Indiana University Bloomington


(For an archive of events, see here)


Spring 2017


Struggling for Life. A Constellation of Events

Convener: Edgar Illas (Dept. of Spanish and Portuguese)

Jan Mieszkowski (Professor of German and Comparative Literature, Reed College), "Death Sentences."

Friday, February 24, 2017, 4 pm, Oak Room, Indiana Memorial Union.

Abstract: In his seminar on the death penalty, Jacques Derrida maintains that modern literature has offered challenges to the legitimacy of capital punishment whereas philosophy has not. In this talk, I examine the conceptions of language and life that inform this claim by considering “I sentence you to death” as the paradigmatic literary speech act. Focusing on texts by Edgar Allan Poe, Emily Dickinson, and Gertrude Stein, I explore a grammar of mortality that cannot be assimilated into the reigning models of biopolitics.

Jan Mieszkowski is the author of Labors of Imagination: Aesthetics and Political Economy from Kant to Althusser (Fordham, 2006) and Watching War (Stanford, 2012). His recent articles explore a variety of topics in Romanticism, Modernism, and critical theory. He has also published and lectured widely on
military spectatorship and the spectacles of the permanent war economy. Mieszkowski is currently
completing a new book called Crises of the Sentence.

Before his talk, Professor Mieszkowski meets with the Center reading group to discuss his work; Friday, Feb. 24, 2 - 3:30, in the CAHI seminar room (1211 E. Atwater).


Symposium: Biopolitics After Michel Foucault

Friday, March 31, 2017, Global and International Studies Building 1106.

4 pm: Timothy Campbell (Romance Languages, Cornell University),
“The Comic Self.”

Abstract: In this paper I’d like to use two frames for making sense of Foucault's notion of care of the self: the comic and the biopolitical, the latter understood principally in terms of health. For the comic, I employ a (Kenneth) Burkean reading of comedy as corrective to read care of the self with and against Foucault, especially when he is thinking care of the self and parrhesia together in The Courage of Truth. I will then turn to the biopolitical frame, where I read care of the self as constituted by an immanent notion of health. By bringing comedy and (biopolitical) health together in terms of care, we can, I hope, begin to pry apart the grip that biopower holds over both care and the self.

Timothy Campbell teaches in the Department of Romance Studies at Cornell University. He is the author most recently of Technē of Giving: Cinema and the Generous Form of Life, from Fordham University Press. He also has translated a number of works from Italian into English, most recently Carlo Diano's Form and Event. He is series editor for Commonalities, a series on the common and the political from Fordham University Press.


5 pm: Adam Sitze (Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought, Amherst College), "Biopolitics and its Discontents."

Abstract: The aim of the paper is to think through the opposite of biopolitics by way of (a) an immanent critique of Foucault, (b) a rereading of certain works by Ludwig von Mises, and (c) a counterintuitive genealogy of the global age (through international public law). Symposium participants are encouraged to read the paper ahead of time.

Adam Sitze is Associate Professor of Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought at Amherst College. He is the author of The Impossible Machine: A Genealogy of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (University of Michigan Press, 2013). He is the editor, with Timothy Campbell, of Biopolitics: A Reader (Duke University Press, 2013) and of various works by Carlo Galli and Adriana Cavarero, among others.

Timothy Campbell and Adam Sitze meet with the Center reading group to discuss their recent work. Friday, March 31, 2 - 3:30, in the CAHI seminar room (1211 E. Atwater).



Lecture by Banu Bargu (Politics, New School for Social Research), "Police Power: Rethinking the State and the Subject."

Friday, April 14, 2017, 4 pm, Dogwood Room, Indiana Memorial Union.

Abstract: This paper revisits the Marxist theory of the state in light of the growing prominence of police power in the contemporary moment, both as an increasingly militarized force and as pervasive and invisible modes of surveillance. I present a reading of Louis Althusser’s famous essay “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes toward an Investigation)” to highlight a fundamental ambiguity at its heart, one that concerns the distinction between repression and ideology. I argue that the figure of the police in the famous scene of interpellation crystallizes this ambiguity, pointing to a lack or lapse of rigor that ultimately prevents Althusser from arriving at a proper conception of the police. Building on Michel Foucault’s account of the police within the genealogy of governmentality and bringing it to bear on Althusser’s conception of the state, I put both thinkers in conversation in order to propose a theory of the police that connects the social reproduction of capitalism with differential forms of subjectivation that necessitate a distinct modality of government reducible neither to violence nor to the complex operation of ideology.

Banu Bargu is associate professor of politics at the New School for Social Research. Her main area of specialization is political theory, especially modern and contemporary political thought and critical theory. She is the author of Starve and Immolate: The Politics of Human Weapons (Columbia University Press, 2014), which received APSA’s First Book Prize given by the Foundations of Political Theory section and was named an Outstanding Academic Title by Choice. Banu Bargu is currently the Mercator Fellow in the DFG-Research Group “Self-Making: Practices of Subjectivation” at the Carl von Ossietzky University in Oldenburg, Germany. Her most recent publications in 2016 include “Bodies against War: Voluntary Human Shielding as a Practice of Resistance,” in the American Journal of International Law Unbound Edition and “Why Did Bouazizi Burn Himself? The Politics of Fate and Fatal Politics,” in Constellations: An International Journal of Critical and Democratic Theory.

Before her talk, Professor Bargu meets with the Center reading group to discuss her work; Friday, April 14, 2 - 3:30, in the CAHI seminar room (1211 E. Atwater).

Grateful acknowledgement is made to the College Arts & Humanities Institute at Indiana University for supporting the events in the series "Struggling for Life." Thanks also to the Departments of Germanic Studies, French & Italian, International Studies, Spanish & Portuguese, and Comparative Literature for additional generous funding.


Forum: Discussion of Work in Progress

Ilana Gershon (Anthropology) and John McGlothlin (English) discuss their pre-circulated paper "The Animated Turn: On Literature and Capital" (download).

Wednesday, May 3, 7:30 pm, 808 S Henderson St. (house of Sonia Velázquez and Hall Bjørnstad).

For older events, see here.