WiSER Winter Programme in Critical Thought

WiSER Winter Programme in Critical Thought

WiSER’s 2017 Winter Programme in Critical Thought will run from July to September this year. As in 2016, we will design and curate a cluster of afternoon symposia, conferences, seminars and public events, many of them in collaboration with other institutes or departments.

More information about each event will be made available closer to the scheduled time. All events are open to the University and the public, and you and your friends and colleagues are warmly invited to attend. For further information, please visit our website.

July 26
The Politics of Dread
Commonly defined as fear and anxiety about the future and the possibility of an end to the world, or a world, as we know it, dread conjures up images of collision, outbreak, tidal wave, impending disaster and catastrophe. It has providential, apocalyptic, millenial and eschatological dimensions. As the new century unfolds, it can be argued that dread is not only a powerful narrative schema but is also gaining a widespread affective life in public culture and becoming a politics in itself. This afternoon symposium will examine, among other questions, this new imbrication, as well as the extent to which contemporary experiences of dread are the expression of long-standing apocalyptic, messianic or millenial traditions. How does dread, in all its instantiations, restructure a liberal democratic public sphere supposedly founded on reasonableness, civility and respectability? What role do cinema and science fiction, global mass media and video games play in the production of the consciousness of dread? And how do social media and the emergence of the algorithmic exacerbate this condition? Can it be said of dread that it is a sign of social entropy and cultural involution? What readings of the past and the future does dread implicitly invoke? What forms of resistance?

The Politics of Dread is organised in collaboration with the University of California Humanities Research Institute, University of California at Irvine.

August 1
The Violence of Borders
A public lecture by Achille Mbembe (WiSER)

The government of human mobility might well be the most important problem to confront the world during the first half of the 21st-century. Worldwide, the combination of ‘fast capitalism’ and the saturation of the everyday by digital and computational technologies have led to the acceleration of speed and the intensification of connections. Ours is in this regard an era of planetary entanglement. Yet, wherever we look, the drive is decisively towards enclosure. Were this trend to persist, tomorrow’s world will increasingly be a gated one, with myriad enclaves, cul-de-sacs and corridors with shifting, mobile and diffuse borders. This public lecture will reflect about what is at stake in the extension of borders into the multiple realms of the human body.

The Violence of Borders is part of ‘The Planetary Library Project’, a WiSER and the Franklin Humanities Institute at Duke University.

August 12-15
The Locations of African Critical Thought
For those of us in Africa, for the African diaspora and for the global South more generally, there is an urgent need to rethink and reformulate our horizons of thought in these times. We are no longer colonies, but the afterlives of colonial power linger. Racism takes on old forms in new language. Our populations migrate, creating a new movement of human beings in the contemporary period. The end of colonial empires reorganised a world-system of nation-states. But it continued to keep Africa and things ‘African’ as the site of the Other and that of strangeness.

Within the domain of critical thought, the Western archive is in danger of being exhausted. And so humankind is faced with the fundamental question - in what ways can we think about the present, develop categories of thought and more importantly map emerging forms of human and more-than-human life? The aim of this workshop is to generate a dialogue about this possibility - to draw from traditions of African and African diasporic thought to grapple with the world in ways that allow for a renewal of critical thought for our times.

Locations of African Critical Thought is a collaborative initiative between WiSER and Brown University.

August 16
Urban Anxieties in the Global South
We live in an age of free-floating anxiety. Popular media, culture and politics are awash with concern about the future of economies, of democracy, of modernity, of the planet. The regions of our world sometimes defined as ‘the global South’ feature strongly in this cartography. Across the world, media and political discourses repeat the notion that global Southern cities are deeply enmeshed in continuing crises around mobility, toxicity, pollution and environmental catastrophe. In many of these narratives, the global South figures as the bogeyman of a Northern imaginary saturated with obsessions about migration, terrorism, religious fundamentalism, borders and security. But what about the South’s own imaginary? This workshop will attempt to map experiences of contemporary urban anxiety in our own hemisphere.

Urban Anxieties in the Global South is organised in collaboration with the Media Studies Department, University of the Witwatersrand.

September 11-12
Writer in Residence: Fiston Mwanza Mujila
‘Literature is also about speaking the text, proclaiming the text, singing the text, giving the text a little poetry, a little humanity, too, whether the text speaks of war, or violence, or joy. One can use orality, sounds and noises to imbue the text with other illusions, other dreams’, writes Fiston Mwanza Mujila, a writer and poet from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

His first and widely acclaimed novel, Tram 83, was published in French in 2014 (English translation in 2015) and won the 2016 Etisalat Prize for the best novel by an African author.

Mujila will be hosted by WiSER on September 11-12. We will hold a public panel in conversation with Mwanza Mujila as well as smaller events during his visit.

Mwanza Mujila is hosted at WiSER by Sarah Nuttall and Joshua Walker.