. You teach cases and publish exclusively in law reviews. Despite these distractions, Goodrich, bonus dives, has adapted and refused in equal measure. He publishes regularly, which is to say not very often, in Critical Inquiry, and Legal Emblems and the Art of Law appeared in stylish print, much to the surprise of his colleagues, in 2014. He is Professor of Law at Cardozo Law School, NY, USA.


From Democracy to Fascism: Freud, Lacan, and the Enigma of Modern Politics

Davide Tarizzo

Ever since Freud’s seminal essay on Group Psychology, philosophers and social scientists have attempted to apply psychoanalytic categories to historical and political phenomena. Today we witness a renewed interest in this line of research; in what might be labelled the Lacanian turn in political theory (Laclau, Zizek, Badiou). Recent inquiry concentrates on three crucial questions: What is a political subject (Badiou)? What is a political discourse (Laclau)? What is a political phantasy (Zizek)? During the seminar, each of these questions will be addressed from a resolutely Freudian-Lacanian point of view. The seminar will intertwine the psychoanalytic approach to political-historical issues with more traditional approaches developed in the field of political science (Nationalism Studies), history of law (Villey, Legendre) and modern history (Morgan, Bazcko, Macpherson, Mosse).

Along the lines traced by these questions, a new theoretical perspective will be gradually sketched out, which will implicate a new definition of democracy as well as a new definition of fascism. If, relying on psychoanalytic inquiries into “collective subjectivities” (Lacan), we can distinguish two different paths to modern democracy (the European and the American), we can also identify two different exits from modern democracy, that is, two types of fascism: “old” fascism and “new” fascism (to adopt Pasolini’s idiom). Although the new fascism shares some basic features with the old, it is nonetheless distinct enough to be unrecognizable as such. This is one of the reasons that the new fascism enjoys the quality of being almost invisible—so that it becomes mandatory to ask: Do we live in a fascist regime today?

Indicative Reading List
Badiou, Theory of the Subject
Freud, Group Psychology
Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents
Lacan, Écrits
Lacan, Of Structure as an Inmixing of an Otherness
Laclau, On Populist Reason
Macpherson, The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism
Morgan, Inventing the People
Mosse, The Fascist Revolution
Özkirimli, Theories of Nationalism
Polanyi, The Great Transformation
Zizek, The Sublime Object of Ideology

Inventing Law

Peter Goodrich

In a recent study carried out at New York University School of Law the researchers divided the students at the end of their first year of legal study into two groups. The first group argued a case, the exercise being one of advocacy, in a formal courtroom before a judge in robes. The second group argued the same case in a classroom temporarily re-arranged as a courtroom before a judge in regular clothes. The first group, arguing in a traditionally embellished and classically ornate forum were significantly more likely to view the process as legally appropriate, the judge as authoritative and the outcome as just. The plastic and visual context, the architecture, the inscriptions, the portraiture and panels, the judicial throne and costume evidently played an significantly persuasive role in this adversarial appearance of law and in this expression of desire for justice. Law is in this example more than its texts and exceeds the bounds of its reasons. It is this dangerous supplement, this visiocratic transmission of justice and judgment, that ‘Inventing Law’ will pursue, divagate and elaborate upon.

A text, as Lacan puts it, is always an enigma, a mi-dire, meaning a half-said, namely a reference to everything else that authorizes the statement, inscription or judgment. The name of the statute, the signature of the judge, the reputation of the author are simply references to everything else impounded and implied by the particular case, the curlicue or line exacted – further cases, other texts, the compilations, collections, codes, writings, inscriptions, imagery, statuary, portraiture and further hieroglyphs and enigmas that compose the tradition, the plasticity and presence of what is in our case termed common law. Using the (recently translated) work of the classicist and analyst Pierre Legendre, while glibly dancing across the grammatology of Jacques Derrida, the scribbles of Peter Goodrich, the contropiano of Susan Byrne, the juridical theology of Giorgio Agamben, the course will take up the mantle of legal humanism and trace the plenitude and comedy of law in the specific times and spaces of its invention. This is light hearted and so most serious and irenic of undertakings.

Topics to be excoriated, adumbrated, concatenated and ratiocinated will include:
Legal openings
The spaces of tradition
Legal emblems
Amity and legality
Blindness and insight
The melancholy of law
Juridical portraiture
Rhetoric and hermeneutics
Exegesis and legal literalism
Affect and judgment
Cnutism or the ravages of the tides
Supplements and marginalia


Geoffrey Bennington: 'Failing Sovereignty in Late Derrida'

In this lecture I examine Derrida’s preoccupation with sovereignty in his late seminars and published works.  I show, taking examples especially from Rousseau, how sovereignty is always already failing, affected by what Derrida calls “auto-immunity”.  In the light of this analysis, I point to some curious omissions in Derrida’s account, around Aristotle, Bataille, and Heidegger.

Geoffrey Bennington is Asa G. Candler Professor of Modern French Thought at Emory University and Professor of Philosophy at the European Graduate School.  He is the author of 15 books and over 120 articles and chapters on philosophical and literary-theoretical topics.  His books include Jacques Derrida (co-authored with Jacques Derrida, 1991), Legislations: The Politics of Deconstruction (1995), and Frontières kantiennes (2000). His most recent books are Not Half No End: Militantly Melancholic Essays in Memory of Jacques Derrida (2010) and Géographie et autres lectures (2011).  He has translated many works by Derrida and other contemporary French thinkers, and is General Editor, with Peggy Kamuf, of the English language edition of The Seminars of Jacques Derrida at the University of Chicago Press.  His translations of the first two volumes of the seminars to be published, The Beast and the Sovereign I and II, appeared in 2009 and 2011.  He is currently completing a book of deconstructive political philosophy tentatively entitled Scatter.

Davina Cooper: 'Playing Like a State: Imagining progressive governance from conservative Christian refusal'

This lecture will explore the presence and potential of a playful state through the somewhat paradoxical example of the international legal drama currently taking shape over conservative Christian refusal to treat gay sexuality equally. Play is a practice rarely associated with states – whether they are conservative or progressive. And yet, different kinds of playful state performances regularly occur. Focusing on neoliberal states with equality laws, this lecture will explore the diverse ways in which states play. Through the legal drama of conservative Christian refusal (and the reciprocating refusal of state bodies as they pull resources, contracts and jobs from resistant Christian bodies), the lecture will centre on play’s potential to provide a mode of action and ethos through which a more socially just state might take shape.

Davina Cooper is Professor of Law & Political Theory at the University of Kent. For 25 years her work has addressed different conceptual and cultural aspects of a transformative politics, focusing in particular on the state, sexuality, and adventures in grass-roots governing. Her books include: Everyday Utopias: The Conceptual Life of Everyday Utopias (Duke, 2014); Challenging Diversity: Rethinking Equality and the Value of Difference (CUP, 2004); and Governing out of Order: Space, Law and the Politics of Belonging (Rivers Oram 1998). She has also participated in state governance from the “inside” as a local politician and as a magistrate.

Roberto Esposito: 'Persons, Things and Bodies'

Roberto Esposito (1950, Piano di Sorrento) is Professor of Theoretical Philosophy at the Scuola Normale Superiore. He has held numerous lectures and seminars at Universities around the world, in America (including Harvard, UCLA Los Angeles, Columbia, Brown, Cornell, Duke and Michigan), and in England, France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Japan, Argentina and Chile.  He is co-editor of Filosofia Politica, published by il Mulino, and of the series ‘Comunità e Libertà’ for Laterza, and he is a philosophy consultant for Einaudi. His work has been translated into English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese and Korean. Amongst his many books appearing in English are Bios: Biopolitics and Philosophy (2008), Communitas: The Origin and Destiny of Community (2009), Immunitas: The Protection and Negation of Life (2011), and Third Person (2012). Forthcoming in English translation include Categories of the Impolitical (2015, Fordham University Press) and Persons and Things: From the Body’s Point of View (2015, Polity Press).

Peter Goodrich: 'Madness and Law'

The ‘Great Thoughts’ or, in a lesser translation, the Memoirs of My Nervous Illness by judge Daniel Paul Schreber are a remarkable account of the psychosis of the President of the Saxon Court of Appeals. To read the Memoirs as a record of madness is relatively easy and has been lengthily pursued. To interpret this remarkable work as legal discourse, as a successful litigation of the judge’s release from the asylum and as a radical jurisprudence is more a novel undertaking and will be proposed here.

Professor Peter Goodrich

Davide Tarizzo: 'The Secret Life of Behaviour: Artificial life and biopolitics'

What is artificial life? How is it possible to think through such a thing at the dawn of the third millennium? The answer does not lie within artificial life itself (that is, within the domain of IT and computer science research), but is rather concealed within the invisible assumptions that unceasingly drive two different sciences: biology and economics. As Christopher Langton explains, artificial life “attempts to synthesize life-like behaviours within computers and other artificial media”, and both biology and economics make behaviour their epistemic a priori (as biologist John Maynard Smith and economist Gary Becker confirm). But this, of course, begs the question: what is behaviour?

Professor Davide Tarizzo

Venue and Timing

The KSSCT will be held 29 June to 10 July 2015 at the University of Kent’s centre in Paris, at Reid Hall, 4 Rue de Chevreuse, very close to the Jardin de Luxembourg.


The fee for the 2015 school is £850. This amount covers seminar tuition and several drink and lunch receptions. Attendees will cover their own travel, accommodation and subsistence fees. Limited financial assistance will be available to a small number of excellent applicants who would otherwise not be able to attend. You can find more details about this in the apply section.


We are able to offer a limited amount of discounted accommodation at the nearby Foyer International des Etudiantes, a short walk from the summer school venue. The Foyer’s rooms are double rooms containing two beds (and can therefore be shared if you like), and the total cost of the room is €59 per night. This is student accommodation that is in use by resident students until 30th June. It will therefore be available to KSSCT attendees only for the period 30th June to 11th July.

This accommodation is strictly limited, and priority will be given to the earliest successful applicants. Please let us know in the body of your application email whether or not you would like to take advantage of this facility.

Accommodation can alternatively be found at any number of other locations in Paris. Applicants may consider looking at the Bureau de Voyages de Jeunesse (BVJ), which has various locations around Paris including one at Opera. Please contact the KSSCT administration using the form below if you would like further suggestions for accommodation in Paris.

Applicants must provide

An application letter of no more than two pages, outlining your research and intellectual interests, why you would like to attend the summer school, and which seminar program you would like to attend.

A curriculum vitae (including details of teaching experience and publications, if any).

Please email your application documents to kssct2015@kent.ac.uk. Don’t forget to let us know in the body of the email whether or not you would like to apply for the summer school’s Foyer International accommodation.

Dates and deadlines

The deadline for applications is 28 Feb, 2015.

Successful applicants will be notified by 3 March.

A non-refundable deposit of £200 must be paid by 13 March to secure a place in the summer school, and the balance of the tuition fee will be due by 31 May.

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