Extended Deadline: Cultural Studies and the Challenge of the New Right
Cultural Studies and the Challenge of the New Right
Workshop, Leipzig University, 13-14 January 2017
Europe and North America are currently witnessing dramatic shifts in the existing balance of power. Whether the AfD and Pegida in Germany, the French Front National, the FPÖ in Austria, the Dutch PVV, Fidesz and PiS, which have already come to power in Hungary and Poland respectively, Donald Trump in the US, and similar parties and movements in Switzerland, the UK, Sweden, Denmark, Italy and elsewhere – while these groups and developments are by no means identical, it is nevertheless obvious that in many places today, national-conservative forces are on the rise and ever more forcefully – and successfully – making a bid for power. A new ‘international from the right’ (DIE ZEIT, 25 May) seems to be emerging.
If Cultural Studies is not just an academic discipline but, as Stuart Hall claimed it should be, a political project, and, moreover, one addressing the most pressing problems of a given conjuncture, then the question arises as to what contribution it can make to tackling the contemporary challenge of the new right. In fact, in certain regards, Cultural Studies are today confronted with a situation not unlike the one Hall and others found themselves in in the late 70s and early 80s, when Thatcher (as well as Reagan, Kohl, etc.) came to power: once again, the context for the emergence of a counter-hegemonic project from the right is an organic crisis, i.e. a profound dislocation of the existing social formation; once again, there is a distinct right-wing populism manufacturing consent and attempting to remake the common sense, which opposes the ‘people’ to the ‘power bloc’, and again, this populism is mobilized to win support for the erection of a statist authoritarianism; once again, a number of discourses are being reworked so that various elements are resignified and/or rearticulated into new chains of equivalence; like Thatcher’s, so the contemporary right is successful in part because it manages to address the lived problems, experiences and contradictions particularly of the socially disadvantaged and marginalized in such a way as to articulate their desires and aspirations to its own project; once again, what Hall in 1980 termed the ‘question of democracy’ is today one of the principal sites and stakes of the struggle (cf. e.g. Viktor Orbán’s vision of an ‘illiberal democracy’); and, as in the 80s, the left today seems alarmingly paralyzed in the face of both, the general crisis of hegemony and the problems that urgently need to be addressed and of the challenge presented by the new right in particular.
It seems to us that if Cultural Studies wants to maintain its claim for social relevance, it should intervene in this situation. What contribution, with its various theoretical approaches and methodologies (the theory of hegemony, discourse analysis, semiotics and the study of representations, theories of identity and subjectivation, etc.), and its unique way of addressing questions of the political by always linking culture with power, can Cultural Studies make to the analysis of and struggle against the new international authoritarian movement? This is the topic we want to address with our workshop. It is therefore less intended as an academic conference in the traditional sense (there will, for instance, be no keynote lectures, no expensive dinners and no elaborate social program) than as a rather informal political intervention. In line with this, we invite contributions that need not necessarily be fully ‘rounded’ and ‘finished’ scientific pieces, but can very well be of a fragmentary, ‘work/thought-in-progress’ type. In this vein, besides the traditional 20-minute slots, there will also be room for shorter, 5 to 10-minute ‘impulse talks’.
In this manner, we hope to be able to foster a productive and creative atmosphere for discussions concerning the challenge of the new right and, potentially, the project of Cultural Studies more generally, which, as Lawrence Grossberg has claimed, needs to be woken out of its ‘dogmatic slumber’.
We heartily welcome anyone interested in participating in the debate! To register, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org by 1 December (there will be no fee). If you want to share your thoughts in the form of a talk, please send a few lines indicating what you will be talking about to the same email-address by 1 November.
There will be the opportunity to publish your intervention in a thematic special issue of the new online-journal Coils of the Serpent: Journal for the Study of Contemporary Power, which will be launched in the fall.