From 2017 to 2020 the International Consortium for Critical Theory Programs held a conference cycle during phase I of the Mellon grant. The conferences included nine meetings focused on “the critical task of the university,” a conference theme on its own, each of which took up a specific critical task: the critique of contemporary forms of violence; critical memory studies (the political sense of time, focusing on transitions and aftermaths in the wake of unjust regimes and violent conflict, but also on conceiving futurity); and populism and democracy (is populism an uncritical political position? What role does it play in critical and democratic theory?). We believe the listed topics call for contemporary critical reflection, posing the question of whether our existing frameworks and vocabularies can grasp the contemporary global conditions we most need to think about and, if not, how to develop the vocabularies that can. Cross-regional reflection is but one critical task of the contemporary university as it seeks to promote and model a thoughtful engagement with the global environment. The aim of this initiative was both to delineate that task and support its enactment.
The first conference, “The Critical Tasks of the University,” was held in Bologna, Italy in June 2017 in conjunction with the Academy of Global Humanities and Critical Theory at the University of Bologna. Another conference dedicated to the theme of “Critiques of Contemporary Violence” and took place in Rijeka, Croatia in June 2018. It focused on contemporary forms of violence and what form a critique of violence can now take, focusing on state and non-state forms of violence, and the politics of non-violence. Two conferences focused on “Populism and Democracy,” taking place in São Paulo, Brazil, and Brighton, UK, bringing together scholars from Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East to address the relation between populism, the popular will, popular movements, and democracy. Two conferences which took place in Johannesburg, South Africa and Buenos Aires, Argentina were dedicated to new directions in the field of critical memory studies with a focus on how to narrate the transition from regimes of violence to democracy. Scholars working on the aftermath of slavery, apartheid, dictatorship, and war convened to consider the political problem of time raised by such transitions. The final conference, on the theme of dissent, was originally scheduled to take place in Barcelona, Spain in May 2020 and has been postponed.
This page provides the descriptions and programs of the past conferences as a resource for the Consortium’s network.