An author-meets-critics session that will take place on Tuesday, September 26, 2017 from 6-8 p.m. at the Slought Foundation in Philadelphia. Entitled “Radical Imaginaires,” the discussion will be based on my two most recent books: Counter-History of the Present and Interventions in Contemporary Thought.
This symposium brings together leading scholars in the fields of political theory, intellectual history, comparative literature and aesthetics to discuss two recent books by philosopher Gabriel Rockhill: Counter-History of the Present: Untimely Interrogations into Globalization, Technology, Democracy (Duke UP, 2017) and Interventions in Contemporary Thought: History, Politics, Aesthetics (Edinburgh UP, 2017 for the paperback edition). These works, whose contents are outlined below, perform a tectonic shift in the theoretical coordinates that frame our understanding of the contemporary. Cutting across multiple fields and debates, they intervene to propose both a novel form of theoretical practice and alternative conceptual models for understanding the multidimensionality of the current conjuncture as a force field of social struggle.
Counter-History of the Present dismantles the widespread belief that we are living in a
democratized and globalized era intimately connected by a single, overarching economic and technological network. Arguing that it fails to account for the experiences of billions of people around the world, Rockhill interrogates the ways this political narratology has emerged in connection with the neocolonial expansion of neoliberalism, which often seeks to mask the oppressive dynamics of global capital behind the value-concept of democracy. He thereby puts into relief the development of a technico-democratic mission that historically mirrors the role played by the civilizing mission during the grand era of colonialism. Proposing a counter-history that simultaneously counters the narratives of this imperial mission and develops a new grammar for historical and political imaginaries, the book creates space for the articulation of futures no longer engulfed in the prison of the colonial present.
Interventions in Contemporary Thought is a collection of essays that rethink the state and stakes of contemporary theory. By resituating theoretical work in a broader force field of culture and power, Rockhill develops an alternative historical model for understanding intellectual developments and proposes incisive, iconoclastic interventions into a broad array of current debates. These include a detailed dismantling of the sequential historical narrative leading from the structuralism of Foucault to Derrida’s post-structuralism; a radical critique of the political implications of the philosophy of difference; a meticulous reassessment of the force and limitations of the work of Jacques Rancière, Alain Badiou, and Cornelius Castoriadis; and a retrieval of architecture and public art, which have been largely excluded from certain contemporary theoretical debates on art and politics. Drawing on and developing his earlier work in Radical History & the Politics of Art, the book as a whole thereby proposes to modify the very framework for thinking the historical relation between aesthetics and politics.
Warren Breckman is the Rose Family Endowed Term Professor of modern European intellectual and cultural history at the University of Pennsylvania. His books include Karl Marx, the Young Hegelians, and the Origins of Radical Social Theory (Cambridge, 1999; paperback 2001), European Romanticism (Bedford, 2007; Hackett, 2015), and Adventures of the Symbolic (Columbia University Press, 2013). In addition, he has published articles on the history of philosophy and political thought, the development of consumer culture, modernism and urban culture, historical theory, contemporary theory, and nationalism.
Jean-Michel Rabaté is a Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania. One of the founders and curators of Slought Foundation in Philadelphia (slought.org), he is a managing editor of the Journal of Modern Literature. Rabaté has authored or edited 38 books on modernism, psychoanalysis, contemporary art, philosophy, and writers like Beckett, Pound and Joyce. Recent books, all from 2016, include The Pathos of Distance, Think, Pig! Beckett at the limit of the human, and Les Guerres de Derrida.
Gabriel Rockhill is a philosopher, cultural critic and public intellectual who teaches at Villanova University and directs the Atelier de Théorie Critique at the Sorbonne. In addition to numerous essays and public opinion pieces, he has written and edited nine books on issues ranging from aesthetics and politics to historiography and contemporary theory.
Jennifer Ponce de León is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research focuses on intersections between radical left politics and contemporary cultural production. Her writings have appeared or are forthcoming in American Quarterly, e-misférica, GLQ: A Journal of Gay and Lesbian Studies, Live Art in L.A.: Performance in Southern in California, 1970-1983, Talking to Action: Art, Pedagogy and Activism in the Americas, Dancing with the Zapatistas, Live Art in LA, Art and Activism in the Age of Globalization, MEX/LA: Mexican Modernisms in Los Angeles. She is currently completing Radical Politics Across the Arts of the Americas: Engagement & Experimentation in the New Millennium. The exhibition currently on display at Slought, Resurgent Histories, Insurgent Futures, is related to the research for this book.
Antonio Vázquez-Arroyo is Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Rutgers University. His interdisciplinary research mostly engages with contemporary political questions, albeit always in reference to the history of political thought broadly understood. He has written on Theodor W. Adorno, Jürgen Habermas, Simone Weil, Sheldon S. Wolin, democracy, liberalism and neoliberalism, political responsibility, universal history, the intersections between catastrophes, violence, and political life, and US imperialism, among others themes. His book, Political Responsibility: Responding to Predicaments of Power, was published in 2016 by Columbia University Press.