Negation

deadline for submissions: 
November 30, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
Brown University Department of German Studies
contact email: 

Negation | Call for papers
Graduate student conference, dept. of German Studies, Brown University | Feb. 17 & 18, 2023 | in person

What “no” does, is not nothing. This proposition implies that we have understood what it is to say no, that its effects are predictable, and that it is involved with “doing,” with “being,” and with “things.” It also asks us to answer the question: what is “not-no,” and what is “yes”? Negation is not only not- positing, but, depending on the thinker, it is the engine of history, the enigma of the will, the guarantor or violator of being, the weapon of oppression, the foothold of theology, the urgent task of language.

We may provisionally qualify negation as abstraction from what is, or that which undoes any premise, posited thing, circumstance, or condition of existence. Yet we must also ask: can negation only be negatively given – what it is not, what it does not do – or can it itself be posited? can it avoid positing what it, in semblance, negates? That is to say: is negation contrary to position?

Further questions for exploration might include:

  • –  What kinds of negation are there, and what, if anything, keeps them apart?

  • –  What can negation do and undo? and what remains in the space of its ne plus ultra?

  • –  What is non-being? Does it have being?

  • –  Is there a ‘not’ that does not posit? (Or: a ‘not’ that posits ‘not’ not?)

  • –  What kind of thing is nothing?

  • –  In light of the Kantian separation between nihil privativum and nihil negativum, what kinds of

    negation might, or might not, participate in what is?

  • –  ¬¬P⇒P?

  • –  What incisions do the smallest blades make – no, not, never, none, non-, -less, un-, a-, anti-,

    dis-, in-, s-, k-, é- – ?

  • –  What is the relation between negativity and difference? (sexual, racial, special, essential)

  • –  What may be, beyond and before the letter, the negative relation between the apophantic and

    apophatic?

  • –  The question of negative theology, especially in its effects on the Bonaventurian itinerary – the

    question, in other words, of the wayless way, “non”-way, or Holzweg.

We invite papers that specifically detail how negation appears in works of literature, other media, or thought. Annihilation, removal, join, subsumption, substraction, disappearance, oblivion, forgetting, and stubbornness are zones of special interest.

Writing often under a certain threat of negation, whether from inside or from without, the following writers, among many others, offer possible sites of citation that challenge and invite negation’s problems (and non-problems – or better, what has not yet been posited as “problem”): S. Beckett, G. Bruno, P. Celan, Duns Scotus, Eckhart, Hegel, Heidegger, Kant, Kristeva, Lacan, C. Lispector, A. Lorde, Marx, J.-L. Nancy, Nietzsche, J. Ortega y Gasset, Parmenides, Philo, Plato, Pseudo-Dionysius, Shakespeare, S. Sontag, M. de Unamuno, S. Weil, and U. Zürn.

Please send brief abstracts (250 words) to negation@brown.edu, along with a few lines of biography, by 30 November. Organized by Simon Horn, Ethan Lussky, and Jasmin Meier.