Reading Catherine Malabou's Stop Thief! (ACLA 2024, March 14-17)

deadline for submissions: 
September 23, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Tyler M. Williams / American Comparative Literature Association

This seminar focuses on the recent (2022) publication of Catherine Malabou’s Au voleur!, which is slated for publication in English translation as Stop Thief! in January 2024. Contributors are invited to present 20-minute responses to Malabou’s book that consider the interdisciplinary relevance of Stop Thief! to contemporary theoretical discourse.  

Famous for elaborating the philosophical stakes of plasticity, epigenesis, and metamorphosis, all of which she marshals to carve a material passage between the empirical and the transcendental, the biological and the symbolic, the natural and the artificial, the program and the promise, Malabou’s work consistently traces the “a-teleological” formation of form. Brains that change themselves, organisms that reorganize in response to environmental changes, evaluative criteria that take shape evolutionarily — all of these instances showcase the material reality of a structure’s becoming, its transformability rather than its priority, its fashioning as originary. In Stop Thief! Malabou draws from this a-teleological materiality the political consequences only hinted at in her earlier work. By showing that philosophers in the twentieth century give the name “anarchy” (an-archē) to this “a-teleology” and yet shirk from any engagement with anarchism itself, Stop Thief! probes the nature of this evasion and the life to which it gives form. 

Contributors to this seminar are invited to converse with Stop Thief! from a variety of possible vantages, including but not limited to: (a) the history of political philosophy, spanning anarchism and right-wing libertarianism, (b) structuralist and post-structuralist continental philosophy, (c) contextualization with other areas of Malabou’s own oeuvre, and (d) extensions of the book’s theses to other areas of critical inquiry not addressed directly in the book. So that focus can be paid on the sites of passage and transformation that Stop Thief! invites, book reviews and summaries are discouraged.

The meeting of the American Comparative Literature Association (ACLA) will take place March 14-17, 2024 in Montreal. All seminars are expected to take place entirely in person with no online or hybrid options.

All paper proposals must be submitted through the ACLA website. The portal to submit paper proposals to this and other ACLA seminars opens September 1, 2023. 

Please direct all queries to Tyler M. Williams (, the seminar organizer.