CAS SEE 2020 Spring Fellowship

CAS SEE Seminars with Guests – Bonnie Honig

On Thursday, July 23rd, 2020, the CAS SEE Seminars with Guests continued with questioning the (nature/s of certain) politics in the Arendtian fashion, introducing Professor Bonnie Honig, who was presented by our fellow Valentina Moro. The seminar took place at 4 PM CET due to different time-zones.

Saidiya Hartman’s “Fabulation” is an important concept in Black Studies, connoting the effort to supplement and amplify archives that erase rather than preserve the joy and freedom of Black life. Critics worry about fabulation’s departures from “facts” though we might well note fabulation’s commitment to the archives, with which Hartman always begins. In this paper, Bonnie Honig asks: How might Hartman’s “fabulation” be illuminated by Hannah Arendt’s idea of story-telling? And what sort of politics is postulated by each of these thinkers? The Bacchae, Euripides’ 5th-century tragedy of women refusing or rising up, and its reception history, is used as an example of how archives are shaped and facts established for the future. In the play, truths are established rather than discovered. And so, toward the end of the play, when the women return to the city, we may see this as a move in the agon over facticity.  The women demand glory for their refusal. That they fail need not mean we have nothing to learn from them. Quite the opposite.

Bonnie Honig is Nancy Duke Lewis Professor of Modern Culture and Media and Political Science at Brown University. She is the author of Political Theory and the Displacement of Politics (Cornell, 1993, Scripps Prize for Best First Book), Democracy and the Foreigner (Princeton, 2001), Emergency Politics: Paradox, Law, Democracy (Princeton, 2009, David Easton Prize), Antigone, Interrupted. (Cambridge University Press, 2013) and Public Things: Democracy in Disrepair (Fordham, 2017). She has edited or co-edited several collections, including Feminist Interpretations of Hannah Arendt (Penn State, 1995) and Politics, Theory, and Film: Critical Encounters with Lars von Trier (Oxford, 2016).  Her articles have appeared in the journals ‘Arethusa’, ‘New Literary History’, ‘Political Theory’, ‘theory&event’, ‘Social Text’, ‘differences’, the ‘American Political Science Review’, and more. Her forthcoming book, based on her 2017 Flexner Lectures, deals with “a feminist theory of refusal”.

CAS SEE Spring Fellowship 2020 Seminars – Federica Porcheddu and Valentina Moro

The ending of this year’s Spring Fellowship has digitally “happened” on July 7th, 2020, with two philosophical questions: one on food sovereignty and the other inquiring on the legacy of feminist movements.

Firstly, the relationship between human society and nature has been viewed through the lens of the more general process of commodification by Federica Porcheddu, our fellow and the Italian referent for the Cahiers d’études lévinassiennes, with areas of interest such as intersubjectivity, community, ethics, and politics.
Porcheddu’s project introduces a conception of nature according to which, far from being considered as an essential element for the survival of human beings, is instead conceived as a means to be exploited in order to guarantee the greatest profit possible, without any consideration for the high environmental costs that this entails. One of the most negative aspects of this process concerns in particular the commodification of food, a determining factor of the current global food crisis.
Challenging this view, Porcheddu takes the concept of food sovereignty as a possible alternative to reformulate the relationship between human society and nature. For her, food sovereignty opens up a perspective of global food justice which focuses on the importance of food as a fundamental human right, while highlighting the impact that human activity has on the environment.

In the second part of our meeting, Valentina Moro asked: How is it possible to act together and to mobilize by calling into question the entire paradigm of sovereign nation-states and its economic model? This political strategy needs to go beyond the denounce of an emergency (the financial crisis, or the environmental emergency) and requires a structural critique of the system that produced it. Moro‘s research focuses on feminist movements, the aim of which is to rethink the patriarchal forms of domination, that are embodied in the structure of liberal democracies and that entail hierarchies and inequalities.
In the first part of the research, she posed a question upon the way in which several theorists discussed the topic of the “body” – both individual and collective – as the core of a feminist reconsideration of the political relationship between human society and nature. The second part of her research explores the way in which the new wave of feminist mobilizations drew attention on the necessity of regaining control of one’s own body and boosted the challenge to reorganize within a collective body – a community, a group, a movement. From a theoretical perspective, assembly and organization are the key-words of the second part of the research. Valentina Moro is our fellow from the University of Padua who in 2019 obtained her first fellowship at the CAS SEE. Her research intersects the fields of political theory, classics, and feminist studies. She collaborates with the Hannah Arendt research center in Verona.

CAS SEE Spring Fellowship 2020 Seminars – Alessandra Scotti and Xenia Chiaramonte

As the CAS SEE Spring Fellowship 2020 is coming to an end, we realize that it has been one of the most interesting fellowships so far: we have extended our work into our private spaces instead of leaving them to meet each other in the Moise Palace, to say the least. Because of this reason, of the private and the professional, the “formal” and the “natural” being so interwoven, last Thursday’s lectures felt “on spot”.

On July 2nd, 2020 we heard from Alessandra Scotti, Professor of Bioethics at the Department of Humanities of University of Naples who began her presentation with what she calls “a forceful division between the human subject and natural objects”, stressing out that “the current environmental crisis requires a new reflection on the human relationship with Earth, one that can find valuable support in phenomenological thinking”. She went on to give us insight into “how Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy of nature and his notion of flesh can offer important support, both methodological and ontological, to ethical studies on the environment and the ecological crisis”. Scotti’s project consists of “a theoretical inquiry involving the rethinking of the problem from an ethical and political point of view, through an ontology of the visible. Its purpose is to contribute to: a) a new centrality of the corporeality; b) the building-up of a bodily ecology as a way to an environmental ethic; c) the analysis of social phenomena through the concept of visible”.

After Scotti’s “ecological thinking”, our next Fellow presenter, Xenia Chiaramonte, a jurist and a sociologist of law, took over in the most natural fashion and sense, beginning her presentation with a question about the economy of nature and its legal context. “In most cases”, Chiaramonte pointed out, “law is used against grassroots movements, and protests are criminalized. Ecological struggles are widespread around the world, but they are discouraged from employing the law to advance their rights, as the law seems to be a tool for the ‘Haves’ rather than an instrument for ‘First Players’. Yet, people mobilize and they ask for climate justice. Admittedly, the most recent studies on law and social movements demonstrate the positive influence of strategic use of the law to advance the rights of nature and populations, especially when they are subject to a restriction”. Reminding us of the fact that “law is a technique, a means, and as such, it can serve several masters”, Chiaramonte proposes to explore “the instituent ability of legal means and apply it to the rights of nature”. Xenia Chiaramonte teaches Critical Criminology at the University of Padua and Bologna.

CAS SEE Weekly Seminars with Guests – Kateřina Vráblíková

On Thursday, June 11th from 10.00 to 12.00 am we have hosted the third CAS SEE Weekly Seminar with Kateřina Vráblíkovápresented by our Fellow Professor Ondřej Císař. The seminar revolved around Vráblíková’s new book – What Kind of Democracy?: Participation, Inclusiveness, and Contestation.

Kateřina Vráblíková is a Senior Lecturer in Politics at the University of Bath, UK. Her work focuses on political participation, social movements, political attitudes, and culture in contemporary democracies, Eastern European politics, and research methods. She was a Fulbright fellow at the University of California, Irvine (2010-11), an Assistant Professor at the University of Mannheim (2012-2016), a Post-doctoral Fellow at The Ohio State University (2016-2018), and an Istvan Deak Visiting Professor in East-Central European Studies at Harriman Institute, Columbia University (Spring 2019). Her other work has been published in “Comparative Political Studies and European Journal of Political Research.

What kind of democracy enhances more politically engaged citizenry? In her book, Katerina Vrablikova, develops a new approach to democracy and argues for democratic structures that are based on inclusiveness and contestation. Inclusiveness provides access and protection of diverse voices while contestation promotes system’s accountability and responsiveness that increases the chances that the various voices will be listened to. Vrablikova’s inclusive contestation perspective on democracy draws on pluralist and radical democratic visions formulated by Dahl or Mouffe and challenges other classical perspectives that are built on the ideas of inclusive consensus, such as deliberative and consensual democracy. The strong theoretical approach is combined with empirical analyses of public opinion surveys across multiple democratic countries that examine the role of various individual, institutional, and cultural factors for citizens’ political participation beyond elections. The results have important implications for policymaking aimed at enhancing democratic citizenship that usually relies on enhancing citizens’ political skills and knowledge, strengthening social capital, or building consultative and deliberative institutions.


Watch the Seminar on Youtube:


The New (Form of) Work: CAS SEE Fellowship 2020/21

As the isolation period began taking its remote-work and restrictive-movement-measurements form, it had slowly begun being clear to us that our work is not “simply” being put to a pause, the famous “halt” and wait, but rather, that we have entered a new stage of organizing our endeavors. One of the immediate tasks which had had to be provided for was the Centre’s work around the CAS SEE Fellowship 2020/2021.

The Inauguration Day had been planned to follow Prof. Balibar’s lecture on engagement at the Moise Palace on the island of Cres. The date set was March 14th, 2020, which had coincided with Northern Italy and Slovenia closing their borders as the COVID-19 crisis escalated in Lombardy and Veneto, our neighboring regions. Had this not taken place, our seven fellows, six of whom from the most affected parts in Northern Italy, would have spent their April being “isolated” within the Moise palace and developing new insights and forms of rethinking the (immediate) environment and related issues.

Instead, it was “the environment” Who had responded by confining us to ourselves and what we tend to perceive as “our immediate lives”; relieving us from all social contact (that with our friends and colleagues as well as that with random humans) and assigning us to “our rooms”, the place one goes to find solitude, dormancy and where a child goes to endure punishment in form of involuntary reflection… (That is, provided one has a room of one’s own to go, to begin with.) So have all ten of us been condemned to virtual meetings and a completely transformed work reality and goals, as has the rest of the laptop-using world. Consequently and spontaneously, we have begun to transform our “talking” and to find new places to address some of the social issued arisen from the “2020 COVID-19 Isolation (Spring?)” – opening up from our kitchens or deliberately from in front of white walls, and with an occasional child running through a frame or the sound of a new-born, just loud enough to make us all smile. Things have certainly changed at the CAS SEE work meetings.

Gathered virtually from four countries, we have begun discussing and contemplating current projects when it became evident that new ones should be on the way, given the idea and impression input. With many questions still open, the evident lack and deprivation in terms of sharing both time and place altogether, and not without frustration (of every type one can experience while trying to communicate work and life) – the first Digital CAS SEE Fellowship is at the moment and fairly spatially-dispersed being although “forcibly piloted”, gaining daily on purpose, clarity, and enthusiasm.

Having been challenged so multi-levelled, this year’s Spring Fellowship has no alternative but to, appropriately enough, digitally respond to some hardly harmless and surely severe social implications and changes that have ever been experienced collectively.