The University of Auckland, New Zealand
10-12 December, 2012

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Keynote speakers

Todd May (Clemson)

Title: Humanism and Solidarity
Abstract: Recent years have seen the rise of a new type of anti-humanism, what might be called an a-humanism of systems theory.  Two important exponents of this view are John Protevi and Jane Bennett, both of whom root their thought in the work of Gilles Deleuze.  In different but related ways, they see human beings as part of a wider system that can operate at both the sub- and supra-inpidual levels as well as the inpidual one.  This raises the question of how to conceive a politics based on their perspectives.  This paper argues that, although the horizontal character of their ontology is in keeping with an egalitarian politics, it is difficult if not impossible to ground a politics of solidarity in this approach.  This is because the bonds necessary for political solidarity cannot be forged across all elements or aspects of the system.

Bio: Dr. May took his Ph.D. from Penn State University in 1989, and has been at Clemson (after a brief stint at Indiana University of Pennsylvania) since 1991. He specializes in Continental philosophy, especially recent French philosophy. He has authored ten philosophical books, focusing on the philosophical work of Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze and Jacques Rancière. His book The Political Philosophy of Poststructuralist Anarchism has been influential in recent progressive political thought, and his work on Rancière is among the first in English. May’s writings also seek to bridge the gap between "Anglo-American" and "Continental" styles of philosophy that developed in the early twentieth century. His teaching interests are varied; he has found himself teaching classes as diverse as Anarchism, The Thought of Merleau-Ponty, Resistance and Alterity in Contemporary Culture, Secular Ethics in a Materialist Age, and Postmodernism and Art.

Claire Colebrook (PennState / UNSW)

Title: Hypo-hyper-hapto-neuromysticism
Abstract: In his homage and memorial to Jean-Luc Nancy, Derrida refers to an intensified hyper-haptocentrism in twentieth-century thought. Since making that judgment a series of manoeuvres within philosophy and theory have intensified this insistence on the values of proximity and affective immediacy, suggesting that Cartesian reason and separation have been displaced as the normative model for thinking. One of the most significant figures for this new axiology of close range thinking is the embodied brain, now deemed to be the decentred, attuned, dynamic and pre-personal ground of all thought and life. Indeed in popular culture the brain now offers itself as a symbolic resolution to many of the most profound ethical dilemmas, including the ethics of touch. The brain is at once always multiply affected and attuned - hyper-tactile - and yet always operating at a distance, embodied without being actually tactile. Looking at Derrida's work on touch, Deleuze's work on sense and a series of texts on touch, including the Fox TV series Touch and Jerry Sandusky's Touched I argue for a Cartesian ethics of separation.

Bio: Claire Colebrook is the author of New Literary Histories (Manchester UP, 1997), Ethics and Representation (Edinburgh UP, 1999), Deleuze: A Guide for the Perplexed (Continuum 1997), Gilles Deleuze (Routledge 2002), Understanding Deleuze (Allen and Unwin 2002), Irony in the Work of Philosophy (Nebraska UP, 2002), Gender (Palgrave 2003), Irony (Routledge 2004), Milton, Evil and Literary History (Continuum 2008), Deleuze and the Meaning of Life (Continuum 2010), and William Blake and Digital Aesthetics (Continuum 2011).  She co-authored Theory and the Disappearing Future with Tom Cohen and J. Hillis Miller (Routledge 2011), and co-edited Deleuze and Feminist Theory with Ian Buchanan (Edinburgh University Press, 2000), Deleuze and History with Jeff Bell (Edinburgh 2008), Deleuze and Gender with Jami Weinstein (Edinburgh UP 2009) and Deleuze and Law (Palgrave) with Rosi Braidotti and Patrick Hanafin.  She has written articles on visual culture, poetry, literary theory, queer theory and contemporary culture.  She is completing a book on human extinction.

Georgia Warnke (UC Riverside)

Title: Deliberation and Interpretation
Abstract: Deliberative democratic theory takes up the question of how the citizens of perse and pluralistic democracies, citizens who by definition possess different interests, values and conceptions of the good, can nonetheless reach decisions, enact laws, and determine policies that they can all find legitimate and binding.  The answer the theory gives looks to non-coercive deliberations among free and equal citizens who justify their claims and proposals by appealing to public reasons or considerations – in other words, to reasons and considerations all those affected can accept.  Yet it is not clear that in perse and pluralistic democracies what stymies democratic justification is the failure to offer or accept public reasons or considerations.  Can we not agree on public reasons while understanding them in different but equally compelling ways and does the same not hold for such considerations as narratives, testimony and the like?  Indeed, might it not be that what stymies justification is our failure to acknowledge that we can agree on public reasons and considerations while understanding them in different but equally compelling ways?  The first part of this paper explores these questions as they relate both to the original formulations of deliberative theory and to certain revisions.  The second part of the paper investigates a hermeneutic alternative that not only acknowledges but also values differences in the ways we can plausibly understand our public reasons and considerations.

Bio: Professor Warnke's research interests include critical theory, hermeneutics, democratic theory and issues of race, sex and gender. Her latest book is After Identity: Rethinking Race, Sex and Gender (Cambridge University Press, 2007). Recently she has written articles on Jurgen Habermas, Richard Rorty and Clifford Geertz. Recent graduate courses have focused on Habermas, Hans-Georg Gadamer and issues of identity. Undergraduate courses include courses on political philosophy, feminism and Marxism.

Publications and Prizes

The journal Parrhesia will publish a special issue in 2013 featuring a selection of papers from the conference. An invitation for submissions will be made at the conference.

A $500 prize will be awarded for the best postgraduate paper presented at the conference. An invitation for submissions will be made at the conference. 

Conference Committee