Tuesday, May 20, 2008

New Radical Subjectivities: Re-thinking Agency for the 21st Century

New Radical Subjectivities: Re-thinking Agency for the 21st Century

The University of Nottingham, UK
Friday, September 19th, 2008

Keynote Speaker – Professor Peter Hallward (Middlesex University)

This one day conference for postgraduate students and early career researchers explores recent articulations of subjectivity and political agency in critical theory and cultural studies. The
continued ascent of neo-liberalism and economic globalisation, along with postmodern and poststructuralist theorising around subjectivity, potentially sets a dangerously de-politicised subject against the expanding forces and inequalities of contemporary capitalism.

Over the last twenty-five years, theoretical writings on the left have stressed the need to locate subject positions beyond the reductionism of an orthodox Marxism, and the disabling extremes of liberal anti-essentialism. Concepts which continue to posit some form of subjective agency have attempted to respond to the human issues at stake in contemporary political formations without compromising a theoretical commitment to a discursively produced subject.

From Gayatri Spivak's 'strategic essentialism' and Laclau and Mouffe's 'radical democracy' to more recent articulations such as Hardt and Negri's 'multitude' and the Lacanian and post-Lacanian thought of Slavoj Žižek and Alain Badiou, these writers all stress the continuing
importance of leftist theories of the subject that can provide a theoretical antidote to the excesses of relativist pluralism and identity politics.

Such thinkers as Fredric Jameson and Susan Buck-Morss therefore stress the importance of posing agency at a trans-individual and collective level. These positions emphasise the importance of opposition and agonism in any radical politics, rather than consensual or 'third way' liberalism. Collective identities therefore continue to offer a crucial grounding for Leftist (re)considerations of subjectivity as a necessary form of agency for radical change, even if these groupings prove to be only ever strategic or temporary.

We invite papers from researchers working in critical theory, cultural studies, literature, film, the visual arts, history, politics and the social sciences which explore, but are not limited to, the following questions:

o Is the subject still the locus for a radical left politics?
o What forms of radical or oppositional agency are now emerging?
o What roles can class, gender and ethnicity play for new subjectivities?
o Does the left need to go beyond opposition and resistance towards the construction of new 'subjective' political spaces?
o What aesthetic or cultural forms are currently engaging with and creating new subjective or collective agencies?
o What contributions can Lacanian and post-Lacanian thought make to contemporary political subjectivity?
o Are theories of subjectivity currently responding adequately to developments in a globalized resistance, such as the anti-globalization movement, the resurgence of the left in Latin America, and religious fundamentalisms?
o Do changes in social production initiated by economic and cultural globalization offer a new potential for collective emancipation, or are they only ever complicit with a hegemonic global capitalism?
o Do digital technologies offer new ways for rethinking agency?
o What is the role of Utopia in new political formations?

Abstracts of 200-250 words should be submitted by e-mail as a Word attachment to newradicalsubjectivities@gmail.com by 30th May 2008 and should include name, affiliation, e-mail address, title of paper and 4 keywords.

Peter Hallward is the author of Absolutely Postcolonial: Writing between the Singular and the Specific (Manchester, 2001), Badiou: A Subject to Truth (Minnesota, 2003), Out of this World: Deleuze and the Philosophy of Creation (Verso, 2006), and most recently, Damming the
Flood: Haiti, Aristide, and the Politics of Containment (Verso, 2007).

New Radical Subjectivities Organisational Collective
Alexander Dunst, Caroline Edwards and Matthew Mead
The Centre for Critical Theory
Department of Cultural Studies
The University of Nottingham, UK.

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