Brains, Maps and Rhythms: Knowledge and Experience in (Bio)political Orders, 16-18 April 2014

full name / name of organization: 
Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis
contact email: 
asca-fgw@uva.nl

Geographical, political, neurological, and ontological orders shape the distribution of power, and vice versa. The 2014 ASCA international conference will bring scholars together to debate knowledge and experience as well as their mediation and formation. By that we mean both knowledge and experience of the global dispensation of power and their place and status within that dispensation.

These topics will be explored at the University of Amsterdam from the 16th to the 18th of April, 2014 in a series of lectures, readings, and discussions, in conjunction with a parallel exhibition of artwork and other creative presentations coordinated by the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis. We hereby invite any interested parties to join us, and to submit relevant work in preparation for this event.

This year’s keynote speakers are:

- John Protevi, Professor of Philosophy at Louisiana State University

- Hamid Dabashi, Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University

- (Further speakers to be announced.)

Objects of Discussion

In this request for the submission of scholarly and creative reflections on the aforementioned themes, we invite responses to two sets of questions.

The first bears on objects of knowledge and experience. How might we relate, accommodate and account for the salient historical developments unfolding around us? Which amongst these geopolitical tendencies, if any, necessitate renewed scrutiny of dominant explanatory concepts, reversion to residual approaches or to the formulation of new frames altogether?

The second, more reflexive set of questions concern the forces and structures that produce, validate and mediate knowledge and experience - the received maps and rhythms within which brains are formed and enmeshed. At one level, we would like to reflect upon the dispensation of academic knowledge in particular, especially the privilege conferred and marginality imposed upon different disciplines over time. At another, we would like to see knowledge and experience considered in a much broader social context. Indeed, we have given the formulation ‘(bio)political orders’ so as to indicate the presence and effects of political structures at the level of even self and bodily formation. Can we move towards a political phenomenology of the present - an account, that would be, of the various structures of feeling, knowing and being that prevail under contemporary capitalism? How are lived worlds constituted or mediated today, by what and to whose advantage?

The final question we should like to pose concerns our command over knowledge and experience. Over a century ago, Fichte had one of the speakers in the philosophical dialogue entitled The Vocation of Man resolve and insist that, in the face of all impediments, ‘I will know’. Should subjects today - individuals and ultimately brains themselves - be considered a privileged site of knowledge and experience, perhaps even their possessors and masters?
Brains

The brain has risen in prominence in recent decades, and is now regarded as a source of profound knowledge about human being. Indeed, perceptions and understandings of the brain enabled by new technologies have become closely associated with perceiving and understanding the human subject itself.

This cluster will host a critical discussion of the overlapping relationships between the brain, discourses about it and dispensations of power. What are the material, political and ethical ramifications of the professed ‘neurological turn’, especially as they effect the production of subjectivity and circulation of knowledge? What does this language of discursive ‘turns’ reveal or conceal about the formation, travel and perhaps erasure of knowledge in this particular case? To what extent are questions of identity and power, as well as familiar dualisms (nature and culture, body and brain, language and matter) implicated by competing neurological models?
In many respects, the current attention paid to neurology taps and focuses older and wider issues surrounding ‘the subject’, and we would like debate to extend into this fuller field. On what grounds might we distinguish between different subjects of knowledge and experience (between the surveillance state and bourgeois subject, say, or mass consumer and resurgent believer), which of these are ascendant and which are being diminished today and according to which wider socio-historical determinants?

Maps

Our reference to maps and mapping is meant both narrowly and in the more metaphorical sense of rendering intelligible, even systematising. How might we map the economic downturn in the ‘global North’, followed by coursing social unrest; the struggles of secular democratic movements in North Africa and the Middle East; the increasing inability of governments to veil state surveillance and violence; and the steady de- and re-centring of the capitalist world system to the geopolitical advantage of ‘developing’ states?
But whilst we are interested in new ways of mapping contemporary conjuncture, it is also imperative that we are alert to those received maps that serve to obfuscate or confine critical knowledge. Can we isolate maps that reproduce false consciousness, identify whose interests they serve, challenge and overcome them?

We would also like the cluster to open out onto the status of the so-called ‘spatial turn’ that spread across the humanities, often as a part of the more general discourse of ‘globalisation’. This broad shift of emphasis in intellectual culture took place three decades ago, allowing us to take some critical distance from this discourse by encouraging participants consider our thinking about space and use of spatial concepts in our work today.

Rhythms

Some scholars - perhaps in counterpoint to the ‘spatial turn’ and denigration of ‘grand narratives’ - have moved to reconsider time. Time affects everything, and we want to reflect on whether temporality is being accorded sufficient prominence in contemporary thought, and, if not, to specify some of the issues that need to be raised.

We have chosen the term ‘rhythms’ in this context as a means of grappling with the unfurling and stratification of processes over time according to certain biological, socio-cultural, political, economic and ecological dictates. We are concerned to ask how beings inhabit both, rhythms and time more generally, and how knowledge is temporally bound and structured.

Indeed, we welcome explorations of the ways in which practice - including the practice of theory - is subtended, infused and sometimes defined by specific temporalities. What can the study of rhythms and temporal patterning tell us as against linear or narrative temporal framing? How do conceptions of time shape and channel the production, distribution and consumption of knowledge? How do they shape and channel social practice more generally? Who and what produces these temporal structures, how and why are they maintained, and how might we subject them to critical scrutiny?
Submission Guidelines

You are asked to submit a proposal (max. 300 words) with a short biographical note (max. 150 words) to Dr. Eloe Kingma (Managing Director at ASCA), asca-fgw@uva.nl. The deadline for submission is October 1st 2013. If selected, you will be asked to provide a short paper (3000 words, excluding bibliography) by January 15th 2014. The papers will be distributed in a reader before the workshop, as to maximize discussion time during panels. During the sessions, participants are given 15 minutes time to pitch their argument, provide background information where necessary, and respond to their co-panellist’s papers. After this, there will be plenty of time for further discussion.

Artistic and other creative submissions are also welcome, and should also be submitted in the form of a proposal (max. 300 words) with a short biographical note (max. 150 words). These will be examined in coordination with the curators of a local exhibition space.

cfp categories: 
cultural_studies_and_historical_approaches
general_announcements
graduate_conferences
interdisciplinary
international_conferences