Occupying Politics in a Time of Alterity – Programme and Keynotes, 11th-12th Nov

Please see attached details (including keynote addresses) of the forthcoming workshop ‘Politics in a Time of Alterity’ which will be held here in the University of Manchester on the 11th and 12th of November. This workshop brings together collaborators to expose, explore and experiment with ideas of alterity in the construction of ‘politics’ (broadly understood) to rethink what both politics and alterity (otherness) can mean as well as to consider how alterity acts as a potential site of resistance.

Please email Aoileann.nimhurchu@manchester.ac.uk or Andreja.zevnik@manchester.ac.uk to register for this workshop and/or to attend the keynote talks.

This workshop devotes its attention to engaging with the impact of socio-political change on communities and on ideas of cultural difference as alterity; on how communities and individuals react as politically engaged creatures by protesting, rethinking, enacting and remembering otherness not just as an aberration or a triumphant moment of multiculturalism, but as part of everyday life and of identity more generally; and on the way in which alterity informs research approaches linked to ideas of becoming(s), multiplicity, acts, flows, intimacies, borders, irregularities, energies, the everyday, and aesthetics. We have contributions from across a range of disciplinary areas including international politics, law, linguistics, art, sociology, environmental studies, English literature and psychology.

Two keynotes will be given at this workshop: One by Stuart Tait (a collaborative artist) entitled ‘A fierce religion of itself’ and one by Wendy Hollway (psychology, open University) entitled ‘Alterity and com-passion in psycho-social research practice’. Details below: All welcome. Please share with those who you think would be interested.

A fierce religion of itself
This talk will be an enthusiastic consideration of revolutions past, future and theoretical. Enthusiastic in the sense that Félix Guattari contrasts the enthusiast with the figure of the academic: while the academic takes or leaves a text, the enthusiast takes and leaves it, ‘manipulating it as he sees fit’ making use of theory pragmatically, to make the text work. The dangers and failures of revolutions will be considered, such as mass killings, post-revolution reaction, or simply swapping one oppressive regime for another. This will then help with assembling a number of writers and practices to sketch out a diagram for a molecular revolutionary programme. Drawing upon Michail Bakunin’s essay, The Program of the International Brotherhood (1869/1971), which proposes a dispersed network of revolutionary ‘experts’ to seed the nascent revolution, I will develop Georges Bataille and Roger Caillois’ writing on secret societies to discuss social collectivities that perform a destabilizing function. My own art-practice-derived concept of molecular collaboration, as a form of multiple, collective, practice will be developed further, with particular reference to Victor Turner’s work on ritual processes and ritual magic. Finally, I will, starting with Marx’s notion of a liberatory trajectory of history that ends with Communism, and with reference to Guattari’s ‘schizoanalytic’ practice, develop a proposal for an improvised and diagrammatic revolutionary praxis.

Alterity and com-passion in psycho-social research practice
As a researcher concerned with social and psychic change, I seek to develop research practices that go beyond cultural othering, in order to produce knowledge of transformative value. Psychoanalysis offers an alternative way of knowing, affect-based and trans-subjective, to that which dominates social and human sciences, based historically on positivism. Its epistemology has inspired my research practice from design, through the use of psychoanalytically informed interview and observation methods, to data analysis and forms of writing[1]. I give examples of these practices, aiming for com-passion-based ethics in the context of cultural difference. Levinas’ ‘alterity’ parted from accounts of difference and ‘othering’ by insisting on the ethical principle of an individual’s absolute responsibility in the face of the suffering other. Ettinger, in direct conversation with Levinas, introduces originary com-passion. But the evidence of ‘othering’ surrounds us, in academic research as elsewhere. The identity of mothers is replete with the problems of denigration (and its counterpart, idealisation), of norms and othering based on differing cultural practices. First-time motherhood is also a massive upheaval for women who may have been well established in a working world based on norms of masculine autonomy. How did I encounter alterity and introduce com-passion (literally ‘feeling with’) in an empirical research project on maternal identity change, in East London within a sample selected for diversity?

ATTACHMENT: OccupyingPoliticsAlterity_ShortProg

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