In Theory: Seminars at Open School East

In Theory: CCSR at Open School East

The Centre for Cultural Studies Research is a research centre in the School of Arts & Digital Industries at the University of East London. Members of CCSR are all active researchers engaged in exploring the politics of contemporary culture. In Theory is a series of seminars and workshops designed to offer OSE associates and the general public the chance to engage in debates about art, cultural theory, popular culture and social change. Come along for a lively exchange of ideas and the opportunity to develop your understanding of the relationship between critical theory and culture.

Programme 2015

All lectures and seminars 6.30 – 8.30pm

Thursday, April 16 – Stephen Maddison (UEL/CCSR): Softer, Metrosexual or Sissy: How Do You Fancy Your Masculinity?

How do we understand masculinity now? Is homophobia really declining, and if so, what effects has this had on so-called traditional or hegemonic masculinity? Are men getting softer? Or just more willing to spend money on what has traditionally been seen as the female realm of fashion and beauty? In this session we will be considering the political implications of recent influential theories of masculinity in the post-queer moment

Dr Stephen Maddison is a Reader in Cultural Theory at the University of East London and co-director of CCSR. He is the author of Fags, Hags & Queer Sisters (Palgrave, 2000) and has published widely on the politics of pornography, queer theory and masculinity.

Thursday, May 7 – Ashwani Sharma (UEL/CCSR) The Sublime Time of Race: Rethinking Black History and Contemporary Film  

In a neoliberal capitalist context of ‘no future’ and the ‘end of history’, where utopian futures are near impossible to imagine, questions of temporality, memory and history have emerged as sites of cultural and political struggle. This is particularly the case for black and postcolonial histories entangled in a commodity (multi)culture driven by ‘atemporal’ fantasies of ‘post-race’.

The seminar by focusing on recent black cinema – from popular films such as 12 Years a Slave and Selma to independent productions like John Akomfrah’s The Nine Muses – examines the aesthetics and politics of race and time. In a contemporary digital media environment obsessed by archives, cultural memory and nostalgia, the session asks what past, present and future do these films offer? How is black history represented? Is the future always to be haunted by the traumas of the racial past?

Ashwani Sharma is a Principal Lecturer in Media and Cultural Studies, University of East London and co-editor of darkmatter journal ( He is the co-editor of Dis-Orienting Rhythms: The Politics of the New Asian Dance Music (Zed, 1996) and has published widely in the fields of race, globalisation and postcolonial art and media. He is currently completing a book – In the Ruins of Empire: Race and Visual Culture in Global Times(Bloomsbury Academic).

Monday, May 18 – Debra Benita Shaw (UEL/CCSR), Stefan Sorgner (University of Erfurt) & David Roden (Open University): Posthuman Studies and the Arts

What does it mean to be ‘human’ in the digital age? How are the biological sciences redefining bodies and what does it have to do with culture? What will be the politics of posthumans? This session will survey the new field of ‘posthuman studies’ and its implications for popular culture and the arts.

Dr Debra Benita Shaw is a Reader in Cultural Theory at the University of East London. She is the author of Women, Science & Fiction (Palgrave, 2000) and Technoculture: The Key Concepts (Berg, 2008). Her new book Posthuman Urbanism: Mapping Bodies in Contemporary City Space will be published by Rowman & Littlefield International in 2016.

Dr Stefan Lorenz Sorgner is director and co-founder of the Beyond Humanism Network, Fellow at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET) and teaches philosophy at the University of Erfurt. His most recent publication is Post- & Transhumanism: An Introduction (Peter Lang, 2014).

Dr David Roden is a Research Affiliate at the Open University. He is the author of Singularity Hypothesis: A Scientific and Philosophical Assessment (Springer, 2013) and Posthuman Life: Philosophy at the Edge of the Human (Acumen, 2014).

Thursday, July 2 – Jeremy Gilbert (UEL/CCSR): Everything has changed but nothing has changed: cultural stasis and technological revolution.

Two observations about contemporary culture have become commonplace in recent years. On the one hand, the claim that we are living through a social revolution, driven by technological change, is virtually accepted as a truism. On the other hand, the apparent slowdown of rates of actual innovation in fields such as music and fashion is also widely observed; Simon Reynolds’ diagnosis of ‘retromania’ as the contemporary condition has been widely appreciated, for example. Can we understand both of these phenomena as symptomatic of a world in which the hegemony of Silicon Valley forces certain kinds of innovation while retarding and containing others? And what can we do about it?

Jeremy Gilbert is Professor of Cultural and Political Theory at the University of East London. He is the author of Anti-Capitalism & Culture: Radical Theory & Popular Politics (Berg, 2008) and Common Ground: Democracy & Collectivity in an Age of Individualism (Pluto, 2013). He is also editor of the journal New Formations.

Thursday, July 16 – Tim Lawrence (UEL/CCSR): Schizo-Culture and the Politics of the Downtown Scene

The downtown art and music scene of the 1970s and early 1980s rose out of New York City’s shift from an industrial to a postindustrial economy. The scene also flourished as the city headed into bankruptcy and was forced by the national Republican government to turn to the banking sector for bailout money, a development that David Harvey cites alongside the rise of Pinochet as being foundational to the rise of neoliberalism. At the time artists and musicians flocked to New York because of its cultural importance and also because it was such a cheap place to live, only for critics including Harvey and Sharon Zukin to subsequently argue that they ended up colluding in New York’s transition to a post-democratic, post-collective city. Exploring an alternative framing of cultural practice during this formative historical conjuncture, this seminar will look at the special Semiotext(e) issue dedicated to Schizo-culture, which explored the relationship between participants in the downtown scene and developing strains within post-Marxist theory that sought to map out an anti-authoritarian, fluid, pluralistic politics for the late 20th century. How might this formative debate inform current discussions about art, creativity and politics?

Tim Lawrence is a Professor of Cultural Studies in UEL’s School of Arts and Digital Industries, where he teaches music. He is the author of Love Saves the Day: A History of American Dance Music Culture, 1970-79 (Duke University Press, 2003), Hold On to Your Dreams: Arthur Russell and the Downtown Music Scene, 1973-92 (Duke University Press, 2009) and the forthcoming Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor, 1980-83 (Duke University Press).