Étienne Balibar – Anti-Humanism, and the Question of Philosophical Anthropology

Event Date 17 – 18 May 2012

Day 1: Bolivar Hall,
54 Grafton Way, London WC1.
Day 2: Large Common Room,
Goodenough College,
Mecklenburgh Square, London WC1N

Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy


Transdisciplinarity and the Humanities: Problems, Methods, Histories, Concepts

2011–2013 (AHRC 914469)

Workshop 3

Case Studies 2. Transdisciplinary Problematics: Anti-humanism and Gender Study

This two-day workshop will examine the notion of a transdisciplinarity problematic, via the cases of anti-humanism and gender studies. The first day will approach theoretical anti-humanism from the standpoint of its destructive effect upon disciplinary fields in the humanities and as a radical problematisation of the discipline of philosophy in particular. The second day will focus on gender studies as a transdisciplinary problematic and on the transdisciplinary nature of the concept of gender itself. Topics will include the historical reconstruction of ‘gender’ as a boundary-crossing concept; the relation of its conceptual content to its functioning as a general concept across disciplines; the transformation of the disciplines in the humanities by ‘gender’ and gender studies; and the current productivity of ‘gender’.

Day 1: Anti-humanism

Étienne BalibarAnti-Humanism, and the Question of Philosophical Anthropology

The controversy opposing “humanism” and “anti-humanism” was especially virulent in the 1960s and 70s in France, involving different tendencies of Phenomenology, Marxism, Structuralism and Hegelianism, around such issues as the meaning of history and the agency (or praxis) of the individual and collective subject. In order to trace its genealogy, the lecture will begin with a presentation of the “two scenes” on which the “dispute of humanism” (Althusser) was fought in the 20th century as a debate involving the redefinition of philosophy as “anthropology”, which were dominated by the works of Heidegger and Lévi-Strauss, respectively. It will then focus on Michel Foucault’s “intervention” in The Order of Things (Les mots et les choses, 1966), where the two debates are merged into a single attempt at divorcing the “quasi-transcendental” objects of anthropology from their humanist prerequisite, from the point of view of the “analytic of the finitude” itself. In conclusion, it will propose some hypotheses on the dividing lines ‘or “points of heresy” that characterize the subsequent debate on epistemology, ethics and politics “after the death of Man”.

Etienne Balibar was born in 1942. He graduated at the Ecole Normale Supérieure and the Sorbonne in Paris, took his PhD from the University of Nijmegen (Netherlands). He has an Habilitation from Université de Paris I. He is currently Emeritus Professor of Moral and Political Philosophy at the University of Paris 10, Nanterre, and Distinguished Professor of Humanities at the University of California, Irvine (USA). Since 2008, he has been Professorial Fellow at the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities. Starting in September 2012, he will be Anniversary Chair Professor in Arts and Social Sciences at Kingston University London.  His books in English include Reading Capital (with Louis Althusser) (1965), On the Dictatorship of the Proletariat (1976) and Race, Nation, Class: Ambiguous Identities (Verso, 1991, with Immanuel Wallerstein), Masses, Classes, Ideas (Routledge, 1994), The Philosophy of Marx (Verso 1995), Spinoza and Politics (Verso 1998), Politics and the Other Scene (Verso, 2002) and We, the People of Europe? Reflections on Transnational Citizenship (Princeton, 2004). Forthcoming are Extreme Violence and the Problem of Civility (the 1996 Wellek Library Lectures 1996, Columbia University Press), and The Proposition of Equaliberty (Duke University Press).





Response to Balibar by Patrice Maniglier (University of Essex):






back to conference page

share this entry: