History of Consciousness Spring 23 Speaker Series

April 04, 2023


Attend in-person (masks strongly recommended) at Humanities 1 Room 420 or virtually via Zoom


April 4 at 2pm PST Plantations Derivations with Taija McDougall, UC Irvine

*PLEASE NOTE: This talk has a unique Zoom link. Join the discussion here.*

Taija Mars McDougall completed their PhD in Culture and Theory at UC Irvine and they are currently a postdoctoral associate with Boston University. You can find her work in Propter Nos, Anthurium, and forthcoming in Philosophy Today and Qui Parle. Their book entitled Held Here by Nothing: Notes on the Psychopolitics of Black Insurrection is also forthcoming with University of Nebraska Press. 

April 11 at 2pm PST Social Diversity and the Future of Democracy with Luis Tapia Mealla, Universidad Mayor de San Andrés & Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

How do we have to change ourselves so that the idea of a "motley" society does not turn into voting blocs, destroying democracy? Luis Tapia will address the concepts and methodological strategy proposed by René Zavaleta Mercado (1937-1984)  in Towards a History of the National-Popular in Bolivia to investigate social diversity in colonial and neocolonial situations. Zavaleta’s confronted the question of respecting diversity in the analysis of social reality in the twentieth century not only in terms of mere inclusion and exclusion but, as Luis Tapia point out, in terms of a "motley" social situation. 

Luis Tapia Mealla is a political theorist and director of the Multidisciplinary Doctoral Program in Developmental Sciences (CIDES) at the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés in La Paz, Bolivia and the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México in Mexico City. Tapia’s presentation will offer an initial approach to the new English translations of two key works published in the Elsewhere Texts series edited by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak and Hosam Aboul-Ela: René Zavaleta Mercado, Towards a History of the National-Popular in Bolivia, 1879-1980, Calcutta: Seagull, 2016. & Luis Tapia Mealla, The Production of Local Knowledge: History and Politics in the Work of René Zavaleta Mercado, Calcutta: Seagull, 2022.

April 25 at 2pm PST The Reality of Suspicion: On Blumenberg, Felski, and Bottomless Critique with Karen Feldman, UC Berkeley

Rita Felski argues in The Limits of Critique (2015), and indebted to Eve Sedgwick’s “Paranoid Reading” (2003), that the hermeneutics of suspicion and the practice of critique that comes out of it hold a “relentless grip” on literary studies, to the detriment of other possible activities and goals. Felski describes the pleasures of suspicious critique—for instance triumph, “smartness”, and self-satisfaction. This paper examines Felski’s post-critique plaidoyers, and her catalogue of the affects of critique, with an approach based on Blumenberg’s treatments of reality in “The concept of reality and the possibility of the novel” (1964) and elsewhere. Drawing on Freud, Blumenberg describes a modern concept of reality as “what resists our grasp”, a successor to a concept of reality as what is secured by a guarantee. Taking a cue from Blumenberg’s history of the concept of reality, I ask what is the particular “guaranteed” reality that literary studies has lost—both as a form of research and as an institutional undertaking—that results in an ethos and practice of pursuing and unmasking a reality that resists us, a disciplinary compulsion to restless suspicion; and why do the affects and practices of self-satisfaction, triumph, and moralizing belong to the currency of critique?

Karen S. Feldman is author of Arts of Connection: Poetry, History, Epochality (De Gruyter, 2019) and Binding Words: Conscience and Rhetoric in Hobbes, Hegel, and Heidegger (Northwestern UP, 2007); and co-editor (with Gilad Sharvit) of Violent Origins: Freud, Moses, Religion (Fordham UP, 2018), and of Continental Philosophy: An Anthology. Blackwell 1998).

May 2 at 2pm PST The Predicament of Islamic Decoloniality in Turkey: Sufi Political Thought and the “Great East” Project of Necip Fazıl Kısakürek with Alev Çinar, Bilkent University

*This talk is co-sponsored by the Center for the Middle East and North Africa (CMENA)*

After winning its battle against the occupying colonial powers during The War of Independence in 1919-1922, Turkey set on a secular, Westernizationist path toward modernization under Mustafa Kemal’s leadership. Turkey spent what can be referred to as its postcolonial period under its founding ideology, Kemalism, which launched a West-oriented secular modernization project that framed the Ottoman system and Islam as inferior, backward, and uncivilized. First forms of what I refer to as “Islamic decolonial thought,” or Islamic decoloniality, emerged against this backdrop in the 1950s, which later developed into a collection of diverse intellectual movements constituting the current Islamic intellectual field (IIF) in Turkey. Islamic decoloniality, which is a constitutive feature of this field, refers to the desire to break what is perceived as the hegemony of European intellectual paradigms, as well as the Kemalist project that has been termed as “self-colonization” by some of the Muslim intellectuals, and establish in their place alternative Islam-based systems of thought and knowledge. This study examines the Sufi-based political thought of Turkish Muslim poet and writer Necip Fazıl Kısakürek (1904-1983) as one of the pioneers of Islamic decolonial thought in Turkey. Necip Fazıl, who is current President Erdogan’s main ideological inspiration, was the founder and lead writer of the The Great East (Büyük Doğu) journal published in 1943-1978, which is considered to be Turkey’s first Islam-based political journal that was instrumental in inspiring numerous political and intellectual movements currently active in the IIF. This study demonstrates that Necip Fazıl’s work has been one of the first attempts in establishing an Islam-based decolonial intellectual paradigm and a political project that stands as an alternative to Eurocentric knowledge systems and modes of modernity. Necip Fazıl referred to this political project as “The Great East Revolution,” which sought to establish a totalitarian Sufi (Naqshbandi)-based political system that was introduced in The Great East journal and developed further in his book, Western Thought and Sufi Islam (1982), which provides a critical commentary on key names of Western thought from a Sufi perspective. Based on the analysis of these sources, I argue that while Necip Fazıl builds his thought on the emancipatory promise of decoloniality, his attempts to establish an Islam-based alternative intellectual paradigm reproduces the hegemony that it seeks to overthrow by offering in its place a totalitarian system that will suppress or eliminate rival Islamic as well as secular movements.

Alev Çınar is Professor of Political Science at Bilkent University, Turkey. She received her BA
in Psychology and MA in Sociology from Bogazici University, and her PhD in Political Science
from the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of Modernity, Islam and Secularism in
Turkey: Bodies Places and Time (2005); co-editor of Urban Imaginaries: Locating the Modern
City (2007), and of Visualizing Secularism and Religion: Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, India (2012).
Her articles have appeared in journals such as Comparative Studies in Society and History;
International Journal of Middle East StudiesTheory, Culture and SocietyTheory & Society;
and Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society. She has received various awards and grants
from different institutions including Fulbright, Ford Foundation, Social Science Research
Council, Mellon Foundation, United States Institute of Peace, and Institute for Advanced Study
membership, Turkish Tubitak Research Grant, a Distinguished Teacher Award from Bilkent
University, and the Boğaziçi University, Üstün Ergüder Research Award in Political Science.
Her research interests include the intellectual foundations of politics; Islamic thought; political
Islam; state-building and nationhood; modernity and decoloniality; gender and patriarchal
statehood; nation-building, modernity, gender, urban space, secularism, and Islam in Turkey. She
is currently conducting a research project titled “The Islamic Intellectual Field and Political
Theorizing in Turkey,” under an EU-H2020, MSCA-Global Fellowship (2021-2024) at Stanford

 May 16 at 2pm PST Anarchafeminism with Chiara Bottici, The New School

How can we be sure the oppressed do not become oppressors in their turn? How to put forward a call for a feminist position that does not turn the latter into yet another tool for oppression, or, even worst, white privilege? It has become something of a commonplace to argue that, in order to fight the subjugation of women, it is necessary to adopt a broad understanding of the more general mechanisms of domination, namely one that unpacks the ways in which different forms of oppression intersect with one another. Yet, strikingly enough, in the contemporary literature, there is hardly any mention of a particular feminist tradition of the past that has been claiming exactly the same point for a very long time: anarchist feminism, or we prefer to call it, “anarchafeminism.” This talk proposes a distinct “anarchafeminist” philosophy that is inspired by that tradition in as far as it combines two major claims: that there is something specific in the oppression of the “second sexes” (women, LGBTQ+, two spirit people), and that, in order to fight that oppression, we need to concomitantly untangle all the other forms of oppression and the house of domination they inhabit. In doing so, we will conclude that an anarchafeminist philosophy generates a form of ecofeminism as queer ecology.

Chiara Bottici is an Italian philosopher. She is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Co-founder of the Gender and Sexualities Studies Institute at the New School. She is the author, among others, of Imaginal Politics: Images beyond Imagination and The Imaginary (Columbia University Press 2014), Anarchafeminism and A Feminist Mythology (Bloomsbury 2022). Her Anarchafeminism has been translated into Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and French.

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