2018 Summer Seminars


The relevance of hannah arendt

Since her death in 1975 there has been a growing international interest in the work of Hannah Arendt. She was remarkably perceptive about the perplexities and problems of the contemporary world that have intensified in recent years. She thought deeply about “dark times” as well about the sources of illumination. In this seminar we will explore several interrelated themes that have contemporary relevance.  These will include: 1) Statelessness, Refugees, and the “Right to Have Rights”; 2) Totalitarianism and Total Domination; 3) Politics and Public Freedom; 4) Truth, Politics, and Lying; 5) Radical Evil and the Banality of Evil.

bernstein photo high res.jpg

Richard J. Bernstein is Vera List Professor of Philosophy and former Dean of the New School for Social Research. His interests span Pragmatism, Anglo-American, and Continental philosophy, with an emphasis on social and political questions. His books include John Dewey: Praxis and ActionThe Restructuring of Social and Political TheoryBeyond Objectivism and RelativismThe New Constellation: The Ethical-Political Modernity PostmodernityHannah Arendt and the Jewish QuestionFreud and the Legacy of MosesRadical Evil: A Philosophical InterrogationThe Abuse of Evil: The Corruption of Politics and Religion since 911The Pragmatic TurnViolence: Thinking without Bannisters, and Ironic Life. His forthcoming book is Why Read Hannah Arendt Now.

theory from the south:
interrogating the global dis/order

“The Global South” has become a shorthand for the universe of non-European, postcolonial peoples; it is that half of the planet about which, conventionally, the “Global North” spins  theories. Rarely is it seen as a source of explanations for world historical processes, past or present, let alone as the source of those processes.  Yet, as much of the northern hemisphere experiences increasing fiscal inscrutability and rising inequality, state privatization, crime and corruption, ethnic conflict, authoritarian populism, and other “crises,” it looks as though it is evolving southward, so to speak. Is this so? Might the relation of “north” and “south” be more a matter of complementary inequity, more a construct of the dialectical imagination, than a hard-and-fast empirical reality? In this seminar, we shall reverse the usual order of things, addressing a range of familiar themes in order to theorize them anew from the “eccentric location” of the “south,” broadly conceived: among those themes, neoliberalism and its futures; the changing relations among capital, the state and governance; democracy, authoritarian populism, and new forms of political life; the fetishism of the law and the judicialization of the public sphere; the paradoxes of twenty-first century nationhood and its jurisdictions; new magical economies; the crisis of  liberalism; the meaning of crime and the metaphysics of disorder; and the present and future political economy of identity. This re-imagining of the contemporary global dis/order renders key problems of our time at once strange and familiar, giving an ironic twist to the evolutionary pathways long assumed by social scientists.


Jean Comaroff is the Alfred North Whitehead Professor of African and African American Studies and Anthropology, and Honorary Professor at the University of Cape Town. She was educated at the University of Cape Town and the London School of Economics. Until 2012, she was the Bernard E. and Ellen C. Sunny Distinguished Service Professor of Anthropology, and Director of the Chicago Center for Contemporary Theory. Her research, primarily conducted in southern Africa, has focused on the interplay of capitalism, modernity, and colonialism, the politics of knowledge and the nature of sovereignty, and theorizing the contemporary world from beyond its centers. Her writing has covered a range of more specific topics: religion and ritual, medicine and magic, law, and crime, democracy and difference. Publications include Body of Power, Spirit of Resistance: the Culture and History of a South African People (1985), Beyond the Politics of Bare Life: AIDS and the Global Order (2007); and, with John L. Comaroff, Of Revelation and Revolution (vols. l [1991] and ll [1997]); Ethnography and the Historical Imagination (1992); Millennial Capitalism and the Culture of Neoliberalism (2000),  Law and Disorder in the Postcolony (2006), Ethnicity, Inc. (2009), Theory from the South, or How Euro-America is Evolving Toward Africa (2011), The Truth About Crime: Sovereignty, Knowledge, Social Order (2016) and The Politics of Custom: Chiefship, Capital, and the State in Contemporary Africa (forthcoming).

John Comaroff is Hugh K. Foster Professor of African and African American Studies and of Anthropology at Harvard University, He is also Oppenheimer Research Fellow in African Studies at Harvard, an Honorary Professor of Anthropology at the University of Cape Town and an Affiliated Research Professor at the American Bar Foundation. His current research in South Africa is on crime, policing, and the workings of the state, on democracy and difference, and on postcolonial politics and law. His authored and edited books include, with Jean Comaroff, Of Revelation and Revolution (2 vols), Ethnography and the Historical ImaginationModernity and its MalcontentsCivil Society and the Political Imagination in AfricaMillennial Capitalism and the Culture of NeoliberalismLaw and Disorder in the PostcolonyEthnicity, Inc.,  Zombies et frontieres à ère neoliberaleTheory from the South: or, how Euro-America is evolving toward Africa, and The Truth about Crime: Sovereignty, Knowledge, Social Order, and The Politics of Custom: Chiefship, Capital, and the State in Contemporary Africa (forthcoming).

EuroIslam: secular public culture in question

The rising visibility of Islam in public unsettles the narratives of Western secular modernity. The presence of Muslim politics in Europe provides proximity in time and space, disrupts the secular chronotope, and engenders transgressions, confrontations and mutual transformations. Islam as it is practiced and interpreted by Muslims in everyday life of European cities has a transformative effect on the established boundaries of religion and secularity.  A micro-sociological approach will be adopted to study controversial Islamic practices, namely praying, mosque-building, women’s veiling, the visual representation of the sacred, and halal life styles. It will enable us to reflect upon the ways Euro-Islam permeate each other, engender a process of interpenetration, and how this plays out in new subjectivities, embodied practices, and aesthetic forms.

This seminar interrogates Islam in its implications for the making and un-making of a public culture in a post-Western Europe.  We will follow up the conceptual debates on the powers of the secular and the ways it is transformed in its confrontation with a religion other than Christianity, namely Islam.  We’ll explore a theoretical reading of EuroIslam beyond post-colonial theories and critiques of orientalism. The notion of the public sphere will be revisited in light of the intercultural and transnational dynamics that shape the social cartography of EuroIslam.

Gole (1).jpg

Nilüfer Göle is Professor of Sociology at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris. She works on Islamic visibility, secularism and intercultural controversies in European public spheres. Her sociological approach aims to open up a new reading of modernity from a non-western perspective and a broader critique of Eurocentrism in the definitions of secular modernity. Her books have been published in several languages. She is the author of The Daily Lives of Muslims: Islam and Public Confrontation in Contemporary Europe (Zedbooks, London, 2017), Islam and Secularity: The Future of Europe’s Public Sphere (Duke University Press, 2015), Islam and Public Controversy in Europe (Ashgate, 2014), Interpénétrations, l’Islam et l’Europe (Galaade, Paris, 2005) and The Forbidden Modern: Civilization and Veiling (1997). She directed EuroPublicIslam, a research project on islam’s visibility and the transformations of European public sphere (2008-2013). Her current new program of research concerns Maidan protest movements and democracy in the global era. She received the "Ambassador of the New Europe” award for her book, The Daily Lives of Muslims, awarded by the European Solidarity Center in Gdansk.