Faculty of Performance, Visual Arts & Communications

CentreCATH

Seminar Series 2


In this section:

Seminar Series 2.1

Concentrationary Imaginaries

Reading and screening

Wednesdays
30 September – 9 December 2009 h. 5.00-7.00pm
Parkinson B.11

Concentrationary Memories is a four-year research project funded by the AHRC and directed by Griselda Pollock and Max Silverman. The project has two main foci: one concerns the strategic creation of an aesthetics of resistance through the representation the concentrationary universe in the immediate aftermath of the revelations and analyses of the concentrationary system as a central instrument of totalitarian terror and as realization of a radical novelty in political systems. Not ignoring the exterminatory as the extremity within this system, the insistence on the concentrationary was intended to be inclusive of the vast regularity of concentration camps within the German state as well as beyond in the expanded Reich. In the second part of the project, we aim to explore the hypothesis, that far from being contained within monitory memorialisation, the concentrationary has seeped into the cultural imaginary in ways that have yet to be tracked. There are obvious signs of a fascination with aspects of fascism that run from movies about the SS like The Night Porter through to contemporary such as for instance the Chapman Brothers’ highly contentious Hell. There are also ways in which science fiction films have absorbed the concentrationary imaginary as the narrative premise – Star Wars imagines a futuristic empire or even Lord of the Rings might be read in this light. We might consider aspects of the concentrationary at play in video games. The concept of the imaginary addresses both fantasy in general and the specific psychoanalytical elaboration of the Sartrean term which opens onto both ideological analysis and further work using psychoanalytical tools. The foundational texts for both aspects of the project are those by Hannah Arendt and the political philosophers she in turn influenced or enraged. Thus the seminar will be transdisciplinary. The seminar explores the specifics of fascist aesthetics, as well as the more dispersed and less recognizable, and self-evident signs of a seepage, dissemination, normalisation of the terms of the concentrationary through the forms of the cultural imaginaries in immediate post-war and contemporary cultural forms. Questions of the relations between technologies, ideologies and the totalitarian will be examined.

To support the research we shall be running two seminars on this theme. The first seminar (October- December 2009) will be a series in seminars, screenings with readings in order to plot out an initial theoretical vocabulary for understanding the concept of a concentrationary imaginary. The second seminar, Jan-Dec 2010, will involve specially commissioned papers delivered by a series of invited speakers and will culminate in a conference on the topic of the political and psychoanalytical reading of concentrationary imaginaries in culture since 1945. This will take place in January 2011.

Part 1 What is the Imaginary?

30 September 2009
Image and Imagination
Jean-Paul Sartre L’Imaginaire/ The Imaginary [1940].

7 October 2009
Psychoanalytical theses on the Imaginary
Jacques Lacan ‘The Mirror Stage as formative of the function of the I.'[1949] Ecrits 1966/1977.
Frederic Jameson, ‘Imaginary and Symbolic in Lacan’, Yale French Studies, 55/56 (1978).
Christian Metz, The Imaginary Signifier: Cinema and Psychoanalysis (1980).

9 October 2009
Screening
Jean-Luc Godard, Histoire(s) du Cinma, 288 Min.

21 October 2009
The Social Imaginary
Cornelius Castoriadis, The Imaginary Institution of Society [1975].
Marxist who became a member of Lacan’s EFP, Castoriadis developed a social theory based on psychoanalysis and the social role of heteronomous imaginaries.

28 October 2009
The Political Imaginary
Hannah Arendt’s theses on the structures of totalitarianism and the banality of evil: thoughtlessness and the denaturing of the human.

Part 2 The Fascination of Fascism

One of the themes of the critical literature is the cultural failure to resist the seductions of the aesthetics of fascism. While fascism is not synonymous with totalitarianism as a mode of political terror and dehumanization, its aesthetics may have been a major form of both post-war nostalgia as well as a means for critical artists and theorists to decry the seepage of the fascist imaginary into culture.

4 November 2009
Screening
Liliana Cavani, The Night Porter (1974), 118 min.

11 November 2009
Fascinating Fascism I
Discussion of Cavani’s The Night Porter.

18 November 2009
Fascinating Fascism II
NB Old Mining 2.06A
Susan Sontag ‘Fascinating Fascism’ [1975], reprinted in Under the Sign of Saturn(New York, 1980).

25 November 2009
Fascinating Fascism III
Saul Friedlander, Reflections of Nazism: An Essay on Kitsch and Death (Bloomington, 1993).

2 December 2009
Fascism Within
Gillian Rose ‘The Beginnings of the Day: Fascism and Representation’, in Mourning Becomes the Law: Philosophy and Representation (Cambridge University Press, 1996).

9 December 2009
The Sociological Critique
Paul Gilroy, Between Camps: Nation, Culture and the Allure of Race (Allen Lane, 2000). Zygmunt Bauman, Wasted Lives (Polity, 2003).

Seminar Series 2.2

Concentrationary Imaginaries

Wednesdays 4.30 – 6.30pm
Old Mining Building SR 2.06/Parkinson Building SR 1.08
Seminar Schedule

Concentrationary Imaginaries forms the second axis of this research project on the politics of representation in the aftermath of the novel event of totalitarianism and its key locus of terror: the concentration camp. This axis asks the questions: how and to what extent has the concentrationary seeped into post-war culture? Is there a concentrationary imaginary, akin to the colonial imaginary, at work across cultural forms from cinema to video games? What would be the signs of this infiltration? What are the critical issues for cultural analysis arising from identifying a concentrationary dimension in the contemporary cultural imagination?

Far from being a distant and buried horror, the totalitarian experiment, realized during the twentieth century in Hilterian and Stalinist sites, has certainly been reactivated in other political moments and locations from Eastern Europe to Latin America and South-East Asia. This research project is aiming to examine the cultural traces of the concentrationary universe in the ways cultural practices image, imagine and, following Lacanian concepts of the imaginary, live fantasy relations to real conditions. To what extent can we attribute the violence of modern cultural representation in cinema and video games to alterations to our imaginations, and transgressions of previous limits of what could be imagined because they were really enacted, that result from the concentrationary realities of the mid-twentieth century? How have those circulating images of that atrocity shaped the possibilities of the ways in which cultural practices now imagine and represent the body, imagine and represent death, imagine and represent pain, tolerate extreme degrees of violence and violation?

A second set of questions address the issues of the camp itself: refugee camps, detention camps for asylum seekers, or unwanted economic migrants, and equally fortified enclosures for the privileged who set themselves apart from modern inner cities. The camp can also be metaphorical, a way of seeing ourselves, enclosing others or ourselves, creating divisions, confinements that also bear the marks of creating conditions of ‘bare life’ in the harsh cruelties of uncontested capitalism and the effects of climate change affecting vulnerable populations. The concentrationary was a form of political terror, suspending law, creating a supra-legal zone beyond the realm of any rights. Is such a zone a premise for cultural narratives in science fiction or popular entertainment? It was also extended as an instrument of extreme racism. How do we understand the interplay of the spatial politics of that moment of European racism and the present spatial politics around racialised, ethnicised, difference?

This project aims to create conversations between the arts and humanities and the social sciences: politics, sociology, cultural theory in its broadest sense. It seeks to ask difficult questions of great urgency. Theory as much as art is a form of representation and there is an urgent need for a political discussion of many strands, themes, and tendencies in contemporary representations that may, unacknowledged and underanalyzed, index the long shadow and deep imprint of the concentrationary catastrophe in modernity and its aftermath.

This seminar series follows on from the 2009 autumn series during which we focussed on a series of readings and screenings including Jean-Luc Godard’s Histoire(s) du Cinma and Liliana Cavani’s The Night Porter. Did cinema miss the concentrationary, fail in its moral obligation to look at this space, and not only to document it? How has cinema represented fascism as the aesthetic and ethos that emerged out of the concentrationary as its fascinating and dangerous cultural face? What are the aesthetic features of fascism in its re-appearance as an object of fascination: the fascination of fascism as Sontag defined it? How does fascist culture articulate kitsch and death? What are then the politics of cultural representation in terms of creating a critical practice and a critical theoretical resource for the analysis of what is not ‘politically’ alert to the menace of this twentieth century event.

Through invited speakers and preparatory sessions, this second series of seminars aims to generate discussion of these topics leading up to a conference on Imaginaries of Violence which will take place at the University of Leeds in January 2011.

Seminar Schedule

27 January 2010
Old Mining Building, SR 2.06

Introductory Reading:
Paul Gilroy Between Camps: Nations, Cultures and the Allure of Race(2000). NB. In May Prof Gilroy will lecture and lead a seminar in person at the University of Leeds.

10 February 2010
Old Mining Building, SR 2.06

Preparatory readings for Aaron Kerner’s Lecture:
Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, “Juliette or Enlightenment and Morality,” in Dialectic of Enlightenment, trans. John Cumming (New York: Continuum, 1996), 81- 119.
Slavoj Zizek, “Kant with (or against) Sade,” in Elizabeth Wright and Edmond Wright eds. The Zizek Reader (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1999), 284 – 301

17 February 2010
Parkinson Building Lecture Room 1.08

Guest lecture:
Aaron Kerner (San Francisco State University) Wrap me up in sadist knot .

24 February 2010
Old Mining Building, SR 2.06

Reading of: Jacques Rancire ‘Is there anything unrepresentable?’
from The Future of the Image(Verso, 2008)

10 March 2010
Old Mining Building, SR 2.06

Preparatory Reading of Kriss Ravetto The Unmaking of Fascist Aesthetics, (University of Minnesota Press, 2001)

17 March 2010
Parkinson Building Lecture Room 1.08

Guest lecture:
Kriss Ravetto-Biagioli (University of Edinburgh)
Imaging the Holocaust: Postmemory and Affect of Trauma

21 April 2010
Parkinson Building Lecture Room 1.08

Guest lecture:
Prof. Zygmunt Bauman (University of Leeds)
Discussion of his book Wasted Lives: Modernity and its Outcasts, (Polity Press, 2004)

28 April 2010
Parkinson Building Lecture Room 1.08

Guest lecture:
Rowland Atkinson (York University)
Inside the Murder Box: Social Extremity and Interactive Videogaming

Two day seminar & lecture:
Paul Gilroy (London School of Economics)
Two day seminar focussing on his book Between Camps: Nations, Cultures an the Allure of Race (Routledge, 2000)

13 May 2010
Roger Stevens LT 16 (12.16)

Time TBC

14 May 2010
Blenheim Terrace SR (1.17) House No. 11-14

Time TBC

Seminar Series 2.3

Concentrationary Imaginaries

Seminar Schedule

Concentrationary Imaginaries forms the second axis of this research project on the politics of representation in the aftermath of the novel event of totalitarianism and its key locus of terror: the concentration camp. This axis asks the questions: how and to what extent has the concentrationary seeped into post-war culture? Is there a concentrationary imaginary, akin to the colonial imaginary, at work across cultural forms from cinema to video games? What would be the signs of this infiltration? What are the critical issues for cultural analysis arising from identifying a concentrationary dimension in the contemporary cultural imagination?

Far from being a distant and buried horror, the totalitarian experiment, realized during the twentieth century in Hilterian and Stalinist sites, has certainly been reactivated in other political moments and locations from Eastern Europe to Latin America and South-East Asia. This research project is aiming to examine the cultural traces of the concentrationary universe in the ways cultural practices image, imagine and, following Lacanian concepts of the imaginary, live fantasy relations to real conditions. To what extent can we attribute the violence of modern cultural representation in cinema and video games to alterations to our imaginations, and transgressions of previous limits of what could be imagined because they were really enacted, that result from the concentrationary realities of the mid-twentieth century? How have those circulating images of that atrocity shaped the possibilities of the ways in which cultural practices now imagine and represent the body, imagine and represent death, imagine and represent pain, tolerate extreme degrees of violence and violation?

A second set of questions address the issues of the camp itself: refugee camps, detention camps for asylum seekers, or unwanted economic migrants, and equally fortified enclosures for the privileged who set themselves apart from modern inner cities. The camp can also be metaphorical, a way of seeing ourselves, enclosing others or ourselves, creating divisions, confinements that also bear the marks of creating conditions of ‘bare life’ in the harsh cruelties of uncontested capitalism and the effects of climate change affecting vulnerable populations. The concentrationary was a form of political terror, suspending law, creating a supra-legal zone beyond the realm of any rights. Is such a zone a premise for cultural narratives in science fiction or popular entertainment? It was also extended as an instrument of extreme racism. How do we understand the interplay of the spatial politics of that moment of European racism and the present spatial politics around racialised, ethnicised, difference?

This project aims to create conversations between the arts and humanities and the social sciences: politics, sociology, cultural theory in its broadest sense. It seeks to ask difficult questions of great urgency. Theory as much as art is a form of representation and there is an urgent need for a political discussion of many strands, themes, and tendencies in contemporary representations that may, unacknowledged and underanalyzed, index the long shadow and deep imprint of the concentrationary catastrophe in modernity and its aftermath.

This seminar series follows on from the 2009 autumn series during which we focussed on a series of readings and screenings including Jean–Luc Godard’s Histoire(s) du Cinéma and Liliana Cavani’s The Night Porter. Did cinema miss the concentrationary, fail in its moral obligation to look at this space, and not only to document it? How has cinema represented fascism as the aesthetic and ethos that emerged out of the concentrationary as its fascinating and dangerous cultural face? What are the aesthetic features of fascism in its re-appearance as an object of fascination: the fascination of fascism as Sontag defined it? How does fascist culture articulate kitsch and death? What are then the politics of cultural representation in terms of creating a critical practice and a critical theoretical resource for the analysis of what is not ‘politically’ alert to the menace of this twentieth century event.

Through invited speakers and preparatory sessions, this second series of seminars aims to generate discussion of these topics leading up to a conference on Concentrationary Imaginaries/ Imaginaries of Violence in Contemporary Cultures and Cultural Forms, which will take place at the University of Leeds in April 2011.

Wednesday 6 October 2010
16.00-18.00 Chemistry LT A (2.15)

Zygmunt Bauman (Leeds) Why do good people do evil?

Wednesday 13 October 2010
16.00-18.00 Michael Sadler SR (LG.15)

Screening: The Specialist (Director: Eyal Sivan, 1999)

Wednesday 20 October 2010
16.00-18.00 Michael Sadler SR (LG.15)

David Cesarani (Royal Holloway, London) Challenging the ‘myth of silence’. A new look at postwar responses to the destruction of European Jewry.

Wednesday 27 October 2010
Michael Sadler SR (LG.15)15.00-18.00

Adrian Rifkin (Goldsmiths) and Eyal Sivan (UEL)
Archaeology of the Document in the work of Alain Resnais before and around Nuit et Brouillard/Night and Fog.

Friday 26 November 2010
9.30-6.30 Chemistry West Block LT E (G.76)

Paul Gilroy (LSE)
Day Seminar on
Paul Gilroy Between the Camps: Nations, Cultures and the Allure of Race (2000)
No fee will be charged, but please book by email: conmem@leeds.ac.uk

Thursday 16 December 2010
9.30-6.00 Clothworkers North Building LT (Cinema) (2.31)

Day Symposium on Chris Marker
Sarah Cooper, Carol Mavor, Jon Kear, Marcel Swiboda
Screening Day Wednesday 15 December

Les Statues Meurent Aussi 30’ (France, 1953) / Nuit et Brouillard 32’ (France, 1955) / La Jetée 28’ (France, 1962) / Sans Soleil 100’ (France, 1983) / The Last Bolchevik 120’ (France, 1993)

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