The LGs is pleased to announce a new collaboration with the University of London Institute in Paris. This will take the form of a series of one-day events in the first instance, held at ULIP’s Paris headquarters.
ULIP is lead by Professor Andrew Hussey, who has written books on Georges Bataille, Guy Debord and the history of Paris. He has also published articles on Zinédine Zidane, Michel Houellebecq, the Heysel tragedy, Isidore Isou, Ségolène Royal, Mark E Smith, anti-semitism in the Parisian banlieue and terrorism in North Africa. Professor Hussey’s biography of Guy Debord was chosen by Julian Barnes as ‘International Book of the Year’ in the Times Literary Supplement 2001. His book on Paris was described by Peter Ackroyd as ‘masterly’ and as ‘a magnificent achievement’ by the New York Times. In France, this book was shortlisted for the Prix Grandgousier and has been praised in the pages of Le Monde des Livres, Le Nouvel Observateur and L’Humanité. Professor Hussey has also recently written and presented a 90-minute film called ‘France on a Plate’ for BBC 4 (2009). He writes regularly for the Observer and Guardian newspapers and contributes a monthly column on European Literature for the New Statesman, as well as serving as a Contributing Editor to the prestigious literary journal Granta.
This collaboration aims to be transformative. We will innovate with the conventional format of academic symposia, by bringing together leading researchers and practitioners in critical and cultural theory with a variety of other stakeholders, including artists, filmmakers, writers and journalists, as well as those in political and institutional roles germane to the fields of enquiry that we wish to tackle. We plan to identify a research programme that might include symposia, conferences and other cultural events, as well as the production of research outputs in a number of formats.
Participants in the events we plan to hold will aim to stage a number of productive and highly-charged encounters between different and contrasting materials. These will include canonical and lesser known texts in the French tradition, a variety of cultural artefacts (film, journalism, photography, new media) and other data and resources drawn from the fields of social and cultural research. Our objective is to foster a powerful critical engagement with some of the most pressing topics for arts, humanities and social sciences enquiry, notably around questions of linguistic and cultural identity, social and political practice and space, and the changing technologies of communication (and representation), put into question in the context of French-speaking communities. The focus here will be to trace out French thought at its limits today, looking at an entire force-field of phenomena (cultural, political, institutional, economic, and media-based) which might provoke not only potent rediscoveries but also, perhaps, violent ruptures within the received body of French thought.
The tradition of French thought, of course, encounters itself at more than one limit. First of all, we would like to ask: What are the challenges presented to the corpus of French thought by the new contingencies and complex materialities of the twenty-first century, for which there is as yet no satisfactory theoretical framework, nor for that matter any adequate form of critical praxis or engagement (is the latter even needed, or is the notion itself open to historical and theoretical critique)? Second, we would like to interrogate the borders of French thought in the context of an unstable, decentred “Frenchness” made up of disparate and displaced communities and affiliations across the globe. How do newly emerging forms of social and political practice, new forms of social movement, new cultural and economic relationships, and new techniques and types of communication impact upon the legacies of French philosophical culture—indeed, “French” culture itself—and how best to respond to such challenges for those who inherit its legacies?
The collaboration will be inaugurated by a closed seminar, provisionally titled French Thought at its Limits: Violence, Culture, Reason. This first day-long event will explore these strands of enquiry in a number of specific contexts: “French” Islam, “French” North Africa, “French” penal and disciplinary practices. It will put back into question an initial selection of texts from the legacy of twentieth-century French thought (eg., Bataille on Islam, Foucault on Iran, Deleuze and Foucault on French prisons), provocatively placing them alongside more recent cultural forms (notably Jacques Audiard’s 2009 film, Un Prophète) in order to sharpen key research questions and themes for the series to work upon and develop in future.