Critical Theory from the Global South

Critical Theory & Psychoanalysis Workshop

September 13-14, 2019


In this two-day international workshop, we aim to explore how Critical Theory and Psychoanalysis intersect to produce contemporary radical critique, with particular attention to this articulation in the Global South. Scholars and psychoanalysts based in Brazil, Mexico, Lebanon and Egypt will share their research in talks, keynote lectures and a reading workshop. Keynote participants include Vladimir Safatle, author of Grand Hotel Abyss, and Ray Brassier, author of Nihil Unbound.

Paper Abstracts and Speaker Bios

Nadia Bou Ali

Title: The non-liberal Freud: Ego, Repression, and the Telos of progress

Abstract: The contemporary critique of liberalism—as articulated by Wendy Brown—hinges on a non-dialectical logic: the antinomy of culture versus liberalism is resolved by singling out a ‘culture of liberalism’. Added to this synthesis we have another level of confusion: an argument that calls for the affirmation of organicist culture (conceived as liberalism’s Other, a new nature) posited against liberal culture. What is emerging in the liberal critiques of liberalism is a strange renewed opposition between nature and culture, and it is none other than Freudian psychoanalysis that is strangely singled out as promulgating this oppressive distinction. Brown maintains in her reading of Freud that the account of the progress of civilization that he provides, vis-à-vis civilization as what emerges from sublimation or repression, assumes a telosof progress from primary ‘organicist identities—groups—to civilized individuals’. The main liberal assertion that she singles out in Freud, across the spectrum of his works, is that of an ‘analytical a prioriindividualism’ and a colonial account of individualism: the lone savage and primitive tribalist. In Brown’s account, Freud appears to have confirmed the nature/culture dualism of liberal thought by turning the problem inwards: the ego is the site of conflict between primitive, instinctual, infantile forces on one hand, and individuation and rationality on the other. The talk will critique Brown’s reading and argue for the potency of Freud and psychoanalysis for analysing the fantasy of individual autonomy in liberal regimes today.

Bio: Nadia Bou Ali is Assistant Professor at the Civilization Studies Program at the American University of Beirut, she is co-editor of Lacan contra Foucault, subjectity, sex, and politics (Bloomsbury 2018), and author of Hall of Mirrors: psychoanalysis and the love of Arabic (Edinburgh University Press, forthcoming Feb 2019). Her research interests revolve around modern Arabic intellectual history, Critical Theory, and Psychoanalysis.

Ray Brassier

Title: Adorno: Nature as Fatality

Abstract: Many contemporary philosophers (particularly those championing Spinoza against Kant) construe nature as a creative power. In stark contrast, Adorno equates nature with myth and myth with fatality, understood as the ineluctable order that holds humans in its sway insofar as they take it to be synonymous with what is. This fatality is reiterated in the ensemble of customs, conventions and practices that make up our ‘second’ or social nature. Following Marx, Adorno roots the compulsive character of contemporary social practices in the logic of capital, the former being the cultural expression of the latter. Thus, far from being contrary to nature, capital’s self-expansion is its extension. Capitalist artifice repeats natural compulsion. To invoke nature, whether as harmony or strife, as a power capable of undoing self-expanding capital is not to counter fatality but to summon it, because it is to invoke fatality against fatality. Adorno’s thought suggests an alternative to this fatal repetition. The subject that seeks to free itself from fatality by dominating nature merely repeats it because freedom as self-preservation requires that the subject dominate the part of nature within it. What Adorno refers to as “the spell” [der Bann] of fatality is not broken by obliging reason to dominate nature, or by overthrowing reason in the name of nature, but by allowing the concept to mime its own non-conceptual affinity with compulsion. This is the topic I would like to investigate.

Bio: Ray Brassier obtained his PhD in Philosophy from the University of Warwick in 2001. From 2002 to 2008 he was a Research Fellow at Middlesex University’s Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy. Since 2008, he has been a member of the philosophy faculty at the American University of Beirut. He is the author of Nihil Unbound: Enlightenment and Extinction (Palgrave Macmillan 2007). He has also translated into English works by Alain Badiou and Quentin Meillassoux.

Alejandro Cerda Rueda

Title: Transference and the political implications of analysis

Abstract: Can psychoanalysis think a definition of love that doesn’t sprout from the Oedipus complex? In other words: does love necessarily have to be constrained to the limits of endogamous relationships? In a way, we could state that this is the whole purpose of analysis: to establish through repetition a different mode of (social) relationship. If love is what is actualized through repetition in analysis upon the figure of the psychoanalyst, what is then the whole purpose of love transference if not to shift the incestuous desire into an exogamous dissemination within the public sphere? However, such shift doesn’t necessarily happen by default.

Bio: Alejandro Cerda Rueda is a Mexican psychoanalyst residing in Mexico City. He obtained his PhD from the European Graduate School, under the supervision of Alenka Zupančič, Mladen Dolar and Slavoj Žižek. He is post-graduate professor at the Universidad Iberoamericana (UIA) and guest lecturer at the Sociedad Freudiana de la Ciudad de México (SFCM). Since its foundation in 2009, he is senior editor of Paradiso editores. He has published: Schreber. Los archivos de la locura (UIA, 2009), Sex and Nothing: Bridges From Psychoanalysis to Philosophy (Routledge, 2016) and En la penumbra del sujeto. Aportaciones para una metapsicología freudiana (Prometeo, 2019). Currently participates under the Andrew Mellon Foundation grant with the collaborative project titled Extimacies: Critical Theory from the Global South (2019-2021).

Silivo Gomes Carneiro

Title: Dual, but combined: The singular in dialectics as a case of extimacy.

Abstract: The singular is often understood as a synthesis between an abstract universal and an empirical particular. As Critical Theory has shown us, however, a mistaken model of history can result from such an understanding. The need thus arises for a critique of ideology that affirms the singular yet does not conceive it as a synthesis. The singular, here, is conceived as a locus of historical openness. That is why we intend to focus on the notion of “case” in dialectics. The way Critical Theory approaches and handles its cases allows us to reflect on what relations such critiques lay open. Towards this aim, the Lacanian concept of extimacy – suggesting a relation with something at once intimate and external – seems invaluable. It would allow us to conceive dialectical cases consisting in singularities formed by the intertwined articulation of various relations as “open cases.” Furthermore, it would allow us to employ European perspectives found in various critical-theoretical cases as more than mere examples of Eurocentrism. From a Postcolonial/Decolonial perspective, such cases could thus be regarded as extimate singularities: “a dual, but combined case.” Far from being instances of closed cases, singular cases can thus appear, dialectically, as open loci for inquiries: inquiries into their expressed and unexpressed relations; inquiries into the extimate perspective they suggest. It is with this in mind that we confront the following question: how are we to conceive of a critical-theoretical “case”?

Bio: Prof. Dr. Silvio Carneiro is a scholar in the fields of Critical Theory, Contemporary Political Philosophy, Philosophy of Education, and Philosophy of Psychoanalysis. He is a professor at the Federal University of ABC (UFABC), in Brazil. He conducts his research work on Education as a member of the Rede Escola Pública e Universidade (Network for Public Schools and Universities) and of the DiEPEE/UFABC (Research Group on Education Rights, Educational Policies, and Schools). His work as a member of the International Herbert Marcuse Society has, as its focus, Critical Theory, Education, Psychoanalysis, and Politics. He is the coordinator of the Brazilian segment of international project Extimacies: Critical Theory from the Global South, in the context of which he inquires into the dialectics of violence, with a particular emphasis on the dual role of violence as a significant component in both revolutionary emancipation and totalitarian Terror.

Carlos Gómez-Camarena

Title: An Antiphilosophical Reading of Critical Theory: Six Lacanian Subtleties

Abstract: In this paper, I will put at risk or I will test an antiphilosophical reading of Critical Theory. I propose at least six innovations of Lacanian psychoanalysis, all of them are irreducible points (almost in mathematical terms) and unsolvable with philosophy. Some of them are compatible with Critical Theory, but not all. I would claim that all of them are antiphilosophical gestures in Lacanian terms. As long as Critical Theory maintains, introduces or tenses these elements, it will preserve its sharpness. Structural alienation, barred subject or disjunction between truth and knowledge are just some of these irreducible points.

Bio: Carlos Gómez-Camarena maintains a psychoanalytical practice in Mexico City. He is full time professor and researcher at Communication Department, Universidad Iberoamericana, Mexico. He holds a PhD in psychoanalysis and psychopathology from Université Paris 7 Diderot. His research interests are antiphilosophy, contemporary Slovenian philosophy, Badiou’s philosophy and the clinical and theoretical uses of mathematics and poetry in Lacanian psychoanalysis. He was part of the translator teamwork of Barbara Cassin’s “Dictionary of Untranslatables”.

Sami Khatib

Title: The Drive of Capital

Abstract: This paper examines the temporal and libidinal dimension of capital as outlined by Marx in Capital, vol. 1. In the chapter on the working day, he writes: “capital has one sole driving force, the drive to valorize itself, to create surplus-value, to make its constant part, the means of production, absorb the greatest possible amount of surplus labour. Capital is dead labour which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labour, and lives the more; the more labour it sucks. The time during which the worker works is the time during which the capitalist consumes the labour-power he has bought from him.” As I will suggest in my reading, this passage contains Marx’s definition of undeadness. Increasing the density and magnitude of extracted labor time beyond the boundaries of living labor, capital acquires a form neither dead nor alive but undead. And like all vampire-like creatures it cannot die naturally – it lives on, prolonging the process of dying by swallowing time beyond chronometric measurement. In other words, the “Thing" called capital is alive, more alive than living beings for it has swallowed the predicates of concrete being-in-the-world without being One. Capital performs the indefinite judgment of being undead – retaining a dead temporality stretched into eternity. Capital is neither subject nor object: it is the “un” of its own identity. As a social relation it temporalizes its own non-contemporaneity. Being undead, it proceeds without external temporal determination and measurement: as untot capital is unzeitgemäß.

Bio: Sami Khatib’s research spans the fields of Aesthetic Theory, Critical Theory, Visual Arts, Media Theory, and Cultural Studies with a special focus on the thought of Walter Benjamin. He holds an MA degree in Media Studies and Philosophy (2004) and a PhD degree in Media Studies (2013) from Freie Universität Berlin (Germany). He is a founding member of the Beirut Institute for Critical Analysis and Research (BICAR). Before joining the Department of the Arts at the American University in Cairo, he worked as a postdoctoral researcher the DFG-funded research training group “Cultures of Critique” at Leuphana University Lüneburg, Germany. His ongoing research project “Aesthetics of the ‘Sensuous-Supra Sensuous” examines the aesthetic scope and political relevance of Marx’s discovery of the commodity form. Prior appointments include a visiting professorship of philosophy and aesthetics at the Institute for Art Theory and Cultural Studies at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, Austria (2017), a visiting professorship at the Department of Fine Arts and Art History at the American University of Beirut, Lebanon (2016-17), and a Mellon postdoctoral fellowship at the Center for Arts and Humanities at the American University of Beirut, Lebanon (2015-16).

Vladimir Safatle

Title: Critique of Autonomy: Freedom as heteronomy without servitude.

Abstract: This conference aims to discuss an alternative model for thinking freedom as a regulatory horizon for processes of social emancipation. Such an alternative model starts from the attempt to disassociate freedom and autonomy, and I would like to show why I consider such dissociation necessary. In other words, it is a question of starting from a critique of autonomy as a normative structure of the fulfillment of demands for freedom, which means calling into question what we might call the "hegemonic perspective of the notion of emancipation" whose strength, as I would like to show, is inseparable from the tacit acceptance of higher metaphysical presuppositions concerning the idea of ​​agency and, consequently, of free agency.

Bio: Vladimir Safatle, Professor of Philosophy and Psychology at the University of São Paulo, invited professor at universities of Paris VII, Paris VIII, Toulouse, Louvain, Stellenboch, Berkeley and Essex, author of , among others: “Grand Hotel Abyss: desire, recognition and the restoration of the subject”(Leuven University Press, 2016). He is the responsible for the edition of Adorno’s complete work in Portuguese.