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DemCP colloquium - SAMIR GANDESHA (Simon Fraser University, Vancouver): "Scenes from a Traumatic History of Political Theory" (co-hosted by the Groningen School of Critical Theory)

When:We 17-03-2021 16:00 - 17:15

Samir Gandesha, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver
Scenes from a Traumatic History of Political Theory

Co-hosted by the Groningen School of Critical Theory


“Leisure,” argued Thomas Hobbes, “is the mother of philosophy.” But is this really true? The proposition seems to contradict Hobbes’ own experience. His most famous book, Leviathan, in which he portrays life within the state of nature as “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short,” was far from being a product of leisure. Leviathan was written at the conclusion of the English Civil War (1642-1651) and was deeply shaped by the fear that Hobbes himself experienced during this tumultuous period of English history. Hobbes even took direct aim at the quintessential philosophy born of leisure, which was, of course, that of Aristotle, which defines the good life as a life devoted to “quiet contemplation.” Yet even the aristocratic “pathos of distance” that apparently serves as a condition of possibility for such a philosophy is marked by a darker, unconscious and traumatic history not unlike the events that so shook Hobbes: the profoundly traumatic trial and execution of Socrates. Socrates’s students sought, therefore, to make the world safe for philosophy by denigrating politics. In my paper, I will discuss these and other scenes from a traumatic history of political theory.

About the speaker

Dr. Samir Gandesha is the Director of the Institute for the Humanities and Associate Professor in the Department of Humanities. He is the author of numerous refereed articles in top-tier journals, chapters in edited volumes, and encyclopedia entries. He is also co-editor with Lars Rensmann of Arendt and Adorno: Political and Philosophical Investigations (Stanford, 2012) and co-editor (with Johan Hartle) of Spell of Capital: Reification and Spectacle (University of Amsterdam Press, 2017) and Aesthetic Marx (Bloomsbury Press, 2017), also with Johan Hartle. More recently, he has edited Spectres of Fascism: Historical, Theoretical and International Perspectives (Pluto, 2020), and co-edited (with Peyman Vahabzadeh) Crossing Borders: Essays in Honour of Ian H. Angus, Beyond Phenomenology and Critique (Arbeiter Ring, 2020). Samir Gandesha writes regularly for popular audiences in publications such as openDemocracy, Art Papers, Canadian Dimension, Espace Art Actuel, Truthout, the Vancouver Sun, the Globe and Mail, and the Los Angeles Review of Books. In the Spring of 2017, he was the Liu Boming Visiting Scholar in Philosophy at the University of Nanjing and Visiting Lecturer at Suzhou University of Science and Technology in the People's Republic of China. In January 2019, he was a Visiting Fellow at the Hochschule für Gestaltung in Karlsruhe and, in February of the same year, Visiting Lecturer at Faculdade de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas - FFLCH-USP (Universidade de São Paulo).