Up-Coming Events

Academic Year 2017 /2018

This coming academic year we are pleased to be hosting the following major events:

  • Comparative Political Theory seminar series (Autumn)
  • ‘Islamicates’ seminar series (Spring)
  • Latin American seminar series (Spring)
  • Films from the Underside: a festival of political documentary #2 (Summer)


Comparative Political Theory seminar series (Autumn)


The weapon of culture: anticolonial thought and practice from Paris and Dakar to Havana and Algiers

A public lecture with Dr Branwen Gruffydd Jones (Cardiff)

Thursday 7 December, Room 110, Deptford Town Hall, 5-7pm, Goldsmiths

African-Film-Screening-imageThe experience of and struggles against colonialism and racism generated multiple strands of political thought and debate. African anticolonial struggles involved a set of debates about questions of race, culture and liberation which spanned several decades and continents – Africa, Europe and the Caribbean. These contributions and debates took place in the pages of journals such as Présence Africaine, Mensagem and Souffles, and in a series of meetings and festivals, including the First International Conference of Black Artists and Writers in Paris,1956; the Second Congress of Black Artists and Writers, in Rome 1959; the First World Festival of Black Art in Dakar, 1966; the Tricontinental Conference of Solidarity of the Peoples of Africa, Asia and Latin America, held in Havana, 1966, at which Cabral made his famous speech ‘The Weapon of Theory’; and the Pan African Festival in Algiers, 1969. This paper follows the relationships and interventions of the liberation movements of Portugal’s African colonies as a central thread to explore how anticolonial thought was forged through debates and practice. The paper focuses in particular on the contested and much debated question of the role of culture in decolonization and national liberation, theorized in different ways by Senghor, Fanon, Neto and Cabral.

Branwen Gruffydd Jones is Reader in International Relations at Cardiff University. She previously taught for several years in the Department of Politics at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her current research, African Anticolonialism in International Relations, examines the political thought and practice of the liberation movements of Portugal’s African colonies. 


 Is Tolerance Liberal?

A public lecture by Dr Humeira Iqtidar (Kings College, London)

Thursday 16 November, Room 109, Deptford Town Hall, 5-7pm, Goldsmiths

Tolerance has been claimed not just as a central tenant of liberalism, but increasingly as its sole preserve. For many, to be tolerant is to be liberal. This talk opens up the naturalized relationship between liberalism and tolerance by parsing out aspects of the political thought of Javed Ahmed Ghamidi, a prominent Pakistani public intellectual who is often labelled as a ‘liberal’ Islamic thinker. Interestingly, Ghamidi himself has never self-identified as a liberal. An engagement with his thought and its reception allows us an insight into the politics of labelling particularly on the question of tolerance. More importantly, I argue, Ghamidi’s thought helps us detach tolerance from liberalism, and recognize the depth within non-liberal conceptions of tolerance. I argue that the relationship between Liberalism and tolerance is fractured at best, containing immensely contradictory strains. Recognising the historical specificity of liberal tolerance allows us greater appreciation of its limits.


The Arabic Freud: Psychoanalysis and Islam in Modern Egypt

A public lecture and book launch with Prof Omnia El Shakry (University of California, Davis).

Monday 23 October, Room 109 Deptford Town Hall, 5-7pm, Goldsmiths.

Event will include the opportunity to purchase a copy of The Arabic Freud

Arabic Freud

What might it mean to think through psychoanalysis and Islam together, not as a problem, but as a creative encounter of ethical engagement? How might we think through the relationship between psychoanalysis and the Islamic tradition, while respecting the “ontological stakes” of the latter, namely, the belief in divine transcendence? Drawing on scholarly writings as well as popular literature on self-healing, Omnia El Shakry shows how postwar thinkers in Egypt translated and blended psychoanalytic theories with classical Islamic concepts. She explores how Freudian ideas of the unconscious were crucial to the formation of modern discourses of subjectivity in fields as diverse as psychology, Islamic philosophy, and the law. Founding figures of Egyptian psychoanalysis debated the temporality of the psyche, mystical states, the sexual drive, and the Oedipus complex, while offering startling insights into the nature of psychic life, ethics, and eros. Rather than view Islamic discourses as hermetically sealed, or traffic in dichotomous juxtapositions between East and West, El Shakry focuses on the points of intersection and articulation between Islamic discourses and modern social scientific thought, and between religious and secular ethics. The hybridization of psychoanalytic thought with Islamic discursive formations thus illustrates that the Arabic Freud, like psychoanalysis itself, was elaborated across the space of human difference.

Omnia El Shakry is professor of history at the University of California, Davis. She is the author of The Great Social Laboratory: Subjects of Knowledge in Colonial and Postcolonial Egypt and editor of the multi-volume Gender and Sexuality in Islam. Her new book, The Arabic Freud: Psychoanalysis and Islam in Modern Egypt, is just out with Princeton University Press.

Is there such a thing as Chinese Imperialism?

A public seminar with Prof. Leigh Jenco & Jon Chappell (LSE)

Monday 16 October, Room 109 Deptford Town Hall, 4-6pm, Goldsmiths.


Although China is almost always portrayed as a victim of imperial aggression rather than its perpetrator, historical analysis of territorial expansion particularly during the Ming and Qing dynasties has argued that the Chinese state established colonial forms of rule across both its continental and maritime frontiers. Yet given the lack of a single term or body of discourse associated by Chinese thinkers themselves with “colonialism” or even “empire” in the modern sense, how (and why) should we figure Chinese dynastic territorial expansion, and its accompaniment by typically Confucian civilizing projects, as “colonial”? The problem is not that we lack definitions of “empire” or “colonialism” that could potentially apply to the Chinese case, but rather that such definitions have typically been formulated on the basis of European colonial experience, or fail to take account not only of the formation of Asian expansionary power but also of the discourse(s) that justified, resisted, and reproduced that power. We therefore consider the following questions: should (and can) we expand “colonialism” to include the distinctive experiences of both state and society on the Chinese frontiers, including taking account of the specific ways in which Chinese imperial power was exercised and justified? Is it possible on this basis to meaningfully write a truly global colonial history, and elaborate (potentially) a truly global post-colonial critique, that takes account of oppressed societies both within and beyond European colonialism? Or, should we take more seriously the terms of indigenous Chinese discourse, which delineate not one but a multitude of sometimes disconnected projects of continental and occasionally maritime sovereign expansion, around which are clustered a variety of contested justifications for the assimilation of difference?

Leigh Jenco (PhD and MA, University of Chicago, 2007; BA Bard College, 1999) is a political theorist at the LSE who works at the intersection of Chinese and contemporary Euro-American theories of politics. Her latest book is Changing Referents: Learning Across Space and Time in China and the West (Oxford University Press, 2015). Her current research compares Chinese and Dutch  colonial discourse on Taiwan, from the 17th century to the present.  With colleagues at the universities of Zurich, Heidelberg, and Madrid, she manages a Humanities in the European Research Area grant for the collaborative research project “East Asian Uses of the European Past: Tracing Braided Chronotypes” (2016-2019). She is also associate editor of the American Political Science Review.


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