Ackbar Abbas – Adorno and the Weather: Critical Theory in an Era of Climate Change

Event Date 22 – 23 March 2012
French Institute
17 Queensberry Place
London, SW7 2DT

Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy

Transdisciplinarity and the Humanities: Problems, Methods, Histories, Concepts
2011–2013 (AHRC 914469)

Workshop 2

Case Studies 1 – Transdisciplinary Texts: Dialectic of Enlightenment and Capitalism and Schizophrenia

This two-day Workshop will examine the transdisciplinary dynamics and modes of concept construction of two now-classic transdisciplinary texts from the mid–late twentieth century, one from each of the German and French traditions: Horkheimer and Adorno’s Dialectic of Enlightenment (1944; 1947) and Deleuze & Guattari’s two-volume Capitalism and Schizophenia (1972 & 1980). Written at strongly contrasting moments in European history – in the wake of fascism and of May 68, respectively – these two texts are in many ways emblematic of the national philosophical traditions from which they emerged: the one dialectical, the other anti-dialectical. Yet they are also texts that are profoundly ‘infected’ by their philosophical others – various early 20th-century anthropologies in particular – in their constructions of histories of the subject and the subject-function. And they share certain general methodological features in common: programmatic anti-systematicity and the writing practice of dual authorship, for example. They have also both been subjected to an increasingly global reception.

The Workshop aims to concentrate on the mechanisms and modes of generality/universality involved in the disciplinary dynamics of the two texts (their ‘models’ of transdisciplinarity); to consider the limitations associated with their historical formations; and to identify the continuing productivity of their afterlives, associated with their insertion into new geo-political contexts.

Day 1: Anti-systematic Systematicity: Negative Anthropology and Dual Authorship in Horkheimer and Adorno’s Dialectic of Enlightenment

Professor Ackbar Abbas (Comparative Literature, University of California, Irvine) – Adorno and the Weather: Critical Theory in an Era of Climate Change
There is clear evidence that global warming and other aspects of climate change taking place today are man-made, and can be linked to a larger series of crises involving science, technology, and the capitalist militarization of knowledge: an instance, with a vengeance, of the dialectic of enlightenment. However, a critical account of the crisis cannot be undertaken without a ‘climate change’ in critique itself, some hints of which can be found in Adorno’s rethinking of history, knowledge, and art in the face of human self-destructiveness.

Ackbar Abbas is Professor of Comparative Literature in the School of Humanities,  University of California, Irvine. His books include Hong Kong: Culture and the Politics of Disappearance (University of Minnesota Press, 1997) and Internationalizing Cultural Studies, co-edited with John Erni (Blackwell, 2005). Recent essays include ‘Faking Globalization’, in Andreas Huyssen, ed., Globalizing Cities, and ‘The Fake as Anthropological Object’, in Konzept Böll: Thema 2: Alles eins? Die Globale Zukunft von Kultur und Demokratie (both forthcoming).




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