Category Archives: Past Events

Past events in events calendar

Culture, Power and Politics

Culture, Power and Politics Seminar Series

Sessions for 2018

All 6:30pm – 8:30 pm

All Sessions @ Doomed Gallery,: 65-67 Ridley Road, Dalston, London, E8 2NP

All welcome – no charge – no booking required 

All hosted and led by Jeremy Gilbert, usually with guests 

For many sessions there is some suggested reading listed, but reading it is not obligatory.

Yes, they will be recorded and podcast, but you should come anyway!
 
 

For more information about this seminar series including an extensive archive of recordings click here 

 
 
 

April 24th 2018 

#metoo / #ImWithHer: feminism, liberalism and the politics of gender

With Mandy Merck and Catherine Rottenberg

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What does Harvey Weinstein’s exposure and fall tell us about our moment? How are  gendered relations changing and what is the condition of feminism in the 21st century? What are the most useful ways of conceptualising gendered power today – is it sexism, misogyny, patriarchy or male privilege that feminism is fighting, or are they all the same thing? What has been at stake in the politicisation now, and for the historical women’s movement, of issues like sexual harassment alongside more ‘basic’ economic issues such as equal pay and access to childcare? And what are we to make of the growing tendency of centrist neoliberal politicians like Hilary Clinton appealing to liberal feminism as their main source of legitimacy?

Suggested Reading: http://www.bgu.ac.il/~rottenbe/The%20rise%20of%20neoliberal%20feminism.pdf

 
 
 

May 1st

Democracy is in the Streets: Fifty Years of 1968

With Hilary Wainwright

 

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May 1968 saw an escalation of protests and political actions by students and workers in France, leading a situation of near-revolution that lasted for several weeks and re-set the terms of political debate for a generation.

Although ‘the events of May’ are remembered as the most obvious and symbolic  expression of the revolutionary spirit in that moment, ‘May 1968’ was only one episode in an international series of events and struggles against  the bureaucratic cultures of post-war welfare capitalism and the Stalinist ‘socialism’ of the Soviet bloc, from the early 60s to the mid- 80s. This was the moment when the counterculture, student radicalism, Black Power  and a new wave or working class militancy coincided with a wave of global anti-imperial struggle and the birth of the women’s movement, the green movement and Gay Liberation.

The consequence of these struggles, their partial defeats and limited victories have been colossal: arguably the adoption of neoliberal policies by governing elites across the globe was motivated as much as anything by the need to contain their demands for radical democracy and collective freedom. On the other hand, sceptics  have argued that the counterculture and the New Left undermined working class solidarity, ultimately paving the way for a postmodern culture of narcissism, hedonism and futile identity politics.

The implications of these movements and the debates that they provoked were decisive and long-lasting  for the development of radical philosophy, political theory and cultural studies . What is the significance of this history for contemporary radicalism? And would it be accurate to say that ‘1968’ didn’t happen in Britain until 1982?…

Hilary Wainwright remembers 1968 and has been involved in radical politics since the 1960s, playing a key role on the British Left through much of that time. She is the founding editor of Red Pepper  and the author of several books, the most recent of which was published this year, titled A New Politics from the Left. Jeremy Gilbert wasn’t born in 1968, but that hasn’t stopped him writing and saying quite a lot about it. On the 50th anniversary of May 1st 1968, they will discuss all of these issues and any others that arise.

Suggested Reading: http://longreads.tni.org/state-of-power-2018/lessons-1968/; https://www.dropbox.com/s/y3sahlmhqakuc6o/2008%20Gilbert.pdf?dl=0

 

May 8th

Work, Debt, Creativity, Resistance: An Introduction to the thought of Maurizio Lazzarato

 

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Maurizio Lazzarato is best known for having coined the term ‘immaterial labour’ as a way of describing the many forms of work in the contemporary economy that do not produce physical outputs, but are concerned with the production of knowledges, information-flows, moods, and experiences. But his work extends way beyond this analysis, drawing on the tradition of ‘autonomist’ Marxism and the ideas of thinkers such as Foucault and Guattari to offer one of the most powerful and engaged analyses of neoliberal culture, contemporary capitalism, and the organisation forms that resistance to it requires.

This year sees the publication of the English translation of one of his most important works, Experimental Politics. This book provides an account of a key episode in recent French political history – the highly innovative struggle to defend the rights of precarious creative workers that emerged in the summer of 2003 – and uses it to offer one of the most profound analyses to date of the nature of advanced neoliberalism and its complex relationship to creative practice of all kinds. The book was translated by a team of Arianna Bove, Jeremy Gilbert, Andrew Goffey, Mark Hayward and Jason Read, with Jeremy providing a long critical introduction to the book and Lazzarato’s ideas.

In this seminar Jeremy will explain how those ideas have developed and why they are so relevant for contemporary radical politics.

 

May 15th 

Wars and Capital

with Éric Alliez and Maurizio Lazzarato 

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This year also sees the publication of the English Edition of Lazzarato’s recent collaboration with philosopher Éric Alliez: Wars and Capital.

Here is the blurb from the publishers catalogue:

“We are at war,” declared the President of the French Republic on the evening of November 13, 2015. But what is this war, exactly?

In Wars and Capital, Éric Alliez and Maurizio Lazzarato propose a counter-history of capitalism to recover the reality of the wars that are inflicted on us and denied to us. We experience not the ideal war of philosophers, but wars of class, race, sex, and gender; wars of civilization and the environment; wars of subjectivity that are raging within populations and that constitute the secret motor of liberal governmentality. By naming the enemy (refugees, migrants, Muslims), the new fascisms establish their hegemony on the processes of political subjectivation by reducing them to racist, sexist, and xenophobic slogans, fanning the flames of war among the poor and maintaining the total war philosophy of neoliberalism.

Because war and fascism are the repressed elements of post-’68 thought, Alliez and Lazzarato not only read the history of capital through war but also read war itself through the strange revolution of ’68, which made possible the passage from war in the singular to a plurality of wars—and from wars to the construction of new war machines against contemporary financialization. It is a question of pushing “’68 thought” beyond its own limits and redirecting it towards a new pragmatics of struggle linked to the continuous war of capital. It is especially important for us to prepare ourselves for the battles we will have to fight if we do not want to be always defeated.

In this seminar Éric and Maurizio will introduce and discuss some of the key arguments and ideas from this important new work.

 

 

May 22nd

Eyes Right: Trumpism, Brexit and the rise of the alt-right

With Sarah Bufkin and Alan Finlayson

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The Brexit vote and Trump’s election both seem to mark a terminal crisis for the liberal cosmopolitan consensus that has obtained in the English-speaking world since the 1990s. In both cases, centrist elites have been quick to blame external agencies (Cambridge Analytica, Vladimir Putin, etc.), apparently unable to believe that it is the effects of their own  policies that have led to them losing significant levels of public support. At the same time, concerns over national identity, and hostility to multiculturalism and immigration, continue  to inform the politics of the Right in many ways: from the casual English xenophobia of UKIP the extreme racism of the alt-right. How can we make sense of all this and what can we do about it?

Suggested Reading: https://www.lrb.co.uk/v39/n10/alan-finlayson/brexitism\

 

May 29th – No session

 

June 5th 

Hegemony Now: Power in the Twenty-First Century (I)

with Alex Williams 

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Gramsci’s concept of ‘hegemony’ remains indispensable to understanding the relationships between culture, politics, economics and technology. Every generation since the 1930s has had to update the idea and its application in the light of new developments in the wider world and in the domain of theory and philosophy. In this session Alex and Jeremy will introduce some key concepts and analyses from their forthcoming book Hegemony Now: Power in the Twenty-First Century (Verso, 2019). This will be the fist of two seminars in the series to will explore this material.

 

 

June 12th

Art, Glitch, Politics

with Debra Benita Shaw

 

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At a time when the meaning of democracy is challenged by the power of algorithms and the politics of misinformation what has become apparent is that the valorisation of data is the defining characteristic of contemporary digital capitalism. Big Data is sold on the basis of accurate retrieval; the promise that a series of perfect signals can be abstracted from the background noise of the world’s incessant uploading of information.

Against this background, the rise of digital ‘glitch’ art is interesting in terms of how it privileges noise over signal and aestheticises error. Glitch artists randomly re-assort ordered sequences to demonstrate that order itself is arbitrary, contingent and open to transduction. In deliberately confounding the apparently smooth interface through which digital messages are received, the glitch aesthetic suggests a productive imagery for a politics which confronts the hierarchies embedded in and reproduced by digital culture.

This seminar is also part of this year’s programme for Antiuniversity 2018

 

 

June 19th 

 

Black Lives Matter – ‘race’, bodies and biopolitics in the 21st century 

 

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The Black Lives Matter movement has seen arguably the most significant revival of Black radicalism in the English-speaking world for many years. What has led to this situation and what are the political, historical and theoretical issues raised by it? Is ‘black’ still a meaningful term of political identification for non-white peoples outside the African diaspora? What is the legacy of slavery and colonialism in the contemporary West? Why is racism amongst police forces such a perpetually intractable problem, even in apparently liberal countries like the UK (is the very concept of policing, as Foucault seemed to suggest, itself just inherently racist?). How have new philosophies of materiality and embodied experience contributed to the understanding of ‘race’ as a historical and lived experience? What is the place of ‘black music’ in contemporary culture, 100 years in to the history of recorded sound, and what was been the historical relationship of music to black radicalism?

Directly after this seminar there will be a meeting to set up a reading group focussing on theories of race, colonialism, post-coloniality etc, open to anyone who is interested in joining. 

 

June 26th 

The Right to the City: politics, place and policy in neoliberal London

with Anna Minton and Jacob Mukherjee of Generation Rent

 

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London’s housing market is in crisis because the global super-rich use our homes as piggy-banks and the government does nothing to stop them. Rent is becoming completely unaffordable (never mind buying a place). Gentrification is killing cultural venues all over the city, as overpriced flats crowd out the places where people gather to make some noise. At the heart of the city, the Corporation of the City of London is a law unto itself, and isn’t even democratically elected. The residents of Grenfell Tower have still not been re-housed. None of this is happening by accident, and none  of it is going to change without a radical re-think of what London is for, and a radical challenge to the power of finance capital. In this session we’ll discuss these issues with two expert campaigners, and think about how they fit into the wider history of global neoliberalism.

 

 

July 3rd 

PFI: The Financialisation of Everything 

With Grace Blakely 

 

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The ‘Private Finance Initiative’ still sounds like a dry, technical procedure that nobody could get too excited about. That’s what it’s supposed to sound like. Journalists and government have colluded for 25 years in making sure that the public don’t take too much interest in it.

In fact the PFI has been central to UK government policy since the mid 1990s and has been the vehicle through which huge chunks of the British public sector have been privatised without any mandate from the people. One of Stuart Hall’s last great public interventions was to call for the launch of a public campaign against this programme in 2000 – he could see how serious its implications were.

The story of the Private Finance Initiative reached its long-predicted denouement this year with the collapse of Carillion, a company employing 43,000 workers, responsible for dozens of contracts to deliver services across the UK public sector. The biggest bankruptcy in British history has exposed what many economists and political commentators have been saying for years: the PFI was a disastrous policy that was never really intended to benefit the public, but to enable multinational corporations to generate vast profits at the expense of the tax-payer, local authorities, schools and hospitals

But what exactly is the PFI, how does it work, and why are the Blairites still opposed to actually scrapping it?

 

 

July 10th

Hegemony Now: Power in the Twenty-First Century (II)

with Alex Williams 

 

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This session will continue the discussion begun on June 5th .

Introduction to Cultural Politics

 

Assembling the Left: A conversation with Michael Hardt

 

Recent years have seen a remarkable new wave of engagement between  radical  political movements and established institutions of government and party politics; with decidedly mixed results. From the Syriza experiment to the emergence of Corbynism, what lessons can be learned, and how can we best hope to take advantage of the opportunities for radical democracy which the twenty-first century affords? What forms of leadership, strategy and organisation are possible and necessary  in this new period? 

Acclaimed thinker and co-author of several key works with Antonio Negri, Michael Hardt, will discuss these issue –  as well as themes from their  new book, Assembly – with Marina PrentoulisJeremy Gilbert and other participants in the seminar. 

Saturday October 14th 2017

17:00-19:00

Room G21A

Senate House, Malet St, London WC1E 7HU

Free, all welcome, no advanced booking, please arrive promptly as space will be very limited. 

 Michael will also be speaking  at a ticketed  event in Finsbury Park earlier the same afternoon:‘ Opening the Commons: Technology, Leadership and Organisation in conversation with Michael Hardt on Assembly’

Annual Lecture with Angela McRobbie

UEL Centre for Cultural Studies Research

Annual Lecture 

Women, Benefit Shaming

and the Dismantling of Welfare

A Feminist Critique of Neoliberalism 

Angela McRobbie

Professor of Communications, Goldsmiths, University of London

University Square Stratford, Room USG 17 

1 Salway Road London E15 1NF
 
(Map: http://www.universitysquarestratford.ac.uk/find-us.htm)
 

Wednesday  May 31st  2017, 6:30 pm

Professor Angela McRobbie has been a leading figure in Cultural Studies since the mid-1970s. Her published work encompasses  books and articles on feminist theory, gender and popular culture, fashion and creative economy, and working lives in the culture industries. She is currently Mercator Fellow, Germany where she is completing a book on feminism and the culture of neoliberalism (polity 2018).  

Her most recent books include

Be Creative: Making a Living in the New Culture Industries 

The Aftermath of Feminism

The Uses of Cultural Studies 

This lecture makes an argument about the centrality of women’s participation in work and in family life as a critical tenet of contemporary neoliberalism’s dismantling of welfare. A key means for effecting this change includes a gendered modality of benefit shaming.

Admission is free to all and there is no need to book.

Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/403413620031992/

Stuart Hall’s Selected Political Writings – Book Launch

Date: 9 March 2017 6.00pm

Launch of Stuart Hall’s Selected Political Writings 

Venue: University of East London, University Square Stratford (five minutes from Stratford Underground)

Speakers

Bill Schwarz  (Queen Mary University)
Roshi Naidoo (Soundings)
Jeremy Gilbert  (University of East London)
Chair: Sally Davison (Lawrence and Wishart and Soundings).

At 7.30pm there will be a drinks reception to celebrate the book and the establishment of a Stuart Hall Fellowship at the University of East London.

Organised by Lawrence and Wishart, The University of East London and the Stuart Hall Foundation,

Admission is free, but tickets should be booked in advance.

Book HERE

Stuart Hall’s Selected Political Writings contains eighteen of his outstanding political contributions, including his writing on the New Left, Thatcherism and neoliberalism. It is published by Lawrence and Wishart in January 2017. .  

The Last Days of Neoliberalism (audio available)

What is  the nature of the current historical conjuncture?

Does Brexit mark the limit point of the the 30-year phase of neoliberalisation, or a new intensification of the long hegemony of the Right?

 

Two events were held in the same week….

The End Of Neoliberalism?

15th december: 10am-5pm

The  Audio of this is now available on our podcast feed 

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City university, college building, room a130

272-278 St John St, London EC1V 4PB

Free, all welcome, no need to book

Presented by 

The Centre for Culture and the Creative Industries at City, University of London

&

The Centre for Centre for Cultural Studies Research, University of East London

In 2016, almost a decade after the worst financial crisis for eighty years, it seems there are signs that neoliberalism is finally in retreat. The ruling common sense of policy makers, economists, business people, and mainstream journalists on a global basis since the 1980s, neoliberalism had seemed all but indefatigable. Yet a series of signs today point towards a radical shift. From the rise of new populist political movements on the left and the right, to the seeming reversal of global trade, and the calamitous brexit vote in the uk, the existing state of neoliberal affairs is in a process of transition. Underpinning many of these indicators is a shift in political logic, from one which placed the market at the centre of human life, to one which is focused on preservation of the border. The questions that arise from this confluence of events are multiple:

  • Is this the end of neoliberalism, or a point of inflection towards a new mutation?
  • Is neoliberalism merely equivalent to the process of globalisation, or not?
  • Is this a global ‘hegemonic crisis’?
  • What happens to existing neoliberal regimes and modes of governance once the border takes precedence over the market?
  • Can this transformation be said to have been generated by neoliberalism itself?
  • How is this shift inflected by particular local cultural, social, political, and economic conditions?
  • Is the future one of ethno-nationalist fascism or some other form of authoritarianism?
  • What does rising nationalism look like in an era of global technological communications?
  • What are the prospects for contending this crisis from the left?

With:

Christine Berry: principal director for policy & government, New Economics Foundation.

Aditya Chakrabortty: senior economics commentator for The Guardian.

William Davies: reader in political economy at goldsmiths, university of london and author of The Limits Of Neoliberalism: Authority, Sovereignty And The Logic Of Competition.

Sara Farris: senior lecturer in sociology at goldsmiths, university of london. She is currently a member of the editorial board of historical materialism and international book review editor for critical sociology.

Alan Finlayson: professor of political and social theory at the university of east anglia. He is also chair of the editorial board of the political journal Renewal.

Jeremy Gilbert: professor of cultural and political theory at the university of east london and the editor of New Formations.

Jo Littler: reader in the centre for cultural industries in the dept of sociology, city, university of london. Her new book Against Meritocracy will be published next year.

James Meadway: economic advisor to the shadow chancellor.

Catherine Rottenberg: marie sklodowska curie fellow in the sociology department, goldsmiths and senior lecturer in the department of foreign literatures and linguistics and the gender studies program, ben-gurion university of the negev, beer sheva, israel. Her most recent publication is

“neoliberal feminism and the future of human capital” forthcoming in Signs.

Alex williams: lecturer in the centre for culture and the creative industries, in the dept. of sociology at city, university of london. He is the author of Inventing The Future: Postcapitalism and A World Without Work.

Who Broke Britain?

Presented by the Centre for Cultural Studies Research at the University of East London  as part of the Culture, Power, Politics series (go to the website if you would like to listen to the podcast)

December 12th 2016 6:30-8:30 pm (or a bit later…)

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With Ayeisha Thomas-Smith (Compass), Anthony Barnett (open Democracy) and Jeremy Gilbert (UEL)

Open School East

The Rose Lipman Building
43 De Beauvoir Rd
London N1 5SQ

All welcome – no prior booking required

This seminar will be the latest occasional instalment in the ‘Culture, Power and Politics‘ series, bringing together many of the conceptual themes discussed over the past year to understand what is happening to British politics, society and culture at the end of a tumultuous year.

In the 1970s the politics of the New Right created an unlikely fusion between anti-state individualism and authoritarian social conservatisim.  Today, the contradictory effects of these agendas have driven the country to breaking point. The UK is falling apart, as England votes for Brexit while the rest of the country, including London, looks on aghast and wonders if there is a way out. A 40-year campaign of misinformation by the popular press has carried our political culture into the age of ‘post-truth politics’ . The inability of the technocratic elite to manage post-democratic societies has been brutally revealed by Brexit. How did we get here and where are we going?

 

How did we get here?  Forgotten Moments, Lost Leaders, and Remembering our Recent Radical Past

 

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Culture, Power and Politics is a series of open seminars, free to anyone, which has been hosted by the New Economy Organisers Network and convened and mainly taught by Jeremy Gilbert, a professor at the University of East London.

For the moment, this series has merged with the Introduction to Cultural Studies course at Open School East. Click the link for full details.

The next session will be

Tuesday May 31st 

How did we get here?  Forgotten Moments, Lost Leaders, and Remembering our Recent Radical Past

Special extended session (5:30-8:30) on the radical history of our times with several special guest speakers:

Natasha Nkonde and Deborah Grayson who are researching the radical history of the Greater London Council in the 1980s, Andy Beckett who writes for the Guardian and is that author of two acclaimed major studies of the politics and culture of the 70s and 80s (When the Lights Went Out and Promised You a Miracle) and John Medhurst, author of That Option No Longer Exists, will join us for an extended panel discussion.

This session will start at 5:30 with a discussion with Andy Beckett talking about his historical work and the importance of understanding our recent past
 
(don’t worry if you are a regular attender who can only make it at 6:30 – we’ll understand!)
 
6:30-7:30 Deborah, Natasha and John will be talking about their research,
 
7:30-8:30 Jeremy  offer some observations on how we can use some key theoretical concepts to illuminate the issues under discussion, along the lines of:
 

How did we get into this mess? Rising inequality, climate catastrophe, miserable youth and a culture which can’t innovate: it’s hard to believe that until some time in the 80s, people actually believed the world was getting better.  Can Cultural Studies help us to understand how we got here? It can and it will.

In this session we’ll bring together many of the ideas from the previous weeks, and the previous term, to see how they can help answer this questions. We’ll be looking at some classic Cultural Studies text such as Sturt Hall et. al’s Policing the Crisis published in 1978 (which starts off analysing newspaper reports about muggings, and ends up basically predicting Thatcherism before anyone else could see it coming), and asking if culture in 2016 is still stuck in ‘the long 1990s’. 

Free, no booking required, no need to have attended pervious events in the series.

 

Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/279707685702649/


Open School East
The Rose Lipman Building
43 De Beauvoir Rd
London N1 5SQ
6:30-8:30 pm (or a bit later…)
Please forward to anyone who might be interested.

Radical Cultural Studies: CCSR at Open School East

About Radical Cultural Studies

CCSR commissions the Radical Cultural Studies book series published by Rowman & Littlefield International. The aim of the series is to encourage a return to the core project of Cultural Studies: to examine the culturopolitical, sociopolitical, aesthetic and ethical implications of international cultures. We commission work that engages with the lived reality of politics and cultures and is alert to possibilities for social change – to ‘understand … the present in the service of the future’ (Grossberg, 2010: 1). We are interested in writing that analyses cultures as sites of power, which explicitly engages with the materiality and variety of cultural forms, and looks at new, emerging and radical cultures. We would welcome approaches from prospective authors.  CCSR representatives will be present at all seminars.

About Rowman & Littlefield International

Rowman & Littlefield International is a new independent academic publisher in the disciplines of Philosophy, Politics & International Relations, Cultural Studies and Economics. They are particularly intrigued by the interdisciplinary nature of these subject areas. They are committed to bringing incisive modern scholarship to a global readership, insisting on high quality at every point in the publishing process. They firmly believe in the value of publishing cutting-edge research for a scholarly audience.

About OSE

Located in a former library and community centre in De Beauvoir Town, East London, Open School East is a unique space that brings together:

  • A free study programme for emerging artists;
  • A multifaceted programme of public projects and events which facilitate interactions between artists, local residents and audiences from further afield.

Central to Open School East’s approach is a commitment to foster cultural, intellectual and social exchanges between artists and the broader public. They do this by opening their study programme outwards, responding to our locality and providing an informal environment for the sharing of knowledge and skills across various communities – artistic, local and otherwise.

Programme 2016

All lectures and seminars are 6.30 – 8.30pm. There is no charge and no booking is required

January 28

*BOOK LAUNCH*

Maria Tamboukou, University of East London

Sewing, Fighting and Writing: Radical Practices in Work, Politics and Culture

Seamstresses were central figures in the socio-political and cultural events of nineteenth and early twentieth century France but their stories and political writings have remained marginalized and obscured. Drawing on a wide range of published and unpublished documents from the industrial revolution, ‘Sewing, Fighting and Writing’ is a foucauldian genealogy of the Parisian seamstress.

February 18

Lucy Finchett-Maddock, University of Sussex & Matt Fish, SOAS

February 18

Lucy Finchett-Maddock, University of Sussex & Matt Fish, SOAS

Making Home: Reflections on Squatting, Protest, and Private Property

Focusing on the alternative property narratives of ‘social centres’, or political squats, Lucy will suggest that these spaces and their communities create their own – resistant – form of law. Matt will discuss his ethnographic research in squatted spaces around London and his experiences as a squatter and academic. He will talk about the questions that squatting as a spatial practice raises in terms of place, place-making and ethical relationships to space in London. Is there any academically useful approach to squatting, or can it only ever be understood when practiced?

March 10

*BOOK LAUNCH*

Stevphen Shukiatis, University of Essex

The Composition of Movements to Come: Aesthetics & Cultural Labor After the Avant-Garde

How does the avant-garde create spaces in everyday life that subvert regimes of economic and political control? How do art, aesthetics and activism inform one another? And how do strategic spaces of creativity become the basis for new forms of production and governance?

April 28

*BOOK LAUNCH*

Debra Benita Shaw & Maggie Humm, University of East London with Kat Deerfield, Cardiff University

Radical Space: Exploring Politics and Practice 

The spatial turn in the Humanities and Social Sciences has produced a considerable body of work which re-assesses space beyond the fixed Cartesian co-ordinates of Modernity and the nation state.  Radical Space reveals how activists and artists have deployed these theoretical tools to examine and contest spatial practice. Special guest Kat Deerfield will discuss her research into the gendered dimensions of extraterrestrial space.

May 5th

Dan Hassler-Forest, Utrecht University, Netherlands & Julia Dane, University of East London

The Walking Dead: Undead Capitalism, Morality & Affect.

In a late capitalist world that no longer offers any alternatives, the zombie genre has offered potent tools to critique a system that is both unsustainable and –ultimately– apocalyptic. Dan Hassler-Forest will suggest that critical posthumanism offers a way out of the deadlock between capitalism and the apocalyptic imaginary and Julia Dane will argue that The Walking Dead forces the audience to contemplate new frameworks of social value and the moral choices that might be made in an apocalyptic world.

June 9th

Kirsten Forkert, Birmingham City University

Authoritarian populism and austerity Britain

Kirsten will examine how ‘authoritarian populism’ can be applied to present-day Austerity Britain. There are obvious parallels with rhetoric used in the 1980s and that used today, particularly around ‘scroungers’, ‘benefit’ or ‘health tourists’, ‘swarms’ of refugees, etc. However, in other ways the situation is very different in terms of the parameters of socially acceptable speech, who is seen as belonging to British society and who does not, as well as the conditions facing those of us who want to challenge this and the strategies and tactics we can use.

June 30

Stephen Maddison, University of East London

Comradeship of Cock? Gay porn and the entrepreneurial voyeur

Thirty years of academic and critical scholarship on the subject of gay porn have produced one striking consensus, which is that gay cultures are especially ‘pornified’: porn has arguably offered gay men not only homoerotic visibility, but a heritage culture and a radical aesthetic. At the level of politics and cultural dissent, what’s ‘gay’ about gay porn now? This paper will explore whether processes of legal and social liberalization, and the emergence of networked and digital cultures, have foreclosed or expanded the apparently liberationary opportunities of gay porn.

Free Course! – Introduction to Cultural Studies: Culture, Technology and Power

Who has power in our cultures and how does it work? How do the ideas we have about what is ‘normal’ or ‘natural’ influence our decisions? What exactly is technology and how does it affect social change? Cultural Studies makes use of techniques from philosophy, history, sociology, human geography, anthropology, radical economics and political and critical theory to examine these questions in the context of contemporary popular cultures.

This course is an introduction to the subject taught by senior academics moonlighting from their day jobs at the University of East London. The course is free because we believe not only that education should be free but that knowledge is a crucial weapon in the war against all forms of inequality.

If you’ve never been to university, have been but miss the critical debates or are curious about who decides what counts as knowledge in the first place, we’d like to meet you.

There is no set reading (although we’ll recommend some if you’re interested) and no essay assignments, exams or deadlines (although we’ll set some if you want to challenge yourself). All the classes are interactive and give you the chance to think about everyday life in the context of the history of ideas. We’ll provide the learning environment. The rest is up to you.

The first part of the course was written and delivered by Dr Debra Benita Shaw and Dr Stephen Maddison.  You can see the outline of that course and find links to all the slides below.

The second part of the course is open to anyone, whether or not they attended the first part (it won’t be assumed that you necessarily did), and is written and delivered by Professor Jeremy Gilbert and Dr Stephen Maddison. Professor Tim Lawrence might pop in. 

Stephen, Debra,  Jeremy and Tim are co-directors of the Centre for Cultural Studies Research. For more information on the Centre and the University of East London click here

Jeremy is also the main organiser and main teacher of the Culture, Power and Politics series of seminars, which are another set of free open seminars, on very similar themes, hosted by the New Economics Foundation. Because there is so much overlap between the two sets of seminars, there won’t be any separate Culture, Power and Politics seminars this term. Attendees of the Culture, Power and Politics  seminars are encouraged to attend this course, and attendees of this course are encouraged to check out the recordings on the Culture, Power Politics website. Clear enough? Don’t worry – just turn up and you will be bound to learn something interesting. 

Here are the topics for part two of the course: 

Tuesday February 23 2016

We are all migrants

‘Some bunch of migrants’ is what David Cameron called the refugee inhabitants of the Calais ‘jungle’ when Jeremy Corbyn went to visit them. But migration and movement of people has shaped every aspect of our lives and culture, from the forced migrations of the slave trade to the take-away menus on our high street. With the EU referendum just around the corner, and anti-immigration feeling running high in the UK, what hope is there for a progressive cosmopolitan politics today? 

Tuesday March 8th 

Computer World  

‘Computer World’ is the title of Kraftwerk’s best album (yes it is). At just around the time they recorded it, economists, philosophers and social theorists were predicting that the ‘computerisation’ of society would change everything, creating a world of infinite information, without stable values, in which the very idea of being ‘modern’ would come to seem out of date.  Were they right? The technological changes of the past few decades have radically changed how capitalism works – but is it still fundamentally the same old system?

Tuesday March 15th  (NB this is only one week after the last session)

No Such Thing As ‘Society’

“There’s no such thing as society: only individuals (and their families)”. This was perhaps Margaret Thatcher’s most notorious public pronouncement. It was also one of the few moments when she made explicit her commitment to the ideals and assumptions of ‘neoliberalism’: the individualistic political philosophy that has come to dominate our politics, our culture and our lives. 

After the 2008 crash, and the rise of Corbynism, we’re hearing a lot of discussion these days about the problems with neoliberal economics, which basically wants to privatise everything, drive down wages and cut taxes for the rich. We don’t hear so much about neoliberalism as a cultural ideology, promoting individualism, competition and greed in every area of life, from the nursery to the hospice. But without understanding this, we can’t understand how  ruling elites have got away with imposing such an unpopular programme for so long. 

We’ll have a think about this here – and take the opportunity to revise a bit of Marx, Gramsci and Foucault. 

Easter break 

Tuesday April 5th 

This is what a feminist looks like 

If historians of the future remember our era for anything, it is probably going to be the unprecedented revolution in the social status of women that we have lived through, and are living through.  But the movement which made that change possible is still derided and feared, often seemingly unpopular with the very generations of young women who have benefited from it. At the same time it has raised a question which cultural and social theory is still struggling to answer – what is gender? Is it a social construct or a biological fact, or both, or neither? What does it mean to be a feminist today? Where does masculinity fit into all this? What are ‘performativity’ and ‘intersectionality’ when they’re at home? We will sort all this out in time to get to the pub before 9, honest…

Tuesday April 19th

Queer as Folk

Another huge cultural and political change of recent years has been the transformation in social attitudes towards same-sex relationships. It’s hard to believe now that both advocates and opponents of ‘gay liberation’ once thought that capitalism itself simply could not tolerate open same-sex relationships, and would be fatally undermined by any attempt to validate them. At the same time sexuality remains a highly charged political issue in many complex ways, and the broad field of ‘queer theory’ has been one of the most productive and contentious areas of cultural studies. 

Tuesday May 3rd

The Multitude, the Metropolis (and the Mayor)

Since around 2000, there’s been growing interest in the English-speaking world in a particular strain of radical Italian thought. This ‘autonomist’ tradition believes in the creative, dynamic capacities of workers of all kinds, from factory workers to software engineers, and wants to liberate the creative power of ‘the multitude’ from capitalist control. Thinkers such as Hardt & Negri and Lazzarato offer very interesting ways of thinking about the rise of the ‘creative economy’, about how social media platforms generate profits from our everyday communications, and about why cities are so often hotbeds of radicalism and innovation. Two days before the London Mayoral election, we’ll also think about what potential there might be for Londoners to take back our own city from the clutches of the oligarchs and the Corporation of London.

Tuesday May 17th  

Can you Feel it?

 Once upon a time, Cultural Studies was basically about looking at everything as if it were a language: fashion, advertising, music and journalism were understood as different ways in which people ‘make meanings’. A lot of cultural studies still is like that – it’s a very useful and productive way of looking at things. But what about those aspects of our lives which are not easy to translate into ‘meanings’?  What about feelings? What about the sounds of music, the colours of paintings, the physical thrill of watching a movie? These issues aren’t just important for thinking about art and music – they’re also crucial to understanding what motivates people politically and socially. We’ll  explore these issues and try to get inside one of the most difficult but rewarding bodies of 20th century theory: the ‘schizoanalysis’ of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari.

Tuesday May 31st 

How did we get here?  

How did we get into this mess? Rising inequality, climate catastrophe, miserable youth and a culture which can’t innovate: it’s hard to believe that until some time in the 80s, people actually believed the world was getting better.  Can Cultural Studies help us to understand how we got here? It can and it will.

In this session we’ll bring together many of the ideas from the previous weeks, and the previous term, to see how they can help answer this questions. We’ll be looking at some classic Cultural Studies text such as Sturt Hall et. al’s Policing the Crisis published in 1978 (which starts off analysing newspaper reports about muggings, and ends up basically predicting Thatcherism before anyone else could see it coming), and asking if culture in 2016 is still stuck in ‘the long 1990s’. 

Tuesday June 14th 

Where are we going?

What kind of world are we heading into, and who gets to decide? Will artificially-intelligent robots be our masters? Will we be cyborgs ourselves? Are we already? What will happen to us once Chinese workers start demanding decent wages for making all the stuff we buy? Can the planet tolerate the levels of consumption we’ve got used to? Will technology save us or destroy us.? Are we already experiencing ‘post-capitalism’?  Are we already ‘post-human’? All this and more will be revealed. 

Below is the course outline from part one of the Introduction to Cultural Studies course, including links to slides:

Course outline 2015

Session 1: Tuesday 29 September
‘Making Meaning: Introduction to Semiotics’

We make meaning from everything we see around us every day, but what informs our decisions about what ‘things’ mean? This session will introduce you to the work of the French Philologist Ferdinand de Saussure who gave us the tools to understand the role of ideology in how we make sense of everyday life.

Slides from this session – OSE Semiotics

Session 2: Tuesday 13 October
‘Workers of the World Unite: Marx for Beginners’

Karl Marx is famous for predicting a workers’ revolution in Britain and, as some politicians will gleefully tell you, for being wrong. But Marx wrote a lot of books and said a lot of things that are still startlingly relevant to how we think about the organisation of social life and the role of economics in determining how we think about ourselves. In this session, we’ll develop our understanding of ideology and think about the relationship between bodies, machines and going shopping (with a little help from Johnny Cash).

Slides from this session – OSE Marx

Session 3: Tuesday 27 October
‘Culture Consuming Itself?’

Why has consumption become so central to the cultures of capitalism? This session will apply key concepts from Marxism to a discussion of ideas of identity, taste and cultural meaning. Why do we define ourselves through our shopping choices? Can we ever achieve individuality? How does semiotics help us to understand culture as representation?

Slides from this session – OSE Consuming Culture

Session 4: Tuesday 3 November
‘Sometimes it’s Just a Cigar: The Surreal World of Sigmund Freud’

Sigmund Freud is another towering figure of the twentieth century who gets a bad press. But, like it or not, he gave us the language that we use when we speak about our personalities, early childhood development and mental health (he also provided PR and ad agencies with effective strategies for persuading us to, yes, go shopping). In this session, we’ll look at psychoanalysis as cultural theory; as a way of thinking about what we dream about, how we behave and how we learn to distinguish ourselves according to the roles we’re expected to play.

Slides from this session – OSE Freud

Session 5: Tuesday 17 November
‘Popular Interests: Antonio Gramsci and Hegemony’

Antonio Gramsci was the leader of the Italian Communist party after WW1 and spent a lot of time in prison. Happily for us, it gave him plenty of time to think. In this session we’ll study his theory of ‘hegemony’ which helps to explain why we consent to be governed by people that really don’t have our best interests at heart.

Slides from this session – OSE Gramsci (1)

Session 6: Saturday 21 November, 2-4pm
‘How to Get Interpellated: Louis Althusser (with Intro to Jacques Lacan)’

The French nearly had (another) revolution in 1968 but, ultimately, it failed. Louis Althusser was one of the post-’68 theorists who set himself the task of working out why people give in to authority, even when it would be better for them to not do so. We’ll be studying how he made use of the post-Freudian theory of psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan to explain why we all consider ourselves guilty until proven innocent.

Slides from this session – OSE Althusser

Session 7: Tuesday 24 November
‘Monsieur Foucault and the Prison of the Self’

Michel Foucault was another post-’68 theorist whose work has had wide ranging consequences for how we think about power and its effects on how we understand ourselves and others. This is the first of three sessions where we’ll explore his ideas and their relevance to contemporary culture. We’ll be examining the design of an eighteenth century prison and how it gives us a model for understanding why we think some things (and people) are ‘abnormal’.

Slides from this session – OSE Foucault

Session 8: Tuesday 8 December
‘Perverse Pleasures: Foucault and Sexuality’

One of the most important things that Foucault helps us to understand is that sexuality has a history. Although he disagreed with Marx about the way that power works, he had a similar interest in historical change and its effect on our private lives. In this session, we’ll examine how our attitudes to sexual practices are deeply entangled with the power afforded to certain institutions by vested economic and political interests.

Session 9: Tuesday 15 December (note this session is a week after the last one)
‘Racial Mythologies: Edward Said and Orientalism’

Foucault’s ideas have considerable implications for how we understand racism and its effects in contemporary culture. In this session, we’ll discuss the work of Edward Said who applied Foucault’s insights about history, language and self-identity to understanding how racial stereotypes come to be accepted as ‘truth’.

Slides from this session – OSE Said