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Science
Social Sciences

New Books in Critical Theory

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Science
Social Sciences
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Interviews with Scholars of Critical Theory about their New Books

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Interviews with Scholars of Critical Theory about their New Books

iTunes Ratings

40 Ratings
Average Ratings
25
7
4
3
1

‘New...” Jewish/Indian/Gay “Books in Critical Theory”?

By JTR ROUND ROCK - May 22 2018
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Not a fair title for these pods if you’re going to let one or two ethnic groups dominate. Just a fan of truth in advertising.

Summaries into Critical Texts

By thom bjork - May 17 2018
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Each show is an interview into the scholar's/scholars' manuscript. By amplifying the author's voice, each text is given a larger footprint in an environment which at times seems at antipodes. Marxist, new left, on marginilization and the state. Support the network.

iTunes Ratings

40 Ratings
Average Ratings
25
7
4
3
1

‘New...” Jewish/Indian/Gay “Books in Critical Theory”?

By JTR ROUND ROCK - May 22 2018
Read more
Not a fair title for these pods if you’re going to let one or two ethnic groups dominate. Just a fan of truth in advertising.

Summaries into Critical Texts

By thom bjork - May 17 2018
Read more
Each show is an interview into the scholar's/scholars' manuscript. By amplifying the author's voice, each text is given a larger footprint in an environment which at times seems at antipodes. Marxist, new left, on marginilization and the state. Support the network.
Cover image of New Books in Critical Theory

New Books in Critical Theory

Latest release on Jan 17, 2020

The Best Episodes Ranked Using User Listens

Updated by OwlTail 7 days ago

Rank #1: Steven Shaviro, “The Universe of Things: On Speculative Realism” (University of Minnesota Press, 2014)

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Steven Shaviro‘s new book is a wonderfully engaging study of speculative realism, new materialism, and the ways in which those fields can speak to and be informed by the philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead. While The Universe of Things: On Speculative Realism (University of Minnesota Press, 2014) will satisfy even advanced scholars working on “object-oriented ontology” and related issues, it’s also a fantastic introduction for readers who have never heard of “correlationism” or panpsychism, don’t quite understand what all of the recent humanities-wide Whitehead-related fuss is all about, and aren’t sure where to begin. After a helpful introduction that lays out the major terms and stakes of the study, seven chapters each function as stand-alone units (and thus are very assignable in upper-level undergrad or graduate courses) while also progressively building on one another to collectively advance an argument for what Shaviro calls a “speculative aesthetics.”The Universe of Things emphasizes the importance of aesthetics and aesthetic theory to reading and engaging the work of Whitehead, Harman, Meillassoux, Kant, Levinas, Bryant, and others as an ongoing conversation about how we understand, inhabit, and exist as part of a material world. It’s a fabulous (and fabulously clearly written!) work that I will be recommending widely to colleagues and students.


During the course of the interview we talked a bit about the opportunities that electronic and web-based media have brought to life and work in academia. On that note, you can find Steve’s blog here: http://www.shaviro.com/Blog/

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Jan 16 2015

1hr 3mins

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Rank #2: Eugene Thacker, “Horror of Philosophy” (Zero Book, 2011-2015)

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Eugene Thacker‘s wonderful Horror of Philosophy series includes three books – In the Dust of this Planet (Zero Books, 2011), Starry Speculative Corpse (Zero Books, 2015), and Tentacles Longer than Night (Zero Books, 2015) – that collectively explore the relationship between philosophy (especially as it overlaps with demonology, occultism, and mysticism) and horror (especially of the supernatural sort). Each book takes on a particular problematic using a particular form from the history of philosophy, from the quaestio, lectio, and disputatio of medieval scholarship, to shorter aphoristic prose, to productive “mis-readings” of works of horror as philosophical texts and vice versa. Taken together, the books thoughtfully model the possibilities born of a comparative scholarly approach that creates conversations among works that might not ordinarily be juxtaposed in the same work: like Nishitani, Kant, Yohji Yamamoto, and Fludd; or Argento, Dante, and Lautramont. Though they explore topics like darkness, pessimism, vampiric cephalopods, and “black tentacular voids,” these books vibrate with life and offer consistent and shining inspiration for the careful reader. Anyone interested in philosophy, theology, modern literature and cinema, literatures on life and death, the history of horror…or really, anyone at all who appreciates thoughtful writing in any form should grab them – grab all of them! – and sit somewhere comfy, and prepare to read, reflect, and enjoy.


For Thacker’s brand-new book Cosmic Pessimism (published by Univocal with a super-groovy black-on-black cover) go here. Thacker is co-teaching a course with Simon Critchley on “Mysticism” at the New School for Social Research this fall 2015. You can check out the description here.

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Sep 28 2015

1hr 8mins

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Rank #3: Wendy Brown, "In the Ruins of Neoliberalism: The Rise of Antidemocratic Politics in the West" (Columbia UP, 2019)

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Neoliberalism is one of those fuzzy words that can mean something different to everyone. Wendy Brown is one of the world’s leading scholars on neoliberalism and argue that a generation of neoliberal worldview among political, business, and intellectual leaders led to the populism we’re seeing throughout the world today. But is it mutually exclusive to democracy? Not necessarily. Wendy joins us this week to help make sense of what neoliberalism is, and where things stand today. We were lucky enough to get an advance copy of her book, In the Ruins of Neoliberalism: The Rise of Antidemocratic Politics in the West (Columbia UP, 2019), which will be released in July. It’s a follow up to her 2015 book, Undoing the Demos, and you’ll hear her talk about how her thinking has changed since then.

Wendy is the Class of 1936 First Chair at the University of California, Berkeley, where she teaches political theory. You might also recognize her from Astra Taylor’s documentary, What Is Democracy?

Democracy Works is created by the McCourtney Institute for Democracy at Penn State and recorded at WPSU Penn State, central Pennsylvania’s NPR station.

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Oct 14 2019

42mins

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Rank #4: Todd McGowan, “Capitalism and Desire: The Psychic Cost of Free Markets” (Columbia UP, 2016)

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Todd McGowan‘s Capitalism and Desire: The Psychic Cost of Free Markets (Columbia University Press, 2016) elegantly employs psychoanalytic thinking to unpack the lure of capitalism. He argues that we are drawn to capitalism because, under an overt promise to bring us what we want, it gives us what we need: lack.


Every commodity disappoints. And that’s the point.


Satisfaction, that moment when all is well and good, flutters rapidly, blessedly away. What is so great, so crucial, about lack? Though we pine for relief, nothing kills desire like abundance. (Spoiler alert: should there be an equitable redistribution of wealth, we would still suffer a hunger for the lost object which, according to McGowan, not employing Kleinian thinking, was never attainable in the first place.) If we did not experience ourselves as missing something we might never get out of bed–and, as clinicians know, why it can be purely ruinous to gratify a depressive patient.


You buy those boots, the ones you had to have, and within moments of wearing them, your heart sinks. That car you finally got your hands on? Driving it out of the lot you wonder, “should I have just leased it?” Desire is an engine best run on less than half a tank.


The paradox of capitalism, the way it lets us down, gets a full treatment here. Capitalism reclines on McGowan’s couch and he offers it a few interpretations that shake loose its obsessional and hysterical tendencies. He works with capitalism effectively, not arousing its defenses, because he understands it as caught in a trap of its own making. Embracing Beyond The Pleasure Principle and Lacanian thinking, he asks capitalism how come the ends are more important than the means, and doesn’t it miss the sublime? He also treats the reader, reminding us that we need to not have what we want in order to get what we need.


The interview sails along, if I say so myself, and, given the political surround, offers a good conversation to get into. The author would love to hear from us and has asked that I post his email right here, todd.mcgowan@uvm.edu.

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Mar 19 2017

59mins

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Rank #5: Timothy Morton, “Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World” (University of Minnesota Press, 2013)

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So much of Science Studies, of STS as a field or a point of engagement, is deeply concerned with objects. We create sociologies and networks of and with objects, we study them as actors or agents or actants, we worry about our relationships to them and their relationships to each other. We wonder if humans and their objects are really so different, or whether we are all octopuses shrinking behind our own ink.


In Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World (University of Minnesota Press, 2013), Timothy Morton offers a way of thinking with and about hyperobjects, particular kinds of things of which we see only pieces at any given moment. (Though by the end of the book, Morton invites us to consider that perhaps every object is a hyperobject.) Hyperobjects have a number of qualities in common, and the first half of Morton’s book introduces and explores them: they stick to other beings, and they potentially transform our taken-for-granted notions of time, space, locality, causality, and the possibility of ever being “away.” How this all happens is explained in a wonderfully personal and engaging narrative voice that ranges from Heidegger to The Lord of the Rings to the Tardis to Op Art, and the second half of the book introduces some of the consequences of and opportunities created by thinking with hyperobjects. It is about global warming and intimacy and object-oriented ontology and modern art and the possibilities of a phenomenology after we get rid of any notion of “the world” as something out-there and beyond-us. For those who are interested in STS and its environs, it offers a very different and very thoughtful language for articulating narratives beyond a simple “object agency” frame or a human/object binary. It’s also a great pleasure to read.

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Feb 23 2014

1hr 11mins

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Rank #6: Jason W. Moore, “Capitalism in the Web of Life: Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital” (Verso, 2015)

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In Capitalism in the Web of Life: Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital (Verso, 2015), author Jason W. Moore seeks to undermine popular understandings of the relationship among society, environment, and capitalism. Rather, than seeing society and environment as acting on an external, nonhuman nature, Moore wants us to recognize capitalism-in-nature. For Moore, seeing society and environment as separate has hampered clear thinking on the problems we face, such as climate change or the end of cheap nature, as well as political solutions to these issues. His book is an analysis of the interrelationship of capitalism and nature over the past few centuries as well as a critique of important environmental concepts such as the Anthropocene.


Moore is assistant professor of sociology at SUNY-Binghamton and coordinator of the World Ecology Research Network. This book is a product of over a decade of research and writings on world ecology and evidence of his wide-ranging scholarship.

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Dec 03 2015

51mins

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Rank #7: Tommy J. Curry, “The Man-Not: Race, Class, and the Dilemmas of Black Manhood” (Temple UP, 2017)

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The Man-Not: Race, Class, Genre, and the Dilemmas of Black Manhood (Temple University Press, 2017) is a book-length justification for the burgeoning field of Black Male Studies. The author posits that we should conceptualize the black male as a victim, oppressed by his sex. The Man-Not: Race, Class, Genre, and the Dilemmas of Black Manhood, therefore, is a corrective of sorts, offering a concept of Black males that could challenge the existing accounts of black men and boys desiring the power of white men who oppress them that has been proliferated throughout academic research across disciplines.


The Man-Not argues that black men struggle with death and suicide, as well as abuse and rape, and their genred existence deserves study and theorization. This book offers intellectual, historical, sociological, and psychological evidence that the analysis of patriarchy offered by mainstream feminism (including black feminism) does not yet fully understand the role that homoeroticism, sexual violence, and vulnerability play in the deaths and lives of black males.


Author Tommy J. Curry‘s work spans across the various fields of philosophy, jurisprudence, Africana Studies, and Gender Studies. He received his BA from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, his masters from DePaul, and he returned to SIUC to earn his Ph.D. Though trained in American and Continental philosophical traditions, Curry’s primary research interests are in Critical Race Theory and Africana Philosophy. In addition to his work as Professor of Philosophy and Africana Studies at Texas A&M University, Dr. Curry is also the executive director of Philosophy Born of Struggle, a multimedia project billed as a community a conference, and a textbook. His next major research project will be a book-length follow up to The Man-Not: Race, Class, Genre, and the Dilemmas of Black Manhood, tentatively titled The Mismeasurement of Man: Phallicism and the Paradox of the Racially Subjugated Male.


James P. Stancil II is an educator, multimedia journalist, and writer. He is also the President and CEO of Intellect U Well, Inc. a Houston-area NGO dedicated to increasing the joy of reading and media literacy in young people. He can be reached most easily through his LinkedIn page or at james.stancil@intellectuwell.org.

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Jul 25 2017

1hr 2mins

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Rank #8: Stuart Elden “Foucault’s Last Decade” (Polity Press, 2016)

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Why did Michel Foucault radically recast the project of The History of Sexuality? How did he work collaboratively? What was the influence of Antiquity on his thought? In Foucault’s Last Decade (Polity Press, 2016) Stuart Elden, Professor of Political Theory and Geography at the University of Warwick explores these, and many more, questions about the final years in a rich intellectual life. The book combines detailed studies of Foucault’s recently collected lecture series with archival material and his publications, to give an in depth engagement with the changes and continuities in his thought during the last decade. Addressing questions associated with key terms, such as governmentality, as well as confession, the self, power, truth telling, and many other core ideas and themes, the book will be essential reading for anyone interested in this most important of Western thinkers.

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Sep 21 2016

49mins

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Rank #9: John Pat Leary, "Keywords: The New Language of Capitalism" (Haymarket Books, 2019)

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John Pat Leary's Keywords: The New Language of Capitalism (Haymarket Books, 2019) chronicles the rise of a new vocabulary in the twenty-first century. From Silicon Valley to the White House, from kindergarten to college, and from the factory floor to the church pulpit, we are all called to be innovators and entrepreneurs, to be curators of an ever-expanding roster of competencies, and to become resilient and flexible in the face of the insults and injuries we confront at work. In the midst of increasing inequality, these keywords teach us to thrive by applying the lessons of a competitive marketplace to every sphere of life. What’s more, by celebrating the values of grit, creativity, and passion at school and at work, they assure us that economic success is nothing less than a moral virtue.

Organized alphabetically as a lexicon, Keywords explores the history and common usage of major terms in the everyday language of capitalism. Because the words in this book have successfully infiltrated everyday life in the English-speaking world, their meanings often seem self-evident, even benign. Who could be against empowerment, after all? Keywords uncovers the unexpected histories of words like innovation, which was once synonymous with “false prophecy” before it became the prevailing faith of Silicon Valley. Other words, like best practices and human capital, are relatively new coinages that promise us a kind of freedom within a marketplace extending its reach across the public sector and into our private lives. The new language of capitalism burnishes hierarchy, competition, and exploitation as leadership, collaboration, and sharing, modeling for us the habits of the economically successful person: be visionary, be self-reliant, and never, ever stop working.

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May 28 2019

45mins

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Rank #10: Martin Shuster, “New Television: The Aesthetics and Politics of a Genre” (U Chicago Press, 2017)

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How should we understand our new golden age of television? In New Television: The Aesthetics and Politics of a Genre (University of Chicago Press, 2017), Martin Shuster, Director of Judaic Studies and Assistant Professor at Goucher College, interrogates New Television and offers both a defense and critique. Drawing on the work of the late Stanley Cavell, along with others including Hannah Arendt, the book explores the ontology of New Television, the medium of the screen, and the nature of storytelling. New Television has a vast range of examples, including chapters specifically focused on The Wire, Weeds and Justified. Along with detailed aesthetic philosophical discussion of each program, the book ultimately poses the problem of the politics of New Television, questioning the extent to which it offers critical, emancipatory, or regressive contributions to our understanding of modern life. The book is essential reading for anyone watching television, and also those who are not!

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Jul 19 2018

54mins

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Rank #11: Malcolm Harris, “Kids These Days: Human Capital and the Making of Millennials” (Little, Brown and Co, 2017)

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Every young generation inspires a host of comparisons—usually negative ones—with older generations. Whether preceding a criticism or punctuating one, “kids these days” is a common utterance. Perhaps because of the ubiquity of the internet and their heavy presence on it, Millennials have been the most parsed and monitored generation as its members are still in the process of coming of age in history. Stereotypes abound in the media and popular culture: Millennials are lazy, entitled, narcissistic, and immature. Synthesizing an array of social science research that has been conducted not just on this cohort but on the society they find themselves struggling to navigate, writer Malcolm Harris in Kids These Days: Human Capital and the Making of Millennials (Little, Brown and Company, 2017) aims to get readers to question these stereotypes and myths and instead think about how Millennials are trying to survive within today’s shifting social structures and conditions. More than any other generation, Millennials have been raised to think of everything they do as a way to build human capital and invest in their own future. And they do so at time in American history when higher education is becoming increasingly expensive as wages are declining, work is becoming more precarious and less stable, and the future of the social safety net is showing signs of either eroding or at least completely transforming in the future. In short, the book refreshingly considers the forces that have helped shape who Millennials are and why they behave and think as they do. With luck, it will encourage a discussion of the root causes behind serious problems that this young cohort confronts (precarity, youth poverty, over-medication, and over-work) and their possible solutions instead of the same tired stereotypes.

Richard E. Ocejo is associate professor of sociology at John Jay College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). He is the author of Masters of Craft: Old Jobs in the New Urban Economy (Princeton University Press, 2017), about the transformation of low-status occupations into cool, cultural taste-making jobs (cocktail bartenders, craft distillers, upscale mens barbers, and whole animal butchers), and of Upscaling Downtown: From Bowery Saloons to Cocktail Bars in New York City (Princeton University Press, 2014), about growth policies, nightlife, and conflict in gentrified neighborhoods. His work has appeared in such journals as City & Community, Poetics, Ethnography, and the European Journal of Cultural Studies. He is also the editor of Ethnography and the City: Readings on Doing Urban Fieldwork (Routledge, 2012) and serves on the editorial boards of the journals Metropolitics, Work and Occupations, and the Journal for Undergraduate Ethnography.

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Jan 11 2018

44mins

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Rank #12: Richard J. Bernstein, "Why Read Hannah Arendt Now" (Polity, 2018)

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Nobody should feel excited about the renewed relevance of Hannah Arendt's work today. Her foresight about the fragility of democratic life is relevant for the worst possible reasons: populism, white supremacy, mass deception, the rise of fascism around the world, the coordinated assault on serious journalism, academia and any kind of responsible thought. Really, there's no reason to celebrate why the great analyst of totalitarianism, fascism, and anti-democratic forces and a thinker "in dark times" is so timely today.

But Arendt also insisted, in the preface to her 1968 collection of essays, “Men in Dark Times”: “Even in the darkest of times we have the right to expect some illumination.”

The philosopher Richard J. Bernstein is the author of Why Read Hannah Arendt Now (Polity, 2018). He met Arendt first in 1972, when he was a young professor and three years before her death. He explained to me why Arendt’s work should be read today with renewed urgency, because it provides illumination into the forces that shape our present. Instead of a dry academic exposé, I got a moving anecdote about his first meeting with Arendt ("the most intellectually exciting and erotic meeting") and a lucid yet impassioned explanation of Arendt's analysis of politics and of the human condition.

Bernstein is an American Philosopher who teaches at The New School in New York City, and has written extensively on American pragmatism, political philosophy, the Frankfurt School thinkers, the question of evil, on Jewish identity, and other topics. He is a public intellectual in the best sense of that word by taking thoughtful and principled positions on a range of issues that concern us all. His Why Read Hannah Arendt Now? is a succinct introduction to key themes in Arendt's work.

Uli Baer is a professor at New York University. He is also the host of the excellent podcast "Think About It"

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Nov 20 2019

58mins

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Rank #13: Nicholas De Villiers, “Opacity and the Closet: Queer Tactics in Foucault, Barthes, and Warhol” (University of Minnesota Press, 2012)

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In his book, Opacity and the Closet: Queer Tactics in Foucault, Barthes, and Warhol (University of Minnesota Press, 2012), Nicholas de Villiers takes up an examination of the work of the three titular authors as a way of understanding their queerness and more specifically, how each man subverted the “in-and-out of the closet” paradigm. De Villiers devotes ample time to each man, however I found his thoughts on Foucault and Barthes of particular importance as both have come to be so deeply associated with postmodernism, poststructuralism, and queer theory. It is safe to say that Foucault is in large part responsible for the theoretical and philosophical foundations of what we know of today as queer theory and queer studies. This fact makes Foucault’s own relationship with his “out” sexuality all the more fascinating and de Villiers does a great service to Foucault, showing that Foucault himself subverted the “in-and-out of the closet” paradigm and society’s need to ferret out and make known our sexualities. While many scholars, academics, and cultural critics have criticized Foucault for his “silence,” de Villiers’s work suggests that Foucault’s life was a practice in complicating and disrupting the immense societal desire to see homosexuality expressed in one sanctioned way. De Villiers work here is deep, insightful, and refreshing in its attempt to offer an alternative to “suspicious reading.” I do hope you enjoy our conversation.


Photo Credit: Lauren M. Jones

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Jan 11 2013

57mins

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Rank #14: Ayten Gundogdu, “Rightlessness in an Age of Rights: Hannah Arendt and the Contemporary Struggles of Migrants” (Oxford UP, 2015)

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How does one “rethink and revise the key concepts of Hannah Arendt’s political theory in light of the struggles of asylum seekers, refugees, and undocumented immigrants” (207)? In her new book Rightlessness in An Age of Rights: Hannah Arendt and the Contemporary Struggles of Migrants (Oxford University Press, 2015), Ayten Gundogdu (Political Science, Barnard College) engages this question to explore both a radical critique and radical rethinking of human rights in our age. The book challenges and reimagines central dimensions to Arendt’s thought – rightlessness, the political and the social, personhood, labor and work, and the ‘right to have rights’ – at the same time that it provides incisive analysis of the precarious conditions of and political action by migrants. The book works with Arendt to offer important critiques of a number of aspects of contemporary human rights theory and practice, and ultimately develops an approach to human rights as “political practices of founding.”


John McMahon has recently completed his PhD in Political Science at The Graduate Center, CUNY, and will be Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Beloit College starting in August 2016. He has been a Fellow at the Center for Global Ethics and Politics at the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies at The Graduate Center, which co-sponsors the podcast.

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Jun 26 2016

1hr 11mins

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Rank #15: Bruno Perreau, “Queer Theory: The French Response” (Stanford UP, 2016)

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At once wonderfully clear and bursting with complexity, the title of Bruno Perreau‘s book, Queer Theory: The French Response (Stanford University Press, 2016) is one of my favorites of the past several years. An interrogation of the meanings of queer, theory, French, and response, the book is anchored around the anti-gay marriage demonstrations and activisms that proliferated in France during the lead-up to the passage of the 2013 Loi Taubira (a.k.a. “marriage pour tous”). The book focuses on a central claim of French opponents of gay marriage and adoption: the notion that (American) gender and queer theory is responsible for spreading homosexuality in France, and has thus contributed to the undoing of the French family and the nation as a whole.


Throughout its four chapters, the book considers the French response to queer theory in terms of fantasy and echo. This is not a book about reception in a passive or uncomplicated sense. Rather it is the study of a set of reverberations back and forth across the Atlantic that is always already a matter of translation and interpretation. Indeed, the so-called American theory that anti-gay activists have presented as a foreign menace finds much of its own inspiration in the work of French thinkers and writers. Drawing in part on a series of interviews with French feminist and queer intellectuals and activists, the book also offers critical insight regarding the meanings and anxieties surrounding minority identities and communities in contemporary France. Queer Theory will be compelling reading to anyone interested in the history and politics of sexuality, and in the possibilities of thinking and enacting change into the future, in France, in the U.S., and beyond.


Roxanne Panchasi is an Associate Professor in the Department of History at Simon Fraser University. A historian of French culture and politics in the twentieth century, her current research focuses on the representation of nuclear weapons and testing in France and its empire since 1945. She lives and reads in Vancouver, Canada. If you have a recent title to suggest for the podcast, please send an email to: panchasi@sfu.ca.


*The music that opens and closes the podcast is an instrumental version of Creatures, a song written by Vancouver artist/musician Casey Wei (performing as hazy). To hear more, please visit https://agonyklub.com/.

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Jun 02 2017

1hr 1min

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Rank #16: The Invisible Committee, “Now” (Semiotext(e), 2017)

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What could the communism of the future be? In Now  (Semiotext(e), 2017), The Invisible Committee explores our current crisis by thinking through key critical theory questions, along with specific interventions on French and global politics. On this podcast we hear about The Invisible Committee’s history and their work, contextualizing the specific themes covered by Now. Along with theorizing on new forms of political action, Now critiques institutions, offering thoughts on fragmentation and destitution. The book will be essential reading for anyone interested in responding to the current politics.

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Aug 13 2018

57mins

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Rank #17: Martijn Konings, “Capital and Time: For a New Critique of Neoliberal Reason” (Stanford UP, 2018)

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Today I was joined by Martijn Konings from Australia where he is Associate Professor of Political Economy at the University of Sydney. We had a conversation on his most recent book Capital and Time: For a New Critique of Neoliberal Reason (Stanford University Press, 2018).


Its main contribution is to offer an original point of view on the issue of speculation. Critics of capitalist finance tend to focus on its speculative character. Our financial markets, they lament, encourage irresponsible bets on the future that reflect no real underlying value. Why is it, then, that opportunities for speculative investment continue to proliferate in the wake of major economic crises? To make sense of this, Capital and Time offers an understanding of economy as a process whereby patterns of order emerge out of the interaction of speculative investments. Speculation, he argues, is an essential intrinsic feature of capitalism and not just a negative spillover or a collateral behavior.


The book also provides an original view on the role of the State. Progressive critics have assumed that the state occupies a neutral, external position from which it can step in to constrain speculative behaviors. On the contrary, Konings argues, the state has always been deeply implicated in the speculative dynamics of economic life. Through these insights, he offers a new interpretation of both the economic problems that emerged during the 1970s and the way that neoliberalism responded to them. Neoliberalism’s strength derives from its intuition that there is no position that transcends the secular logic of risk, and from its insistence that individuals actively engage that logic.


The book concludes that the current critique of speculation is misleading and incapable of recognizing how American capitalism has come to embrace speculation and has thus been able to generate new kinds of order and governance. This is a very interesting book, written in an accessible way despite the complexity of the topic.

Andrea Bernardi is Senior Lecturer in Employment and Organization Studies at Oxford Brookes University in the UK. He holds a doctorate in Organization Theory from the University of Milan, Bicocca. He has held teaching and research positions in Italy, China and the UK. Among his research interests are the use of history in management studies, the co-operative sector, and Chinese co-operatives. His latest project is looking at health care in rural China. He is the co-convener of the EAEPE’s permanent track on Critical Management Studies.

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Mar 28 2018

41mins

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Rank #18: Sarah Schulman, “Conflict is Not Abuse: Overstating Harm, Community Responsibility, and the Duty of Repair” (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2016)

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Sarah Schulman’s Conflict is Not Abuse: Overstating Harm, Community Responsibility, and the Duty of Repair (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2016) examines how accusations of harm are appropriated and deployed by powerful people, groups, and political entities in order to justify extreme punitive measures against marginalized “others.” The book exposes how the powerful capitalize on the language of abuse and misrepresent normative conflict, expressions of difference, and resistance to abuse, in order to avoid accountability and self-reflexivity. Linking a wide range of contexts, from intimate relationships to rapports between nation-states, Schulman highlights how negative in-group dynamics—organized around practices of group shunning, refusal of self-examination, and false loyalty that rejects accountability to others—become the “centerpiece of most social injustice”. Conflict is Not Abuse calls for us to interrupt and seek alternatives to escalation and violence by embracing mutual accountability and a sense of community responsibility for conflict resolution, rather than allowing the punitive state to act as the exclusive arbiter of conflict.

Sarah Schulman is a Distinguished Professor of English at the College of Staten Island where she teaches courses on fiction writing, and is a prolific novelist, playwright, filmmaker, and non-fiction writer.

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May 04 2018

1hr 2mins

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Rank #19: Stacy Alaimo, “Exposed: Environmental Politics and Pleasures in Posthuman Times” (U. Minnesota Press, 2016)

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Stacy Alaimo’s Exposed: Environmental Politics and Pleasures in Posthuman Times (University of Minnesota Press, 2016) is a provocative reflection on environmental ethics, politics, and forms of knowledge. Through a range of examples as broad as the theoretical scope of the book, Alaimo analyzes political responses to climate change, ocean acidification, deforestation, and plastic pollution, as well as the epistemologies that have shaped our understanding of these crises. Simultaneously, this series of essays also explores the intimacies and entanglements of human and non-human subjectivities in the Anthropocene, arguing for a new materialist engagement with the world. Despite the gravity of her subject matter, Alaimo’s examples and writing are often playful. This not only echoes the complexity and occasional contradictions of environmental politics but also makes Exposed a very enjoyable read.


Drawing on examples from film, fiction, poetry, scientific writing, art, and activism, Alaimo considers the role pleasure has played and could play in various environmentalisms and environmental engagements. Though it bridges and contributes to scholarly work in the fields of environmental studies, feminism, materialism, and posthumanism, this book is much more than a theoretical exploration; it calls on us to rethink what it means to be human and act accordingly. Alaimo demonstrates interconnections between queer animals, naked protesters, melting glaciers, and interested scholars while providing thoughtful guidance on how to understand and respond to the environmental predicaments to which we are all, to varying degrees, exposed.

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Feb 21 2017

36mins

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Rank #20: Andrew Cole, “The Birth of Theory” (U. of Chicago Press, 2014)

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Was Hegel a medieval thinker?


In The Birth of Theory (University of Chicago Press, 2014), Andrew Cole puts forward a reexamination of Hegelian dialectics that embeds Hegel in a long tradition of medieval dialectical thinking and suggests that it is precisely Hegel’s engagement with medieval modes of thought that make his work a productive source for Marx and the later thinkers who develop dialectical thinking into theory as we know it today. The Birth of Theory challenges readers with insights won from strenuous contests with the writing of history, philosophy, religion, literature, and political economy. As he makes the case for rereading Hegelian dialectics based on the essentially feudal social and economic organization of Germany in Hegel’s moment, Cole drives at the arbitrary distinctions between medieval and modern but also those between dialectical and anti-dialectical thinking, writing a long arc of intellectual history that renegotiates theory’s relationship to Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, Hegel, Marx, Heidegger, Deleuze and many others in between (xviii).


Along the way, the argument asks readers to dispense with a host of critical cliches as it winds deftly between close readings of Pseudo-Dionysius and Nietzsche’s Birth of Tragedy to comparative readings of Hegel on the Eucharist and Marx on the commodity, closing with focused and revelatory attention on the legacy established by Hegel in using medieval genres in response to the modern condition.


Carl Nellis is an academic editor and writing instructor working north of Boston, where he researches contemporary American community formation around appropriations of medieval European culture. You can learn more about Carls work at carlnellis.wordpress.com.

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Oct 27 2016

1hr 3mins

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