2015 Millennium Conference, LSE, 17-18 October 2015 – Bruno Latour as keynote

2015 Millennium Conference, “Failure and Denial in World Politics”, LSE, 17-18 October 2015 – more details here.

Programme:  DRAFT 2015 Millennium Conference Programme

Call for Papers:   2015 Millennium Conference: Failure and Denial in World Politics

Conference Theme:   International relations are enmeshed in political failure and denial: from the governing of global climate change, financial collapse, and nuclear proliferation, to liberal statebuilding, development, and the potential for pandemics. Failure and denial reside in the background of world politics. In spite of their ubiquity and global relevance, however, it is paradoxical that these concepts remain under-theorised and under-conceptualised in International Relations scholarship. The 2015 Millennium Conference thus aspires to open new and critical grounds for debate and discussion by examining this paradox. It is a call for IR to theorise what has remained in the background of its thought and theory until now: failure and denial in world politics.

What constitutes failure and denial in world politics? What does the fear and effect of failure do to subjects, states, and international organisations? How does a state of denial affect and govern thought, conduct, politics, and subjectivity? In so far as failure and denial are socio-political categories, who can define a political outcome as a failure; how is the distinction between success and failure governed; how are failure and denial utilised as strategic tools; and how does the exposure of them feed back into political processes? What relations of power produce failures and maintain atmospheres of denial concerning gender, the postcolonial, the environmental, and insecurities of the international? How does the political recognition or denial of failure relate to temporality, memory, critique, and political action?

After a record number of abstract and paper submissions, the 2015 conference promises to offer stimulating theoretical explorations and discussions of this unexplored problematique within IR.  We hope you will join us at the LSE, 17-18 October, 2015!

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Slavoj Žižek mini course at Birkbeck – Hegelian Battles

Slavoj Žižek mini course at Birkbeck – Hegelian Battles. December 2-4, 2015. Free for students and Birkbeck staff, £10 per lecture for others. Everyone needs to register in advance.

The battle for Hegel goes on – new interpretations are emerging which perhaps pose an even greater threat to Hegel’s legacy than the usual rejections of Hegel. This series of lectures will provide a cognitive mapping of this twisted terrain, with the aim to redeem Hegel for the radical thought.

  1. Against recognition: a critique of the liberal reading of Hegel (Pippin, Brandom) – 2nd December
  2. What is reconciliation? Hegel against Schiller – 3rd December
  3. Hegel in Athens: what would Hegel have said about our predicament? – 4th December

G.W.F. Hegel, PHENOMENOLOGY OF SPIRIT, Preface and Introduction (available online)
Slavoj Žižek, ABSOLUTE RECOIL, Verso Books 2014, Chapters 1.1 and 1.3

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The challenge of saying ‘no’ to academic requests

Last year Rob Kitchin had a short post on his blog ‘The View from the Blue House’:

Over the past couple of years I’ve been getting more and more invites to do work that extends beyond my usual day to day work.  This last week has bought it home to me that I really need to try and put a strategy in place to manage how I deal with these requests.  Excluding spam, I was asked to: edit a handbook; write an op ed; review two papers, one grant application, and a set of document for a municipality; present five invited talks; attend six other events; and give six media interviews.  That’s over twenty additional jobs, which collectively would take up more than a working week in time, only one of which provides any recompense.  My inclination is to try and be helpful and do as many as I can, but for the sake of sanity I need to start saying no a lot more.  And since I said yes to 14 of these requests, though not the one that pays, I need to say no a lot, lot more.  I guess I just need to say it, but any strategies for handling this kind of avalanche of requests will be gratefully received.

Well Rob certainly gets more such requests than I do – see his discussion of talks here, for instance – but I can certainly relate to this. When I was recently away, I came back to a lot of requests and I needed to say ‘no’ to most of them. Now I’m on sabbatical and trying to focus on writing, I’m being as focused as I can be (see my self-imposed rules, here). It is a never-ending task to consider all such requests, to work out which I can do and which I can’t, and then to say ‘no’ to some in as nice a way as possible. For me at least, a non-reply is not an option.

As an editor I know how hard it is to get referees; as an author I want my work refereed; and I enjoy speaking and writing. When people are putting together a conference panel or seminar series they are not picking random names from which any will do, they are frequently considering different audiences, balance of speakers, etc. One person saying ‘no’ can upset a whole programme. Somebody has to review work, otherwise the system breaks down. So I want to say ‘yes’, but I realise I need to say ‘no’. I simply cannot do everything I’m asked.

In the past, if I complained about how busy I am, people seemed to think this means that I must be bad at saying ‘no’. But I’m not sure that this is actually true. I say ‘no’ a lot more now than I ever used to do, I just am asked to do a lot more, and so the question is of balancing how many times to say ‘no’ with saying ‘yes’. This features in a lot of registers, but four would be referee requests; requests to comment on other work; requests to write; requests to speak.

Referee requests: I keep lists of referee reports done on a yearly basis – articles, grants, tenure or promotion cases, books or proposals. I keep a tally of things I declined. The count is always higher for the ones I’ve done – I seem to do roughly two of every three I’m asked. Since 2008 it’s been between 30-50 review tasks completed a year. These are on top of the Society and Space editorial work I did from 2006-15, and I don’t count journals of which I am a board member.

Requests to read other stuff: I read work by colleagues, friends, ex-PhD students etc. – these are people I’ve chosen to act as an informal reader for. This means my capacity to read and comment on other stuff is severely curtailed. If I read everything else that was sent to me for comments then I would never get anything else done. So, if you’re a student somewhere else, who maybe vaguely knows my name (less often my work) then this doesn’t mean you have a right to expect comments on your essay, dissertation etc. I now frequently get ‘Dear Professor’ messages that have clearly been sent indiscriminately to many other people. Nor do I have time to offer comments on papers by third parties so that people can then use these comments as their own critique. Unlike many other people, I do actually reply to emails to say ‘no’, rather than not reply and leave the sender to work out the ‘no’ from lack of response. But if I reply, politely declining to comment, don’t come back to me to try to persuade me… By the way, there are two very good discussions of how to write emails that get read and answered, and what not to do, here and here (the first led to me to the second).

Requests to write: These come increasingly regularly. And it’s extremely flattering, but often the kinds of things that I’m asked to write are ones I would not be writing for other reasons, would force me to go back to a research topic I’ve long left behind or where I have exhausted what I have to say on the topic. I’ve been trying to decrease the number of book chapters I write in recent years – it can be a lot of work for something that frequently ends up buried in an expensive hardback, and rarely seen. But there are always exceptions. Sometimes invitations force me to engage with something I know I need to, sometimes they fit conveniently with what I’m doing, sometimes they spark an idea I’d never have had otherwise. And since it is impossible to predict, I value each and every invitation, and try to weigh them up against each other, and other demands.

Requests to speak: I really like to accept these, but it increasingly the decision has to be based on whether it moves forward a project I am currently working on or would like to work on. Speaking about old projects is inherently less appealing – I want feedback on things that are useful to me, hopefully delivered in a way that is interesting to others, rather than talk about something that is already out or forthcoming. I can think of only a handful of the talks I’ve given where I’ve not gained something from the discussion, either the formal bit or later. (Those are often ones where the paper is a repeat of one given too many times, where the genuinely original, challenging questions are harder to get given previous audiences. This doesn’t mean the paper is immune to criticism, of course, just that I’ve probably already heard those criticisms.) Talks are often an opportunity to visit interesting places, meet interesting people, try out ideas, give a definite date to produce something by, etc. They often lead to publishing opportunities, research collaborations, etc. But logistical issues also come up – am I able to be there? Can I reduce the number of trips I take? Do I have the time before the event to prepare something worthwhile? Will I be able to see something of the place I’m visiting, rather than airport-hotel-conference venue/university-hotel-airport?

I know other academics have different strategies for deciding/responding: “What’s the honorarium?” “I only travel business class” – both will lead to several requests disappearing. Or they don’t reply. Or, the bane of editors’ lives, they agree to deliver a report or chapter or something, and then don’t. While some people say, or imply, ‘no’ as a default, others find it hard, even exhausting to do so, but know the alternative is worse. Perhaps we should keep more of a record, that is the list of all the things we could have done, but said ‘no’ to, for various reasons. Maybe this would be our ‘inverse cv’.

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Books received – Foucault, Brown, Golder, Ashgate, etc.

A pile of recently bought, earned or complimentary books: Foucault’s The Punitive Society, Wendy Brown’s Undoing the Demos, Ben Golder’s Foucault and the Politics of Rights, four books in recompense for review work for Ashgate, and recent issues of Theory, Culture & Society and Transactions of the IBG.

The three books at the top are resources for the Foucault work – a copy of the 1973 re-edition of a sexual education manual Apprenons faire l’amour, an issue of La nef, and Serge Livrozet’s De la prison à la révolte. Foucault wrote the preface for the last, co-authored a piece in the second with the Groupe Information Santé, and wrote a short piece defending a doctor, Jean Carpentier, who had been prosecuted for distributing the original version of the first. The first and third of these texts are reprinted in Dits et écrits (texts 116 and 110), but the second was not (see here). I will say a bit about the these texts in chapters five and six of Foucault: The Birth of Power.

Books received

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History and Theory special forum on Foucault and Neoliberalism

History and Theory have a special forum on Foucault and Neoliberalism (requires subscription). Thanks to Timothy Johnson and others for the alert.

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The Question of the Human in Social Theory and Social Research – 25th November 2015, University of Warwick

Posted on behalf of Mark Carrigan:

25th November 2015, 11:00 to 17:00
WT0.05, University of Warwick

This workshop and symposium will explore the, mostly implicit, conceptions of the human, humanity and human nature that underpin various contemporary conceptions of social life. In the context of much-publicised post-human futures, this is an invitation to reconsider the idea that social life itself is predicated on the fact that human beings are capable of such collective existence. Humans are beings who have a continuity of consciousness so that they see themselves as themselves throughout their life; human are beings who negotiate a multiplicity of sometimes contradictory identities and recognise each other as members of the same species, and they are also beings who can create and interpret cultural artefacts. Crucially, humans are beings who can deploy a sense of self-transcendence so that they are able to look at the world from somebody else’s point of view and thus conceive new social institutions.

The main focus throughout the day will be on how questions about the human are encountered in social theory and social research and what are the various implications and challenges of taking these seriously in our work. The day of activities will be divided into two parts. During the morning, we will have a participatory workshop for PhD students and early-career researchers. The goal of the workshop is to help participants negotiate the sometimes abstruse scientific, philosophical, moral, and even theological underpinnings of asking questions about ‘the human’ in the context of their own research projects. Dr Daniel Chernilo (Loughborough University) will offer a general overview of this field of enquiry as well as reflect on its various implications. We will also invite participants to reflect on their own research projects by making a brief (10-minute) presentation of their research projects and how questions about the human have been or are expected to be encountered within them. We’d like to ask all participants to reflect in advance on conceptions of the human and how they pertain to their projects. Uncertainty here is not a problem, in fact it will be a useful contribution to discussions on the day! In the afternoon, we will have a symposium in which Dr Mark Carrigan, Professor Margaret Archer and Daniel Chernilo will engage with questions of the human as they unfold in their own work on digital sociology (Carrigan), the morphogenetic society (Archer), and philosophical sociology (Chernilo).

To register your interest, please contact D.Chernilo@lboro.ac.uk and Mark@Markcarrigan.net with a brief description (500 words or less) of your research and how questions of the human are relevant to it by October 31st, 2015. The event is free but places are limited. Travel bursaries are available for those in need of it, please ask for more details.

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Cahiers marxistes-léninistes


This looks a useful resource.

Originally posted on My Desiring-Machines:

Selections from the journal (published by Althusser’s students) are available here. (Thanks to Rethinking Marxism‘s Facebook feed for the link)

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Top posts on Progressive Geographies this week

The busiest week on the blog for a while, mainly due to the first two of these posts:

  1. Michel Foucault on refugees – a previously untranslated interview from 1979
  2. Eleven thoughts on reading and citing
  3. 12 Critical Theory books that came out in September
  4. Foucault the mayonnaise maker and card cheat…
  5. CFP: Fiction and the Social Imaginary – 14 March 2016, University of York
  6. Roberto Esposito. ‘Biological Life, Political Life’, Goldsmiths, University of London, 1 Oct 2015 5pm
  7. Henri Lefebvre, Metaphilosophy, forthcoming in February 2016 – Verso page and available to pre-order
  8. Arlette Farge and Michel Foucault, The Disorder of Families – to appear in fall 2016 with University of Minnesota Press
  9. History of the Present – the Berkeley newsletter on Foucault’s work online
  10. Foucault Resources
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Foucault: The Birth of Power Update 4 – collaborative work and a complete draft of Chapter One on the Lectures on the Will to Know and related materials

FBP update 4

Since the last update, I’ve been working on various aspects of this project.

The first was a return to some of Foucault’s collaborative projects around CERFI. Quite late in the drafting of Foucault’s Last Decade I removed most of the discussion of Les équipments du pouvoir, and that is now incorporated into this manuscript. I also reread the Généalogie des équipements de normalisation: Les équipements sanitaires report Foucault edited, and wrote something about that, along with a discussion of the two editions of the Les machines à guérir (aux origines de l’hôpital moderne) volume that developed from it. While these are discussed more fully in Foucault’s Last Decade, I think I’ve found a way to incorporate a discussion in this book that doesn’t simply repeat what I say there. At some point I plan to go back through Politiques de l’habitat (1800-1850) and do something similar. I’ll be talking about this work at the LSE in November, and if you don’t know what these texts are there is a bibliography of all the collaborative projects Foucault led or participated in here. I also added a discussion of the work around the Pierre Rivière case into this part. Then, following more directly the work on activism I talked about last time, I did a bit more work on the Groupe Information Santé, mainly in the British Library following up some of the more obscure sources of information about their work, including newspaper reports, but I also bought a copy of their 1974 report La médecine désordonnée (there don’t appear to be any UK libraries that have it). As well as some valuable statements on the group’s goals it includes a lot of documentary sources. I say a bit more about it here.

I also did some reading of accounts looking at the historical period Foucault was working within, beginning with Keith Reader’s The May 1968 Events in France and his Intellectuals and the Left in France since 1968; and then Julian Bourg’s From Revolution to Ethics: May 1968 and Contemporary French Thought, and Kristin Ross’s May ’68 and its Afterlives. They are quite different: Bourg makes a lot of use of interviews, and so is invaluable for information otherwise unavailable; Ross makes a point of relying only on written sources, but does reference some things in relation to my concerns that I hadn’t come across elsewhere. I also plan to work through Philippe Artières and Michelle Zancarini-Fournel’s collection 1968, une histoire collective (1962-1981), and perhaps some other works on this, though I’m not especially interested in ‘68 itself, more the politics of the period immediately after it.

The next stage was to return to Chapter One, and work on Lectures on the Will to Know again. I’d given a lecture on this at a conference at the University of East London back in 2011, and then again as the George M. Story Lecture in Humanities at Memorial University of Newfoundland in 2013, so some bits were reasonably well-written, or so I thought. Others I knew needed extensive new writing. In particular I completely reworked the section on Nietzsche, and made a little use of Foucault’s notes on this topic at the BNF. Most of the material on Nietzsche is actually missing from the Lectures on the Will to Know manuscript, so the McGill lecture included in that volume is invaluable. The ‘Nietzsche, Genealogy, History’ essay dates from around this time too, though it is striking that there is relatively little overlap of content or, perhaps more accurately, there is a very different approach to some shared concerns. The likely most interesting material by Foucault on Nietzsche remains unpublished – the lecture course on him given at Vincennes – but I understand this is eventually going to see the light of day, though have no further details (and before anyone asks, it’s not currently listed in the BNF catalogue).

I then bit the bullet and worked on the section of Oedipus. I’ve been putting this off because I was struggling to work out what to do with it. It was clearly very important to Foucault, given the number of times he delivered this material. But Oedipus was not discussed in the previous talks I’d given on the course, in part because I found it of little interest, so I had nothing much to work with, aside from some detailed notes on the second of the ‘Truth and Juridical Forms’ lectures. What I’ve done now, as with Nietzsche, is to blend the different sources together in a thematic treatment, instead of treating things more strictly chronologically. I organised Foucault’s Last Decade in a largely chronological way, but this is a different book and I don’t think that is necessarily the best way to approach things here. That said I don’t want to minimize the differences between how Foucault treats things in Paris in 1970-71 and Rio in 1973 though, with the ‘Oedipal Knowledge’ manuscript a mid-way statement, so I’ve tried not to blur these too much. I’m reasonably happy with how this section runs.

After working through those two large sections, I ended up rewriting the section on the Greeks, especially on juridical and political practice. This was in some ways less tricky than the other sections, because there is just one source – the course itself. Yet that also presents challenges because the course is quite fragmented, and the presentation in Rio helped with the other sections because we hear what Foucault said, rather than just see what he wrote. But I’m much happier with the discussion now. Chapter One now exists as a much better draft, which bears only limited comparison to my previous lectures on this course. (I listened back to the Newfoundland lecture, and borrowed a few phrases that were in the oral delivery that were not in the manuscript.) But I’m certainly hoping that this major restructuring and rewriting isn’t needed for the other chapters.

The next work will be on Chapter Two, which mainly looks at the Théories et institutions pénales course. The audio recording of my talk on this course at the ‘Time Served: Discipline and Punish forty years on’ conference, which looked at the second-half and the notion of ‘inquiry’ is available here. I’ll be speaking about the Nu-pieds part of this course in London in November at the Historical Materialism conference, which gives me a good deadline to work towards. So I’ve begun looking again at some of the texts Foucault is in dialogue with, including Boris Porshnev and Roland Mousnier. Chathan Vemuri reminded me there is some use made of Porshnev and Mousnier in Perry Anderson’s Lineages of the Absolutist State, which was useful. Etienne Balibar says a little about the way Porshnev was read by the French left in the early 1970s in his comments for the Columbia seminars on the courses here. I’m hoping that the work required for this chapter will not be much more than the work involved to produce the two talks, since I’m now working with a much clearer sense of this overall project, and a better understanding of how the initial courses fit together.

Incidentally, the English translation of The Punitive Society is now published. I have a copy on pre-order from Palgrave in recompense for some review work, so will be able to compare my initial translations with Graham Burchell’s official ones – that’s for Chapter Three in time.

You can read more about this book and Foucault’s Last Decade, along with links to previous updates, here. And, as a reminder, a lot of Foucault resources are available here. It includes a list of audio files, a bibliography of collaborative projects, a list of short pieces which did not appear in Dits et écrits, comparison of variant forms of texts, a few short translations (including the recent one of a 1979 interview on refugees), and so on.

Posted in Foucault's Last Decade, Foucault: The Birth of Power, Michel Foucault, Publishing, Writing | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Antipode Foundation Scholar-Activist Project and International Workshop Awards 2016


Antipode announce their latest round of grants.

Originally posted on AntipodeFoundation.org:

We’re pleased to announce the fourth year of the Antipode Foundation’s Scholar-Activist Project and International Workshop Awards.

Scholar-Activist Project Awards are single-year grants of up to £10,000 intended to support collaborations between academics and students and non-academic activists (from non-governmental organisations, think tanks, social movements, or community/grassroots organisations, among other places), including programmes of action-orientated and participatory research and publicly-focused forms of geographical investigation. They offer opportunities for scholars to relate to civil society and make mutually beneficial connections.

International Workshop Awards are single-year grants of up to £10,000 available to groups of radical/critical geographers staging events (including conferences, workshops, seminar series and summer schools) that involve the exchange of ideas across disciplinary and sectoral boundaries and intra/international borders, and lead to the building of productive, durable relationships. They make capacity-building possible by enabling the development of a community of researchers.

Activists (of all kinds) and students as well as…

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