deadline for submissions: 
September 21, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
contact email: 

ACLA Seminar

Forms of Survival

UCLA, Los Angeles, March 29th-April 1st, 2018



Arne Höcker, University of Colorado Boulder,

Dominik Zechner, New York University,

Contemporary forms of life are marked by a constant exposure to multiplex threats and hazards, encompassing all levels of human existence: whether we think of global warming, the persistent threat of terror, humanitarian crises and mass migration, economic insecurity, political extremism—today’s discursive landscape is characterized by an apocalyptic tone, a constant apprehension of disaster and catastrophe. In this seminar, we would like to develop the concept of “survival” as a key term for understanding this contemporary atmosphere of “high alertness” and fearful living-on the face of the abyss: under the condition of unrelenting imminence, we suggest, life turns into survival. We would like to pace out the concept of survival in terms of its multi-layeredness, carefully observing the distinctions and intersections of the different aspects of survival, accurately following their emergence and unfolding in their respective contexts and discourses. Analyzing the conceptual development and genealogy of the term from 19th-century biology up to more recent debates around bio-politics and deconstruction, we wish to outline “survival” as a threshold-concept that radically problematizes the distinction between life and death, and offers an important perspective onto the precariousness of endangered life. We plan to investigate both the phenomenological as well as the linguistic and rhetorical stakes of “survival.” Following Benjamin, Derrida, and Hamacher, we would like to probe the pertinence of “survival” as a trope the reaches beneath and beyond the phenomenal life-world. We are hopeful to launch a sustained conversation that will capture the complexity and multiplicity of survival and its various forms.


Conceptual fields and aspects we wish to engage and develop include:

Languages and narratives of catastrophe (Röggla); species survival and survival of the fittest (Darwin, Spencer); survival and trauma (Freud, Herman, Caruth); Jewish survival and the Holocaust (Rosenzweig, Arendt, Levi); the survival of art (Warburg); mortality and living-on (Scheler); translation as survival (Benjamin); language as a form of survival (Hamacher); the impossibility of death (Kafka, Blanchot); survival and writing (Derrida); bio-power and bare life (Foucault, Agamben, Esposito); vitalism and the abolition of finitude (Meillassoux, Thacker); etc.


Please submit your proposals via the ACLA portal. Abstracts must be received by 9am EST on Thursday, September 21, 2017. In the meantime, the organizers will gladly answer any questions or inquiries.