Archive 2016/17

Academic Year 2016 /2017


Populism and the Politics of the Extraordinary

A public seminar with Carlos de la Torre, University of Kentucky

Tuesday 27 September 2016, Room 110 Deptford Town Hall, 4-6pm, Goldsmiths.

Political theorists like Margaret Canovan, Jaques Rancière, Andreas Kalyvas, and Ernesto Laclau contrasted everyday routine administrative politics with the exceptional moments of the political that aimed to reconfigure constitutional and institutional arrangements. For Laclau populism is subversive of the existing state of thing and the starting point for a new order.

carlos-talkBuilding on past and current experiences of populism, this presentation makes three arguments. First, whereas populist movements seeking power promise to democratize society by challenging the legitimacy of exclusionary institutions, populist governments often include the excluded at the cost of disfiguring democracy. Second, during populist events the meanings of the ambiguous term ‘the people’ are disputed. When social movements are weak, and when the institutions of liberal democracy are discredited, a populist leader could attempt to become the embodiment of the will of the people. Third, even though the concept of the people is central to populism, it could be constructed differently. It could be imagined as heterogeneous and plural, or as the people-as-one, as an entity that shares one identity and interest that could be embodied in a leader.

Carlos de la Torre is professor of Sociology at the University of Kentucky. He has published extensively on populism. His latest books are his edited volumes The Promises and Perils of Populism: Global Perspectives, 2015, and Latin American Populism of the Twenty First Century, co-edited with Cynthia Arnson, 2013. He was a fellow at the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Gaining Access to the Radically Unfamiliar: Religion in Modern Times

A public lecture by Kalpana Ram, Macquarie University

Monday 24 October 2016, Room 110 Deptford Town Hall, 4-6pm, Goldsmiths


kalpana-talkThis lecture draws on the arguments and ethnographic work on spirit possession published in the book Fertile Disorder: Spirit Possession and its Provocation of the Modern in order to reflect on the academic division of labour between history and anthropology as well as wider questions of how the non-religious scholar might gain access to religious phenomena. History has been held up by postcolonial critique as providing the missing dimension of temporality in anthropological discourse. Yet historiography, even when undertaken from a postcolonial subaltern standpoint, has foundered on the challenge of doing justice to religious subjectivity. The paper turns to phenomenology to provide a different understanding of temporality, one that is capable of disclosing ways in which anthropology does in fact rely radically on time, on the capacity of the scholar´s body to slowly effect a new synthesis of time, place and people. The paper also points to what it might mean to arrive at an understanding of an unfamiliar phenomenon without any necessary involvement  of consent or belief.

Kalpana Ram is a senior anthropologist at Macquarie University in Sydney. She has worked extensively on themes to do with postcolonialism, social movements and modernity in India, with specific reference to the lives of rural women in Tamil Nadu. She draws on a broad range of inter-disciplinary debates and bodies of theory, including feminism, postcolonial theory, Marxism, as well as anthropology and philosophy. A number of these themes come to an integrated fruition in her latest book Fertile Disorder: Spirit Possession and its Provocation of the Modern (University of Hawaii, 2013), which will be referred to in the talk.


Special Event – Japan / Obscenity / Pornography

Tuesday 1 November 2016, Room 144 Richard Hoggart Building, 4-7pm, Goldsmiths


Japan: Land of Obscenity or a Polymorphously Queer Paradise?

Sharalyn Orbaugh (Professor of Modern Japanese Literature and Popular Culture,  University of British Columbia)

orbaugh-talkMass media in UK and North America frequently highlight what they see as the exploitative and obscene imagery in Japanese popular culture, particularly manga (comic books for children and adults) and anime (animated narratives for film and television). The UK and Canada have laws in place that make illegal the possession of many manga, including examples that would be considered entirely mainstream in Japan. This presentation will examine the history of discourses around gender, sex and sexuality in manga, including arguments by Japanese and non-Japanese scholars that manga and anime present not exploitation but a playful queering of normative categories.


The Invention of Pornography & the Imprinting of Love in the 16th-Century Italy and 17th-Century Japan

Joshua Mostow (Professor of Pre-Modern Japanese Literature and Art, University of Vancouver)

Italy in the sixteenth century and Japan in the seventeenth century both saw the emergence of print pornography in book form, often accompanied by poetry. This presentation will compare I Modi, designed by Giulio Romano and printed by Marcantonio Raimondi with accompanying verses by Pietro Arentino, with several works by Hishikawa Moronobu and his predecessors. The focus will be on the purpose of such works, their role in defining gender, sexuality and the licit and illicit in their relative early modern societies. How do the respective artists use their own classical past—that is, the Greek and Roman antiquity on one hand, and the courtly culture of the Heian period on the other—and how do they characterize sexual relations in their present times? What role does class play in the depiction and reception of sexual acts in the two societies? How did the authorities, both secular and religious, respond to these works—or not? What was the rhetorical and polemical stance of these works and can seventeenth century Japan be in any way considered its own “Renaissance”? This presentation will attempt to provide signposts to answering these questions.


Human Security as Ontological Security? A Postcolonial Approach

Public Lecture by Giorgio Shani (International Christian University, Japan)

Tuesday 8 November 2016, Room 109 Deptford Town Hall, 4-6pm, Goldsmiths


shaniThis lecture will critically interrogate the emergence of Human Security as a response to the ontological insecurity wrought by the globalization of neo-liberalism. For Giddens (Giddens, Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age, 1991):47), to be ‘ontologically secure is to possess, on the level of the unconscious and practical consciousness, “answers” to fundamental existential questions which all human life in some way addresses.’ Religion and nationalism provide ‘answers’ to these questions in times of rapid socio-economic and cultural change (Kinvall, 2004). The dislocation engendered by successive waves of neo-liberal globalization has resulted in the deracination of many of the world’s inhabitants resulting in a state of collective ‘existential anxiety’ (Giddens, Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age, 1991). Under such conditions of existential anxiety, the search for identity and community becomes paramount. However, secular conceptions- including ‘critical’ accounts- of Human Security as ‘freedom from fear and want’ (Commission on Human Security, 2003) fail to take into account the importance of identity for security. It will be suggested that a ‘post-secular’ understanding of Human Security (Shani, 2014) is better able to provide ontological security in times of rapid global transformation but only if it accounts for the centrality of religion to post-colonial subjectivity as a legacy of colonialism.

Giorgio Shani PhD (London) is Professor of Politics and International Relations at International Christian University, Tokyo and Visiting Senior Fellow at the Centre of International Studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). He is author of Sikh Nationalism and Identity in a Global Age (Routledge 2008) and Religion, Identity and Human Security (Routledge 2014). He has published widely in internationally reviewed journals including International Studies Review, The Cambridge Review of International Affairs and Postcolonial Studies (forthcoming). He is a series editor of I (Rowman and Littlefield International) and currently serving as President of the Asia-Pacific region of the International Studies Association.

When Ashis Nandy’s myths meet those of Westphalia

Public Lecture by Phillip Darby (Institute of Postcolonial Studies, Melbourne)

Wednesday 7 December 2016, Room 109 Deptford Town Hall, 5-7pm, Goldsmiths


This paper explores why the work of the Indian political psychologist and public intellectual, Ashis Nandy, has not been taken up in International Relations.  It goes on to discuss the contribution that his work could make to reimagining the domain of the international.  From the remarkable range of Ashis’ ‘corpus’ I have selected three themes to illustrate my contention that his work could enrich the discipline.  These are working with the everyday, pursuing connection with the other, and identifying with the victims – the losers in history, the casualties of global processes.
Phillip Darby is co-founder, with Michael Dutton, of the independent Institute of Postcolonial Studies based in Melbourne, and is its director.  He is also a principal fellow of the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne. Select publications include: Fiction of Imperialism: Reading Between International Relations (1998); Postcolonizing the international: Working to change the way we are (2006); “Recasting Western knowledges about (postcolonial) security” in Rethinking Insecurity, War and Violence; Beyond savage globalization? (2009); “Rolling Back the Frontiers of Empire: Practicing the Postcolonial”, International Peacekeeping, vol. 16 (2009).


Illustration (fragment): Allegory of the Peace of Westphalia, Jacob Jordaens, 1654.


Alienation, rationality, and the political Enlightenment

Public Lecture by Akeel Bilgrami 

Wednesday 1 February  2017, Room 109 Deptford Town Hall, 4-6pm, Goldsmiths


What underlies the widespread assumption that what happened in Europe must happen everywhere else in the world, including its erstwhile colonies?  Is it a belief in iron laws of history? Or is it a more normative, less deterministic, view that what happened in Europe was rational, so it ought to happen everywhere else in the world? Akeel Bilgrami will explore these questions via a discussion of a range of issues and concepts such as alienation, rationality, the social contract, the tragedy of the commons, and the political and economic ideals of the liberal enlightenment.

Akeel Bilgrami is Sidney Morgenbesser Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University, where he is also a founding member of the Committee on Global Thought. He is the author of a number of books on philosophical, and often political and ethical, themes, including Secularism, Identity, and Enchantment (Harvard University Press, 2014) Occidentalism, the Very Idea: An Essay on Enlightenment and Enchantment (University of Chicago, 2006). He is currently working on a book entitled What is a Muslim? (Princeton University Press).