Judith Butler, What World is this? A Pandemic Psychology – Columbia University Press, November 2022

Judith Butler, What World is this? A Pandemic Psychology – Columbia University Press, November 2022

The pandemic compels us to ask fundamental questions about our place in the world: the many ways humans rely on one another, how we vitally and sometimes fatally breathe the same air, share the surfaces of the earth, and exist in proximity to other porous creatures in order to live in a social world. What we require to live can also imperil our lives. How do we think from, and about, this common bind?

Judith Butler shows how COVID-19 and all its consequences—political, social, ecological, economic—have challenged us to reconsider the sense of the world that such disasters bring about. Drawing on the work of Max Scheler, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and critical feminist phenomenology, Butler illuminates the conditions in which we seek to make sense of our disorientation, precarity, and social bonds. What World Is This? offers a new account of interdependency in which touching and breathing, capacities that amid a viral outbreak can threaten life itself, challenge the boundaries of the body and selfhood. Criticizing notions of unlimited personal liberty and the killing forces of racism, sexism, and classism, this book suggests that the pandemic illuminates the potential of shared vulnerabilities as well as the injustice of pervasive inequalities.

Exposing and opposing forms of injustice that deny the essential interrelationship of living creatures, Butler argues for a radical social equality and advocates modes of resistance that seek to establish new conditions of livability and a new sense of a shared world.

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Philology and Microhistory: A Conversation with Carlo Ginzburg by Islam Dayeh (open access)

Carlo Ginzburg. Image courtesy of the author. Photo copyright: Danilo De Marco.

Philology and Microhistory: A Conversation with Carlo Ginzburg by Islam Dayeh 

In this Philological Conversation, Carlo Ginzburg reflects on the place of philology in his work and explores the connections between philology, microhistory, and casuistry. We talk about the people who inspired his early thinking, including his father Leone Ginzburg, his mother Natalia, and his grandfather, moving on to Erich Auerbach, Leo Spitzer, and Sebastiano Timpanaro. We discuss the ethical and political implications of his research and reflect on the power of philology to give voice to the marginalized and suppressed. The conversation, which was edited for readability, took place during the Corona pandemic over three meetings via Zoom on July 13, September 10, and September 17, 2021. A preview of the conversation is here, and the full text can be read in the journal Philological Encounters, here.

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Robert J. Mayhew (ed.), Debating Malthus: A Documentary Reader on Population, Resources and the Environment – University of Washington Press, May 2022

Robert J. Mayhew (ed.), Debating Malthus: A Documentary Reader on Population, Resources and the Environment – University of Washington Press, May 2022

For centuries, thinking about the earth’s increasing human population has been tied to environmental ideas and political action. This highly teachable collection of contextualized primary sources allows students to follow European and North American discussions about intertwined and evolving concepts of population, resources, and the natural environment from early contexts in the sixteenth century right through to the present day.

Edited and introduced by Robert J. Mayhew, a noted biographer of Thomas Robert Malthus—whose Essay on the Principle of Population (1798), excerpted here, is an influential and controversial take on the topic—this volume explores themes including evolution, eugenics, war, social justice, birth control, environmental Armageddon, and climate change. Other responses to the idea of new “population bombs” are represented here by radical feminist work, by Indigenous views of the population-environment nexus, and by intersectional race-gender approaches. By learning the patterns of this discourse, students will be better able to critically evaluate historical conversations as well as contemporary debates.

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Patrick Gamsby, Henri Lefebvre, Boredom, and Everyday Life – Lexington Books, September 2022

Patrick Gamsby, Henri Lefebvre, Boredom, and Everyday Life – Lexington Books, September 2022

Just an expensive hardback listed at the moment, unfortunately.

Henri Lefebvre, Boredom, and Everyday Life culls together the scattered fragments of Henri Lefebvre’s (1901–1991) unrealized sociology of boredom. In assembling these fragments, sprinkled through Lefebvre’s vast oeuvre, Patrick Gamsby constructs the core elements of Lefebvre’s latent theory of boredom. Themes of time (modernity, everyday), space (urban, suburban), and mass culture (culture industry, industry culture) are explored throughout the book, unveiling a concealed dialectical movement at work with the experience of boredom. In analyzing at the dialectic of boredom, Gamsby argues that Lefebvre’s project of a critique of everyday life is key for making sense of the linkages between boredom and everyday life in the modern world.

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Macherey, Pierre. “Did Foucault Find a ‘Way Out’ of Hegel?” (2022)

Another paper in the theme issue of Theory, Culture and Society on ‘Foucault before the Collège de France’ – https://www.theoryculturesociety.org/blog/special-issue-foucault-before-the-college-de-france

Foucault News

Macherey, Pierre. “Did Foucault Find a ‘Way Out’ of Hegel?” Theory, Culture & Society, (June 2022).https://doi.org/10.1177/02632764221084903.

A ‘way out’ expresses a movement which looks completely different depending on whether one views it prospectively or retrospectively: in the first instance, it signifies ‘to emerge from’, which suggests a relationship of continuity; in the second it signifies ‘to breach a threshold’, a distancing, that is to say, a rupture. Which of these two meanings should we ascribe to the expression ‘Foucault’s way out of Hegel’ – that of a connection, which emerges when we look behind us, or that of a disjunction, which appears when we look ahead? That of a line of descent, which obliges us to contend with a legacy, or that of rejection, thus a refusal to accept it? This is the very question that we want to confront.

dialectic, Foucault, Hegel, subjectification, thought

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Book presentation of “Disalienation” by Camille Robcis (13/06/2022)

Book presentation of “Disalienation” by Camille Robcis (13/06/2022)


Book presentation of “Disalienation. Politics, Philosophy, and Radical Psychiatry in Postwar France” by Camille Robcis. This event takes place on 13/06/2022 at the Centre d’histoire de Sciences Po in Paris (1 Place Saint-Thomas-d’Aquin, 75007 Paris). You can download the leaflet with more information about the event below.

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Teologia politica 2022? Political Theology 2022? – University of Rome La Sapienza, 22-24 June 

Teologia politica 2022? Political Theology 2022? – University of Rome La Sapienza, 22-24 June 

Organised by Arthur Bradley and Elettra Stimilli, with speakers including Carlo Galli, Maurizio Lazzarato, Paolo Napoli and Mario Tronti. It will also be live-streamed.  The pdf of the programme is available here

In the tumultuous early years of the Weimar Republic, Carl Schmitt published his Political Theology: Four Essays on Sovereignty (1922). This international symposium revisits the old question of “political theology,” exactly 100 years after Schmitt’s seminal text, in a new time of political crisis. To what extent is political theology still capable of speaking to the world of 1922?

To be sure, our political context uncannily resembles the period in which Schmitt wrote Political Theology – political crises of legitimacy, financial crashes, right-wing nationalisms, anti-liberal populisms and even a global pandemic. However, we are also facing a set of entirely new and singular political challenges that Schmitt could not have anticipated and which may lie beyond the reach of any “political theology.” In returning to the political theological archive, this symposium will seek to extend it to consider such critical contemporary issues as: Europe, Covid-19, climate change, immigration and refugee crises, neoliberal capitalism and globalization, big tech and data, religious fundamentalisms, new processes of racialization and gender issues. 

In this symposium, we bring together world-leading figures in different disciplines (philosophy, theology and religious studies, politics and international relations, comparative literature) to re-pose the question of political theology in the present. What, if anything, does political theology still have to say to the world of 2022 and beyond? Is it worth trying to construct new political theologies of institutions, economy, climate change, immigration, racialization, and gender or do we need to imagine different approaches? Finally, what is left of political theology 100 years after Schmitt — or is it now time to write its obituary?

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The Frankfurt School and Shakespeare, Garrick’s Temple, Hampton, 25 June 2022 [now taking place online]

The Frankfurt School and Shakespeare, Garrick’s Temple, Hampton, 25 June 2022

Update: due to rail strikes this is now taking place online. Registration free, but required.

  • 09.30: Coffee (Temple Pavilion)
  • 10.00: Chair: Jennifer Rust (Saint Louis University) 

Paul Kottman (New School New York): ‘Shakespeare and the Culture Industry’

  • 11.00: Coffee (Temple Pavilion)
  • 11.30 Chair: Richard Ashby (King’s College University of London)

Julia Ng (Goldsmith’s University of London): ‘Hamlet in the Parlamonium’

Howard Caygill (Kingston University): ‘Benjamin and the Sonnets’

  • 13.00 Lunch (Bell Inn, Hampton)
  • 14.30: Chair: (Richard Wilson: Kingston University)

Björn Quiring (Trinity College Dublin):

‘Shylock or Timon? The Immanent Critique of Karl Kraus and Shakespeare’s Theatre of Judgement’

Alison Findlay (Lancaster University): 

‘Shakespeare and the Contagious Public Sphere of Performance’

  • 16.00: Tea (Temple Pavilion)
  • 16.30: Chair: Stuart Elden (University of Warwick) 

John Joughin:‘Shakespeare’s Stranger-Subject: Bloch, Job, Lear and life without a why’

  • 17.30: Round Table Discussion Chair: Jennifer Rust (Saint Louis University)

Tickets are £20 (includes admission and sandwich lunch at the Bell Inn) + Eventbrite admin fees. All proceeds go to support Garrick’s Temple.

Free tickets (with lunch) for students are available from the Shakespeare and Philosophy project. For those, please email info(at)shakespeareandphilosophy.net.

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Stuart Elden, The Archaeology of Foucault – Polity, December 2022, cover and preorder details

The final book in my series of studies of Foucault, The Archaeology of Foucault, is due for publication with Polity in December 2022.

On 20 May 1961 Foucault defended his two doctoral theses; on 2 December 1970 he gave his inaugural lecture at the Collège de France. Between these significant dates, he published four books, travelled widely and wrote extensively on literature, the visual arts, linguistics and philosophy. He taught both psychology and philosophy, beginning his explorations of the question of sexuality.

Weaving together analyses of published and unpublished material, much of which has only recently become available, this book is a comprehensive study of this crucial period of Foucault’s career. As well as his major texts, it discusses his initial visits to Brazil, Japan and the USA, his time in Tunisia, and his editorial work for Critique and the complete works of Nietzsche and Bataille.

It was in this period that Foucault developed the historical-philosophical approach he called ‘archaeology’. For Foucault ‘archaeology’ meant the elaboration of the archive, which he understood as the rules which make possible specific claims. In its detailed study of Foucault’s archive, this book is also an archaeology of Foucault in a more literal sense, as a digging down, an uncovering, both excavation and reconstruction.

This book completes a four-volume series of major intellectual histories of Michel Foucault, exploring newly released archival material and covering the French thinker’s entire academic career. Foucault’s Last Decade was published by Polity in 2016; Foucault: The Birth of Power followed in 2017; and The Early Foucault in 2021.

There is more about the research and writing process behind this book here.

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Challenging reference problems with Dumézil’s Mitra-Varuna – any help gratefully received [updated]

Since I posted this last week I have made some progress – an update is at the end of the original post. Many thanks to those who contacted me about this – a few useful leads.

Update: There is an English translation of the Gopatha Brahmana in an unpublished 1969 Indian dissertation, so I’ve been able to check that reference. And the passage from the Kathaka Brahmana is transliterated and translated in Muir, Original Sanskrit Texts, so that helps resolve that issue.

Progressive Geographies

I am looking for help with some of the more challenging references in my editorial work with Georges Dumézil’s Mitra-Varuna. I have checked hundreds of references, correcting some and completing many, but these are the ones I am still stuck with. Any help would be much appreciated.

Texts I cannot locate except in Sanskrit

Are there English, French, German (or any Western European) translations of

Maitrayani Samhita (IV, 8, 1 and V, 2, 5)

Taiitriya Brahmana (I, 7, 10, 1 and I, 1, 4, 7)

Kathaka Brahmana (II, 30, 1)

Gopatha Brahmana (II, 1, 2)

There are six references in total between these four texts. I am fairly sure there are no complete translations, though there are critical editions of the Sanskrit (often with German titles and apparatus). For example, Dumézil used Leopold von Schroeder (ed.),Maitrāyaṇī saṃhitā, Leipzig: F.A. Brockhaus, four volumes 1881-86…

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