Category Archives: Lecture

Lecture at “What Critique?” Conference, Amherst, April 23

The I will be presenting a paper entitled “Critical and Radical Theory”–abstract below–at the “What Critique?” conference at UMass Amherst on April 23, 2016. For the program and more information, please click hereFlyer-What Critique (image)

Abstract: “Critical and Radical Theory”
The stakes of the paper that I will present can best be described in terms of a critique of critical reason. Neither a full-scale rejection nor a simple internal modification, such a critique seeks to foreground both the strengths and limitations of some of the dominant strategies, methodologies and sociopolitical orientations of critical theory, broadly construed. The ultimate goal is hence affirmative and productive: to rethink critical social theory for the 21st century.

Although the general stakes of the paper touch on issues integral to ‘continental’ philosophy since at least Kant, it will specifically concentrate on the Frankfurt School heritage. It takes Horkheimer’s canonical essay, “Traditional and Critical Theory,” as its palimpsestic reference point in order to sketch the lineaments of a radical theory. Understood as an attempt to reflexively reinvigorate social theory beyond its now institutionalized forms of ‘traditional critical theory,’ it questions the latter’s persistent Eurocentrism and phallocentrism, its academic distance from radical political praxis, its contemporary professionalization as a brand of moral and political philosophy, and its gradual withdrawal from the daunting project of an analysis of society in toto (from psychic forces and aesthetics to political economy and history).

The overall objective of the paper will thus be to work through one of the major critical traditions in continental philosophy in order to push beyond it, subjecting it to a critique that aims at honing a radical edge too often dulled by the institution of ‘critical theory.’

Lecture at Winter Theory Institute

I will be presenting a lecture entitled “Writing Revolution: Whitman’s Literary Democracy” at the Society for Critical Exchange‘s Winter Theory Institute, which will take place at the Slought Foundation in Philadelphia on February 4-7. The flyer for the conference, which is on “American World Literature,” can be downloaded here.

Lecture on Photography

The presentation below, which took place on October 26, 2015,  was recently posted as part of Penn State’s Comparative Literature Luncheon Series. It is a work in progress that will likely become part of a larger book project on recording technologies, so comments and suggestions are very welcome. A special thanks to Jonathan Eburne for the invitation and the very productive dialogue.

Abstract
“Remaking Machines: Pragmatics and Politics of Photography”

“The only sensible weapon against the cops,” Chris Marker presciently claimed in the 1960s, is “a film camera.” Exploring the ramifications of this statement in the context of the current struggles around the racial violence perpetrated by the police and vigilantes, this paper proposes a broad reflection on the social pragmatics of photography and its consequences. It begins by revisiting the question ‘what is photography?’ by inquiring into its supposed privileged relationship to the objective world. It argues that photography, far from simply capturing reality, is a powerful remaking machine that recomposes the very nature of the real. By resituating the photographic apparatus in a broad social pragmatics, it thereby seeks to elucidate its political power as a “sensible weapon.”

Lecture, Penn State Comp Lit Luncheon Series, 10/26/15

I will be presenting the talk described below in Penn State’s Comp Lit Luncheon Series. For more information, click here

FergusonRemaking Machines:
Pragmatics and Politics of Photography

Abstract
“The only sensible weapon against the cops,” Chris Marker presciently claimed in the 1960s, is “a film camera.” Exploring the ramifications of this statement in the context of the current struggles around the racial violence perpetrated by the police and vigilantes, this paper proposes an expansive reflection on the social pragmatics of photography and its consequences. It begins by revisiting the question ‘what is photography?’ by inquiring into its supposed privileged relationship to the objective world. It argues that photography, far from simply capturing reality, is a powerful remaking machine that recomposes the very nature of the real. By resituating the photographic apparatus in a broad social pragmatics, it thereby seeks to elucidate its political power as a “sensible weapon.”