2022 Session

Program Overview

In an intensive six-week course of study, faculty members, graduate students and independent scholars from around the world, in the humanities and social sciences, explore recent developments in critical theory. 

Participants work with the SCT’s core faculty of distinguished scholars and theorists in one of four six-week seminars. Each faculty member offers, in addition, a public lecture and a colloquium (based on an original paper) which are attended by the entire group.

The program also includes mini-seminars taught by scholars who visit for shorter periods. Finally, throughout the six weeks, distinguished theorists visit the SCT as lecturers.

The 2022 summer session at the School of Criticism and Theory will be held in-person in Ithaca, June 12 - July 21, 2022, modified to allow for appropriate social distancing and safety as necessary.

2022 Faculty

Six-Week Seminars:

Six-Week Seminars
Adolph Reed

Adolph Reed

Professor Emeritus of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania

"Beyond the Race/Class Dichotomy"

University of Pennsylvania Profile

Amy Allen

Amy Allen

Liberal Arts Professor of Philosophy and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Penn State University

"Marxism and the Problem of History"

Penn State Profile

 

Andrew Cole

Andrew Cole

Wilson Professor of Literature in the Department of English, Director of the Gauss Seminars in Criticism, Princeton University

"The Dialectic of Space"

Princeton Profile

Dagmar Herzog

Dagmar Herzog

Distinguished Professor of History and Daniel Rose Faculty Scholar at The Graduate Center at City University of New York

"The Third Reich: Critical Controversies"

CUNY Profile

1-Week Mini-Seminars:

David Shulman

David Shulman

Renee Lang Professor of Humanistic Studies Emeritus at Hebrew University, Jerusalem

"Insight and Introspection: A South Indian Theory"

Hebrew University Profile

Gary Tomlinson

Gary Tomlinson

Sterling Professor of Music and Humanities, Yale University

"Beyond Human Meaning"

Yale profile

Jocelyne Cesari

Jocelyne Cesari

Professor of Religion and Politics, University of Birmingham; Senior Fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, Georgetown University

"We God’s People: The Politicization of Religion in the World of Nations"

University of Birmingham profile

Maryna Rustow

Marina Rustow

Professor of Near Eastern Studies, Professor of History, Khedouri; A. Zilkha Professor of Jewish Civilization in the Near East, Director of the Geniza Lab and Director of the Near East Program, Princeton University

"Epistemology of the Archive and the Practice of Archival History"

Princeton Profile

Public Lectures:

Amy Villarejo

Amy Villarejo

Professor, UCLA School of Theatre, Film and Television

"Zoom Out: Philosophy on Television"

UCLA Profile

Faisal Devji

Faisal Devji

Professor of Indian History and Fellow of St. Antony's College, Oxford University

"Islam, Capitalism, and the Loss of Theology"

Oxford profile

Joy Connolly

Joy Connolly

President, American Council of Learned Societies and Distinguished Professor of Classics, The Graduate Center at City University of New York

"Thinking Non-Sovereignty"

CUNY Profile

Jodi Dean

Jodi Dean

Professor of Political Science, Hobart and William Smith Colleges

"Communism or Neofeudalism"

Hobart and William Smith Profile

Course Descriptions

Six-Week Seminars:

Beyond the Race/Class Dichotomy

Adolph Reed
Professor Emeritus of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania

The race/class debate has vexed American intellectual life, particularly left intellectual life, for more than a century. The debate has centered on examining the relation of race and class as forces shaping inequality and the struggle against it in the United States. The debate has taken numerous forms. One strain, historically associated most commonly with the more radical left, has centered largely on determining whether racial inequality is best understood and addressed as an artifact of capitalist production relations. The rise to prominence since the 1980s within the left’s discursive communities – both inside the academy and elsewhere – of sensibilities positing the autonomous force of noneconomic ascriptive identities in generating objectionable inequalities within the United States, and to varying degrees other capitalist societies, has undermined this long conventional formulation of the race/class debate.  In the last three decades, the race/class debate has come to pivot on whether manifest inequalities stem most significantly from capitalism’s class dynamics or from systems of hierarchy based on populations defined by ascriptive differences. During that period, the debate has articulated new tendencies, formulations, and epicycles, including notions of intersectionality and, more recently “racial capitalism.”  This course examines the foundations, character, and intellectual and political entailments of this debate. Its primary focus is on exploring the historical and ontological premises that undergird the debate, as well as assessing the various stances’ empirical soundness and implications.

Marxism and the Problem of History 

Amy Allen
Liberal Arts Professor of Philosophy and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Penn State University

This seminar focuses on the relationship between the philosophy of history and the critique of capitalism in Marx and 20th century Marxism(s). We will start with some interpretative questions about Marx—what is Marx’s theory of history? what is the relationship between his theory of history and his critique of capitalism? (how) does this relationship change over the course of his work?—and then consider how this question is taken up, debated, and transformed by 20th century Marxists. In addition to some core texts by Marx, readings will include works by such thinkers as Rosa Luxemburg, Vlaldmir Lenin, WEB DuBois, CLR James, Theodor Adorno, Ernst Bloch, Walter Benjamin, Anibal Quijano, Enrique Dussel, Silvia Federici, Louis Althusser, Etienne Balibar, Achille Mbembe, and Glen Coulthard. 

The Dialectic of Space

Andrew Cole
Wilson Professor of Literature in the Department of English, Director of the Gauss Seminars in Criticism, Princeton University

Past is praxis. History isn’t only an idea, a memory, a trace, a palimpsest, a text, or a specter. Nor is it ever really “past” and something you only read about. Rather, it is sedimented into our surroundings today. The praxes of people—past and present—compose the built environment. Every day we move through social space within, around, over, and often against the concretized, foundational agencies of generations prior. This seminar seeks to think critically about the politics of place and the problem of space, and to understand history to be materially real and spatially manifested. It grounds itself in a range of disciplines and practices: architecture, Marxism and critical theory, Black studies, postcolonial critique, literature, visual arts, and philosophy. The wager of this seminar is that spatial thinking doesn’t come naturally to us—or perhaps that it’s second nature in a special way, namely, in our tendency to approach every spatial matter as a question of language, narrative, desire, subjectivity, and of course time and the condition of “being in time.” Thinking space by these common means, however, risks despatializing space—and more than that, it arguably sustains the spatial ideologies of global capitalism itself in the temporalizing and the flattening of space. So, in this seminar we will conduct thought experiments in the “dialectic of space,” by which we develop new modes of spatial critique and gain new insights into the material contradictions of late modernity.

The Third Reich: Critical Controversies

Dagmar Herzog
Distinguished Professor of History and Daniel Rose Faculty Scholar at the Graduate Center, City University of New York

This seminar positions the Third Reich, as well as its prehistories and its many afterlives, as a fraught historical topic to be viewed through a panoply of conceptual frames: from the legacies of German colonialism to the attractions of radical nationalism and new territorial expansion, from eugenic fantasies to genocidal warfare to the devastations of the home front under Allied attack, from the politics of sexuality and gender to trauma theory and memory studies. Whether antisemitism is best understood as racism or religious prejudice, competitive envy or cynical excuse for cruelty; whether Nazism’s ideological formations were sincerely believed or opportunistically deployed – and how to explain the durable complicity and cooperation of the Christian churches and a broad array of traditional elites; what the connections might be between the “euthanasia” murders of the disabled and the Holocaust of European Jewry; how best to understand the violence of colonial encounters as either preparatory for the Judeocide or, together with the history of racial repression in the United States, as both inspirational for Nazi policymakers and as a comparativistresource for deeper comprehension; how to account for the inadequacies of postwar justice and the imaginative inventiveness in revising a horrific past: all these historiographic controversies will be explored through readings in primary sources and in a remarkable efflorescence of recent scholarship.

Mini-Seminars:

Insight and Introspection: A South Indian Theory

David Shulman
Renee Lang Professor of Humanistic Studies Emeritus at Hebrew University, Jerusalem, formerly holding positions in the Department of Indian, Iranian and Armenian Studies

South Asian civilization is rich in texts on what might be called metaphysical introspection-- the exploration of profoundly altered states of mind that can be reached through meditative praxis, Yoga, ritual acts, or lucky accident, as when someone (perhaps a demon) overhears a truthful sentence about reality addressed to another person, and the overhearer's life is changed. But introspective texts focused on the empirical person in all of her or his changing moods, sensations, memories, and everyday experiences are relatively rare until early modern times (beginning in South India roughly in the fifteenth century). We know similar kinds of introspection from classical times onward in the West: think of Marcus Aurelius, of Augustine, or, in early modern Europe, of Montaigne and Pascal. In South India, Tibet, and Sri Lanka a civilizational shift in in the early modern centuries generated a plethora of personal diary-like reporting, autobiographies, epistolary confessions, and related works (including distinct forms of historiography and empirical science). Most of these works are hardly studied or even known. My lecture will focus on the lyrical genre of padam, with examples from the Telugu and Tamil poet-musicians, and on features that distinguish this relatively new mode of personal insight from what we know in Greek, Persian, or French, among other literatures. Insight may well turn out to be not a mental phenomenon, as one might expect, but a tactile, whole-body experience of consequence. This order of introspection never comes without a corresponding sense of "extrospection," that is, the more or less certain knowledge we seem to have of what goes on in other people's minds no less than in our own.

The seminar will look closely at autobiographical sources in Malayalam and Tamil that complement the padam songs and, if we have time, at the notion of conscience (distinct from consciousness) and at the theorization of these themes by the seventeenth-century philosophy, Dharmarāja.

Beyond Human Meaning

Gary Tomlinson
Sterling Professor of Music and Humanities, Yale University

What are the precincts of meaning in the world? What is its reach? To hear some philosophers talk, it would seem to be limited to H. sapiens, embodied in our unique symbolic capacities and language; to hear instead other philosophers, many evolutionists, and biosemioticians, it spans all life forms, arising even in the information-sharing of DNA/mRNAtranscription. This seminar will model an intermediate position, constructed from a merger of neo-Peircean semiotics and recent developments in extended evolutionary theory. The consequence of the model is to delimit a region of meaning that extends far beyond humans but is dwarfed by the biosphere as a whole—and to set off, in the same gesture, that other, larger region, in which information of immense complexity organizes lives that are, in this precise sense, meaningless.

We God’s People: The Politicization of Religion in the World of Nations

Jocelyne Cesari
Professor of Religion and Politics, University of Birmingham; Senior Fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, Georgetown University 

The diffusion of the nation-state (as the only legitimate political community) and the expansion of the international system have contributed to the politicization of religion which takes place within nations. The building of the national communities has displaced and re-arranged the boundaries of religious communities with durable impacts on the ways that people identify today as citizens and believers. In this seminar,  the cases of India, China, Russia and Turkey will be discussed drawing from original data (see We God's People). To do so, it will combine an exploration of institutional and ideational changes across time, which are usually separated by disciplinary boundaries. This novel approach goes beyond the usual state-religion focus to take into account actions and ideas conveyed in other arenas such as education, welfare, and culture.  This approach provides new perspectives for postcolonial studies and critical studies by focusing on the internal dynamics of power within the “oppressed” people and their specific appropriation of the western concepts of nation, sovereignty and law.

Epistemology of the Archive and the Practice of Archival History 

Marina Rustow
Professor of Near Eastern Studies and History, Khedouri A. Zilkha Professor of Jewish Civilization in the Near East, Director of the Geniza Lab and Director of the Near East Program, Princeton University 

At the center of the historian’s craft lies the archive: a physical place, a collection of textual artifacts, a metaphor for access to the unknown. The experience of labor in the archive, in the dust, is a rite of passage for the historian no less than fieldwork for the ethnographer, laboratory experiments for the scientist, or summer stock theater for the actor. For critical theorists, by contrast, the archive is not a mere repository of knowledge, but the sum total of knowledge itself; the “archive” defines the boundaries of the thinkable. Those different disciplinary notions bespeak divergent epistemological assumptions: the historian cannot work without some functional notion of the facts, while the critical theorist must question their very existence. But both disciplines agree that archives are products of power. That will be our starting point in this seminar, in which non-historians and historians alike are welcome to participate.

After orienting ourselves to critical theory’s engagement with the archive (Foucault, Derrida, Agamben), our goal will be to restore to the archive the dimensions of time, space, and human agency by understanding its place in well-defined contexts, including premodern polities, colonial empires and nascent nation-states, from ancient Assyria through modern China, with medieval monks, colonial bureaucrats, Ottoman dragomans and Napoleonic deconsecrations in between. Archives have histories, as do the set of practices that historians have built for using them. But once we bathe them in the solvent of historical contingency, will the archive lose or retain its status as a repository of reliable information, or its utility as a metaphor for regimes of truth? What can a deep, insider’s understanding of the historian’s craft add to the toolkit of humanists and social scientists alike?

Public Lectures include:

Zoom Out: Philosophy on Television

Amy Villarejo
Professor of Cinema and Media Studies in the School of Theater, Film & Television at UCLA.

The conditions of pandemic communication in the university — virtual and remote education, Zoom meetings, the staging of ordinary home life for cameras and microphones and ring lights, even the building of sets and backdrops — reintroduces the question of what it means to be(come) TV.  Reanimating a philosophical investigation of this question, beginning with Heidegger through the Derrida and Bernard Stiegler, sheds new light on what television, as “technology and cultural form” (Williams) means in these first decades of the 21st century.

Islam, Capitalism, and the Loss of Theology

Faisal Devji
Professor of Indian History and Fellow of St. Antony’s College, Oxford University

Stemming from the rediscovery of Carl Schmitt, the recent work on political theology emphasizes the irreducibility of the theological in modern politics. Dating from the 1980s, a decade bookended by the Iranian Revolution and the Rushdie Affair, this work has attended to the persistence of religion and the crisis of secularism. As important, however, was the collapse of modernization theory with the disintegration of the Third World and its anti-colonial project. 

Central to though rarely acknowledged by this research, Islam has come to represent the chief example of theology’s irreducibility. Yet Schmitt’s statement, about all political concepts being the secularization of theological ones, can also be read as a description of the latter’s evanescence in their very expansion. Rather than representing its persistence, contemporary Islam is defined by the loss of the theological as it is reproduced in capitalist ways. 

Islam serves as both a repository and displacement of the theological for other religions. Yet its own spectacles of outrage and violence, over alleged insults to Muhammad, rehearse the absence of the theological. Emerging out of colonial capitalism, such controversies over representations of Muhammad have also secularized blasphemy and promoted the rise of offences against identity in Euro-American societies. 

Thinking Non-Sovereignty

Joy Connolly
President, American Council of Learned Societies and Distinguished Professor of Classics, The Graduate Center at City University of New York

In a development long overdue, scholars of classical studies around the world are reflecting publicly and critically on the field’s history. In this lecture I use the Arendtian concept of non-sovereignty to discuss both problems and potential futures for “classical” texts whose value is entangled with the historical evolution of sovereignty itself. Excavating traces of non-sovereign thinking in ancient Roman writers, I will discuss to what degree non-sovereignty as a guiding principle and practice provides a counter-weight sufficient to change the critical frame for texts many people still identify as the roots of the “western tradition.”

Communism or Neofeudalism?

Jodi Dean
Professor of Political Science, Hobart and William Smith Colleges

For over a decade, cries that we're in a new kind of feudalism have been bubbling up from labor organizers and tech commentators. Is this true and what does it mean? Are we in a period where capital is dead (as McKenzie Warkdeclares)? If so, perhaps we do better not to look for its gravediggers but to consider capitalism's self-immolation, the way it burns through and burns up people and planet. This lecture will consider the neofeudal hypothesis, thinking through capitalism's tendencies and temporalities in light of fragmented private power, the servant sector, hinterlandization, and the pervasive atmospherics of catastrophe and collapse.

Apply

The online application portal will open on November 1, 2021 and will close on the deadline of February 1, 2022.

Learn more and apply for the 2022 Summer Session here. 

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