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Events

Thursday 10 March 2016

NEW MATERIALISM: Politics Aesthetics Science

Westminster Faculty of Social Sciences & Humanities/Westminster School of Media, Art & Design Panel Discussion, 5 – 7pm + drinks reception, Venue: Fyvie Hall, Regent Street

New Materialism is currently having a profound effect across disciplines. Rooted in post-marxist thinking, but spreading out on the flat ontology of networks, objects and bodies, New Materialism is an interdisciplinary discussion on the properties of matter in terms of agency, ethical responsibility and immanence. Along with post-humanism, the Anthropocene, non-representational theories and post-Deleuzian thought, New Materialism asks us to reconsider the nature of the human and the non-human, the difference between actual and virtual, the emergence of politics and law in the face of ubiquitous materiality, and above all, the new responsibilities that come with it all.
This event brings together experts from WSMAD and SSH in order to initiate an interdisciplinary dialogue on our understanding of New Materialism’s relevance to current issues.
PANEL SPEAKERS, Westminster School of Media, Art & Design: Mercedes Bunz, Senior Lecturer: Things are not to blame: Technical Agency in Times of High Capitalism'; Christian Fuchs, Professor of Social Media: New Cultural Materialism; Mirko Nikolic, Doctoral Candidate: Unhuman Love: A Post-Capitalist Politics Of Desire, Westminster Faculty of Social Sciences & Humanities: Elisabetta Brighi, Lecturer: Invisible Matters and the Illusions of Security; David Chandler, Professor of International Relations: From Humanising the World to ‘Worlding’ the Human; Ben Pitcher, Senior Lecturer: Isis iconoclasm and rocks and stones in material culture. Organiser + Chair: Andreas Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos, Professor of Law & Theory, SSH

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Friday 4 March 2016

What is new in new materialism?: Marxisms, new materialisms and the nature/culture divide

Westminster Forum, 5th Floor, Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Westminster, 32-38 Wells Street, London, W1T 3UW

12 – 2 Plenary panel: David Chandler, Felicity Colman, Nicholas Kiersey, Phoebe Moore.

2.30 – 5.30 Speakers: Helen Palmer, Paul Rekret, Daniela Tepe–Belfrage, Michiel van Ingen. Discussant: Christian Fuchs

In response to a perceived prioritization of ‘mind over matter or culture over nature’ in the humanities and cultural studies, contemporary philosophers Braidotti and DeLanda separately named a shift in research that brings attention to the body or corporeal and explores immanence over transcendence in ontology as new materialism (or neo-materialism) in the 1990s. Since then, feminist, poststructuralist, historical materialist, science and technology, geography and critical realist researchers have begun to explore what it means to move away from the confines of discourse analysis and research that is limited to analysis of the cognitive, introducing research on human subjectivity as embodied, denying quantification of the affective field, rethinking categories of agency and causality and taking seriously questions around what it means to be human. New materialism is a critical ontological position that transcends thought traditions and advances studies that transgress mind-body dualism from the side of the mind and rejects research that eliminates possibilities for lived experiences except as efficient, rational, managed subjects.

The workshop ‘What is new in new materialism?: Marxisms, new materialisms and the nature/culture divide’ serves partly as an introduction to new materialism and partly as a space to critique and develop nascent work in this emerging area. We will ask, what is the difference between immanent, transcendental approaches and materialist ontology? Where do historical materialists stand on questions of nature and culture? What new questions of the human can we pose and what is the promise of the posthuman? Is this arena one where Marxist and poststructuralist agendas harmonise? What is the difference between mechanical materialism, historical materialism and new materialism? And, what is at stake in the connection between the human and materialism?

Co-organised with the Materialisms Reading Group run by David Chandler and & the CSE South Group run by Phoebe Moore and Martin Upchurch. (Capital & Class is the CSE journal.)

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Tuesday 1 March 2016

Digital Imaginaries of Rule: Big Data, Posthumanism and Algorithmic Regulation

12.00-3.00 Westminster Forum, Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Westminster, 32-38 Wells Street, London, W1T 3UW

This is an informal workshop to explore the nature of digital imaginaries of rule. We essentially want to explore and refine the questions to ask of the fast moving discussions of technology and politics. We are interested in questions such as: If Big Data is the answer, what is the question? Are Big Data and the Internet of Things just technical fads, an empty ‘solutionism’ driven by tech corporate capitalists? What is the importance of datafication and why does it claim to reveal the previously unseen? Is Deleuze the theorist of the digital imaginary and if so how? What’s at stake in the claim that correlations between data are more important than causal relations? Does the rise of sensors, machine learning and algorithmic regulation herald a posthuman world? What is the power of algorithms? Does Big Data indicate the emergence of new approaches to epistemology and ontology?

Confirmed presentations: Mark Duffield (University of Bristol) ‘Algorithmic Governmentality and the Closure of the Commons’; Philip Hammond (London South Bank University) ”Smart citizenship” and the elusive subject of algorithmic governmentally’; Vanessa Pupavac (University of Nottingham) ‘”There is no mathematic but only mathematics” Spengler’s Decline of the West and Faustian Work’; David Chandler (University of Westminster) ‘The Core, the Curated and the Cloned'; Mareile Kaufmann (PRIO, Oslo) ‘Politics and the Digital’

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Friday 12 February 2016

Indigeneity and the Promise of Inclusion

Convenors; Marjo Lindroth and Heidi Sinevaara-Niskanen (University of Lapland), David Chandler (University of Westminster)
Time: 1.00-5.00pm; Date: Friday 12 February 2016; Venue: Westminster Forum, Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Westminster, 32-38 Wells Street, London, W1T 3UW (5 mins from Oxford Circus tube)

It seems that political power is being redistributed and exercised in new ways. There is probably no better example than the recent transformation in the international standing of indigenous peoples. Both national and international politics boast of significant legal and institutional advances in the inclusion of marginalised groups and in the recognition of their rights. This workshop seeks to explore what underlies the alleged progress in indigenous issues and whether this has marked a significant change in the ways in which indigenous subjectivity is perceived. What drives this newfound concern for the enduring indigenous subject? How do conceptions of indigeneity link to discourses of resilience, adaptation and vulnerability, especially in relation to ecological threats and possibilities? What are the links between claims to push forward the status and rights of indigenous peoples, and the interpellation of indigeneity in terms of adaptation, endurance and persistence? What are the implications of these discourses for the subjectivities, understandings and practices of indigeneity?

Workshop programme:

1.00 welcome

1.15 – 2.45 paper presentation and discussion
Marjo Lindroth and Heidi Sinevaara-Niskanen (University of Lapland) – ‘Indigeneity in Waiting: Elusive Rights and the Power of Hope’

3.15 – 5.00 roundtable discussion on Indigeneity and the Promise of Inclusion
Mark Jackson, School of Geographical Sciences (University of Bristol) – ‘Indigeneity and Commitment Beyond Postcolonial Critique’
David Chandler (University of Westminster) – ‘From “Indigenous Culture” to “Indigenous ‘Knowledge”’
Shela Sheikh (Goldsmiths, University of London) – ‘Biocolonialism and the Paradoxes of Access to Knowledge’
Adam Barker and Emma Battell Lowman (University of Leicester) – ‘Always in Relationship: Working with Indigenous communities and against settler colonialism’.

5.00-6.00 wine reception

The workshop is co-sponsored by the University of Lapland and the Materialisms Study Group, Centre for the Study of Democracy, University of Westminster. Refreshments will be provided.

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Friday 5 February 2016

Design After Planning: Examining the Shift from Epistemology to Topology (co-sponsored by Centre for the Study of Democracy and Faculty of Architecture & the Built Environment)

10.00 – 18:15, University of Westminster, London

Confirmed keynote speakers: Filip de Boeck (KU Leuven), Nathaniel Tkacz (University of Warwick) & Erik Swyngedouw (University of Manchester)

This one-day interdisciplinary conference will explore the possibility of going beyond the limitations of liberal-modernist policy-making and urban planning, and the implications of doing so, if we start thinking of governance at different scales as a process of design.

The question of how different types of ‘planning’ should deal with uncertainty has taken on fresh importance. On the one hand, existential threats such as climate change, overpopulation, and new forms of global conflict expand the temporal and spatial horizons of our sense of responsibility as never before. On the other, the world is constructed increasingly as emergent, complex and non-linear; the ‘wicked’ problems it throws up are not amenable to modernist, top-down solutions. The intelligence required to tackle contemporary problems is understood to be dispersed and enacted, rather than a pre-given object to be gathered by the state. In Mol’s (2002) formulation, epistemological questions (‘how can we be sure?’) are increasingly usurped by pragmatic ones (‘how can we live with doubt?’).

In this embrace of uncertainty, concerns over the limitations of representational ‘modelling’ are being dislodged by an ideal of unmediated, dynamic problem-resolution whereby the ‘topologies’ of complex reality continually reveal themselves. In practical terms, this has entailed a shift towards iterative processes of dispersed governance; policy makers no longer attempt to impose order on a chaotic outside, but rather attempt to ‘see’ through the emergent systems themselves. Thus, goals are no longer determined from the centre so much as coproduced in specific locations with the aid of the internet of things and the citizen as sensor; top-down planning of the built environment has given way to localised, discursive decision-making alongside an embrace of informality; the residual modernism of sustainable development is increasingly inflected with ‘resilience’.

If the broad project here is to work with emerging, complex systems, rather than against or in spite of them, might it then be productive to conceptualise the role of governing and city-making in terms of ‘design’ rather than planning? If so, is there value in retheorising design so as more explicitly to capture contemporary interactive logics of emergent causality and agency? Or, alternatively, does linear planning have a newly important role to play? Might it function as a type of normative resistance to the ‘market logic’ with which these new forms of governance are perhaps aligned?

As well as three keynote speakers, we have three panels on:

• embracing uncertainty
• algorithmic governance
• new topologies of ‘planning’

The event is free of charge and open to all. Please book tickets via Eventbrite.

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Friday 27 November 2015

Living in the Anthropocene: Rethinking the nature/culture divide

Decolonising the Anthropocene
1-5pm, Centre for the Study of Democracy, University of Westminster, 32-38 Wells Street, London, W1T 3UW (5 minutes walk from Oxford Circus tube station)

Convenors: Olivia Rutazimbwa (University of Portsmouth), Angela Last (Glasgow University), Kathryn Yusoff (Queen Mary)

Speakers and roundtable discussants: Patricia Noxolo (Birmingham), Robbie Shilliam (Queen Mary), Kathryn Yusoff (Queen Mary), Olivia Rutazibwa (Portsmouth), Angela Last (Glasgow).

Click here to register.

The concept of the Anthropocene involves the rejection of one of modernity’s most important tenets: the nature/culture divide. Yet from a post-western perspective this can hardly be seen as a ground-breaking discovery. The colonial experience has for long evidenced the destructive nature of this divide while indigenous cosmologies, religious worldviews as well as other (non-western) philosophies have provided alternatives to the nature/culture divide and continue to do so. Does the holistic and relational understanding of reality entailed in the idea of the Anthropocene present an opportunity to rethink the sources of our knowledge production and work towards a more inclusive and sustainable use and distribution of the available planetary resources; or is the ‘discovery’ of the Anthropocene yet another stage of Eurocentric knowledge production?

Who sets the agenda, which voices and topics continue to be silenced and do they consolidate or dissipate existing inequalities? How much space is there for the ‘pluriversality’ Walter Mignolo calls for in the potentially totalising proclamation of the Anthropocene? What does the attention to complexity and non-linearity mean for post- and decolonial understandings and attachment to issues of agency, autonomy and self-determination? This workshop will examine these and other questions, both theoretically and empirically, to explore the merits and challenges of the Anthropocene to decoloniality and vice versa. Understood as a triple invitation to de-mythologise, de-silence and de-colonise, decoloniality combines both a deconstructive toolbox for critique at the epistemological level and a constructive imperative to counter the colonial (material) forms of extreme power inequality.

This is a free event. Please register so that we can get an idea of numbers. There are currently 50 spaces available.

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Saturday 7 November 2015

Doing and Thinking Democracy Differently

In celebration of its 25th anniversary, the Centre for the Study of Democracy, based in the Department of Politics and International Relations, is organising a conference to analyse contemporary challenges to the way we do and think democracy.

We are delighted to announce Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Columbia University) as our keynote speaker.

The panels reflect the diversity of work undertaken at the Centre for the Study of Democracy, including new protest movements in Europe, the undoing of the Arab Spring, exclusion in post-colonial democracies, populism in Africa, the practice of resilience, new forms of governance and digital politics, the ideal of transparency and the influence of Carl Schmitt on radical democracy.

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Friday 18 September 2015

Living in the Anthropocene: Rethinking the nature/culture divide

De-Naturalising Disasters
4-8pm, Centre for the Study of Democracy, University of Westminster, 32-38 Wells Street, London, W1T 3UW (5 minutes walk from Oxford Circus tube station)

Convenors: David Chandler and Camilla Royle

Bruno Latour argues that we should love our ‘monsters’. Nothing illustrates this demand better than how disasters are becoming increasingly central to the political imagination. From the late Ulrich Beck’s views of ‘emancipatory catastrophism’ to the UN Post-2015 Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, disasters are becoming a subject of ethical care. Disasters are no longer excluded from politics and seen as external or natural events but are instead seen as enabling agents of political change. The United Nations, for example, is forwarding a new paradigm suggesting that disaster risk should be embedded within everyday governance and development processes and managed through taking responsibility for social and environmental outcomes. In this way, disasters – as outcomes of social processes – enable learning, reflection and potentially emancipatory outcomes. This workshop seeks to discuss how disasters have overcome the nature/culture divide and what is at stake in learning how to love them.

4.00-5.30: Grand Strategies for Anthropocene Challenges: Can we Learn in Time?
Jamie MacIntosh (Professorial Venture Research Fellow & Director of the Institute for Security & Resilience Studies, University College, London)

The UK’s recently elected government has now revved up the Whitehall policy machine to distil the 2015 batch of strategies. Ministerial speeches and fanfares are not far off. The UK Government is one among many major and minor bodies that drafts strategies. There were 51 state signatories to the UN Charter in 1945; there are now 193 sovereign bodies. The financial power of several non-state bodies far exceeds that of many UN Leviathans. Nevertheless, after the post-Cold War unipolar moment and Washington Consensus, we are all – for better or worse – immersed in a multipolar world. Moreover, it’s a multipolar world that within a few years and decades will have to face up to the challenges of the Anthropocene with our productivity still flat and inequality growing. There is little evidence that we are developing healthy appetites for the systemic risks and radical uncertainties that abound. Whether you look to elites or the multitudes, the competencies, capabilities and capacity necessary for the species to make it to the 22nd Century cannot be taken for granted. Can we learn in time how to make grand strategies work or are they myths to numb the hapless? Do universities have anything pragmatic to offer?

5.30-6.00: Break

6.00-7.30: Can Disaster Risk Management be Emancipatory?
Mark Pelling (Professor of Geography, Centre for Integrated Research on Risk and Resilience, King’s College, London)

Disaster risk management science has a long critical tradition including work by Hewitt, Wisner and Watts. The advent of climate change adaptation has opened new policy relevance for disaster risk management, but without taking on board this critical viewpoint. The result has been an adaptation science framed around stability seeking. Resilience has come to symbolise this conservative vision for risk management. One response has been to call for Transformative Adaptation. The paper will examine the advent and rise of transformation and its current positioning in the emerging post-2015 development agenda.

7.30: Wine reception

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Friday 5 June 2015

Living in the Anthropocene: Rethinking the nature/culture divide

Critical Approaches to Big Data, London South Bank University

Convenor: Phil Hammond

The rise of Big Data is changing how we think about the world, or so it is claimed. The advent of ‘algorithmic regulation’ spells the death of politics, but might also allow us to ‘stop wars before they happen’. Datafication enables the rise of new paradigms in the sciences and humanities, but may also entail the ‘end of theory’.

Does the rise of data-driven knowledge underscore the need for human interpretation and judgement, or does it confirm the post-humanist rejection of modernist assumptions about how we understand and act to transform the world? Big Data is still an emerging concept and its future uses and implications remain unclear, but this makes the development of critical perspectives more, rather than less, important.

With:

Prof David Chandler: Big Data & Posthumanism
Centre for the Study of Democracy, University of Westminster

Dr Mark Coté: Critically Engaging Big Social Data
Department of Culture, Media & Creative Industries, King’s College London

Prof Phil Hammond: From Computer-Assisted to Data-Driven: Journalism and Big Data
School of Arts & Creative Industries, London South Bank University

Dr Athina Karatzogianni: Datafication as Resistance?
Department of Media and Communication, University of Leicester

Dr Nathaniel Tkacz: The Performance Platform
Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies, University of Warwick

This event is free and open to all but places are limited.

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Wednesday 22 April 2015

INTERNATIONAL POLITICS THROUGH ART AND PERFORMANCE

Time: 4.00pm – 8.00pm
Location: The Westminster Forum, 32-38 Wells Street, London, W1T 3UW

http://www.westminster.ac.uk/csd/events/the-international-politics-of-art-and-performance

4-6pm
Collage Methodology for Studying Visual World Politics
Saara Särmä, University of Tampere, Finland

6.30-8pm
Politics in Drag: Sipping Toffee with Hamas in Brussels
Catherine Charrett, University of Aberystwyth

Chaired by David Chandler and Thomas Moore, Centre for the Study of Democracy, University of Westminster

Collage Methodology for Studying Visual World Politics

Visual collaging is a playful and creative methodological approach which can be used in the study of everyday images of global politics, for example internet parody images and memes. It is an art-based intervention that disrupts the text-based modes of doing and writing up research which are dominant even in research which focuses on visuality and images. Collaging allows the use of images not only as decorative or as illustrations of an argument. Collages can also function as more than objects of analysis. In this presentation I present an overview of collage-making, describing the “data-collection”, composition, and the techniques I use. Different compositional techniques, e.g. repetition and exaggeration or unexpected juxtapositions, may produce different effects, aesthetically, emotionally, and politically. I explore collage as a mode of thinking, which can be aesthetic, analytical, and/or political. As a creative and artistic mode of studying global politics, collaging aims to unleash imaginations in order to gently deconstruct global and local hierarchies.

Saara Särmä is a feminist, an artist, and a scholar. Saara’s doctoral dissertation Junk Feminism and Nuclear Wannabe – Collaging Parodies of Iran and North Korea (2014, University of Tampere, Finland) focused on internet parody images and memes and developed a unique art-based collage methodology for studying world politics. She is interested in politics of visuality, feminist academic activism, and laughter in world politics. Currently she is working on developing the visual collage methodology further as both a research and a pedagogical tool and experimenting with collective possibilities of collaging. Her artwork can be seen at www.huippumisukka.fi

Politics in Drag: Sipping Toffee with Hamas in Brussels

Politics in Drag: Sipping Toffee with Hamas in Brussels is a 45 minute performance which attempts to re-envision the EU’s response to Hamas’s electoral success in the Palestinian legislative elections through a hyperbolic, melancholic and parodic telling of conversations that never took place. Hamas is a movement listed on the EU’s terrorist list and in 2006 the movement won elections that the EU had monitored and declared to be free and fair. The EU’s response was to diplomatically, financially and politically sanction the democratically elected body, which analysts argue was an opportunity missed to engage politically with Hamas. This live performance stages alternative encounters between the EU and Hamas by performatively addressing the vulnerabilities, intimacies and subjugations of their ritualised being not-together. It presents interviews with Hamas leaders and EU representatives conducted between 2012-2013 through the theoretical and aesthetic mode of the drag performance. By re-fictionalising the response to the 2006 elections, this performance imagines politics anew, allowing for different conversations to arise from performing what normally remains hidden in political encounters.

Catherine Charrett has a PhD in International Politics from Aberystwyth University and a MSc from the London School of Economics. Catherine researches EU-Palestinian relations and engages with theories of gender and performance studies to explore questions of ritualised subjectivity, agency and the possibility for creativity in diplomacy and foreign policy making.

Refreshments will be provided.

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