Wednesday, February 17, 2010

What is The Contemporary Condition?

Introductory Note From Editors
William E. Connolly and Jairus Victor Grove

The contemporary world faces several overlapping challenges:

*the challenge climate change poses alike to neoliberal understandings, capitalist priorities, and the future;
*the radically unequal distribution of world resources and possibilities of sustenance; 
*new global modes of violence, with new combatants, some not even human;
*new global contingencies, crossings, and a veritable “minoritization” of the world at a faster pace than heretofore that together redefine sovereignty, the nation, and the territorial state;
*new experiences of time that disturb received conceptions of both religion and secularism;
*an intensification of religious conflicts within and across regions alongside and the sense in other circles that a viable response to pressing issues that require positive interactions between adherents of diverse theistic and non-theistic faiths.
*the rise of bellicose minorities in the United States and elsewhere that seek to block progressive reform;
*a growing sense in the academy that complexity theory in the natural sciences could help to redefine and reinvigorate literary theory, philosophy and the human sciences, opening a future in which the tired Kantian division between “the faculties” becomes reconfigured and academics speak more actively and broadly to public issues;
* the awareness that a viable response to any of these issues touches several others as well. 

These issues, and others too, are large, controversial and interinvolved. But for at least the last thirty years, in the United States in particular and elsewhere too, academics on the Left have played a declining public role in defining them and/or helping to spark social movements that speak to them. There are important exceptions to this generality in the domains of race, gender and gay/lesbian movements. But even these movements are now pressed hard by a think-tank/media/talkshow/evangelical/neoliberal complex that deflects and displaces critical discourse. One effect of that machine is to isolate, and sometimes to demonize, professors and the academy in general. And yet there are also signs, particularly on the blogosphere, that this isolation is once again under challenge.
The Contemporary Condition seeks to contribute to such blogosphere explorations. It will provide a space in which diverse academics on the Left explore the issues listed above, and allied matters as well. In particular, it seeks dialogue between those who define themselves as secularists and those who participate in religious and theological traditions, between those who seek to rework Marxism and those who pursue new orientations to matter, time, class, the earth, and the idea of humanity, between those who persuade through writing and those who contend that visual culture must command close attention as well, between those who seek a unified critical movement and those who contend that a viable movement today must be a pluralist assemblage working through multiple sites, between those who think liberalism needs modest reworking and those who think its conceptions of time, secularism, ethics, politics, civil society, and rights require more radical reconfiguration.
Our core contributor group will post blogs regularly on these and allied issues, seeking to spur larger conversation as we do so. We also invite participation by others, either through commenting on postings or by submitting a 400 to 1000 statement for consideration. A contribution might speak immediately to an issue or draw upon a recent event to illuminate a dark side or promising potential residing in it. 

Our Starting Line Up of Contributors

William E. Connolly
Krieger-Eisenhower Professor, Johns Hopkins University
My recent books include A World of Becoming (10); Capitalism and Christianity, American Style ( 08); Pluralism (05); Neuropolitics: Thinking, Culture, Speed (02); and Why I Am Not A Secularist (99). My new book, A World of Becoming: Complexity, Spirituality, Desire, is now in production with Duke. I want to continue thinking about what a political economy would like if it folded into it appreciation of the complexity of natural force fields and the role that affirmative or destructive spiritualities plays in the interior of politico-economic life.

Jairus Victor Grove
Jairus Victor Grove is a graduate student in International Relations and Political Theory at Johns Hopkins University. His dissertation How War Exceeds the State: Insurgencies, Cities, and the Materiality of Violence investigates the relations and forces that hold together increasingly virulent and mobile forms of warfare. When Jairus is not writing his dissertation he teaches classes at Johns Hopkins on Insurgency and Modern Warfare, coaches the Harvard debate team, is a featured contributor to the Huffington Post and ponders the singularity. In 2008 Jairus was a member of President Barack Hussein Obama's National Field Team.
David Howarth 
David Howarth is a Reader in the Department of Government at the University of Essex and Co-Director of the Centre for Theoretical Studies. I regard myself first and foremost as a political theorist, whose main interests are post-Marxist and poststructuralist theories of society and politics. I focus primarily on the empirical study of political ideologies and discourses; the relationship between space, time, and the political; the intersections between identity, difference, and subjectivity in various contexts; and the formulation and implementation of public policy, especially in the environmental field. In pursuing this project I seek to critically explain the environmental impact and affective grip of unsustainable practices, such as unregulated global aviation and other forms of unsustainable mass transportation; the promises and difficulties in constructing progressive political projects and assemblages that can challenge destructive and exclusionary practices and regimes; and the development of alternative radical democratic imaginaries that can mediate between an irreducible plurality of interests and identities via the articulation of new ideals, which can be recognised and endorsed by multiple constituencies. Although I am principally a practitioner of political theory and analysis, my practices in this field have been decisively prompted and shaped by my involvements in the struggle against apartheid domination in South Africa during the 1980s, and in efforts to forge ‘red-green alliances’ in an age marked by unregulated global capitalism and the perils of climate change.
Thomas Dumm
Thomas Dumm teaches political theory and culture at Amherst College. His most recent book, Loneliness as a Way of Life (Harvard, 2008) comes out in paperback l this spring.

Kathleen Roberts Skerrett
Kathleen Roberts Skerrett is Associate Dean and Professor Religious Studies at Grinnell College, Grinnell Iowa. Her most recent publications are "Consuetudo Carnalis in Augustine's Confessions: Confessing Identity/Belonging to Difference" and "Sex, Law, and Other Reasonable Endeavours". She writes and teaches at the intersection of contemporary Christian theology and contemporary political philosophy. She lives in Iowa with her three children.

George Shulman
George Shulman teaches political theory and american studies at the Gallatin School of Individualized Studies of New York University. My second book, American Prophecy: Race and Redemption in American Politics, was published in 2008 by Minnesota, and my first book, Radicalism and Reverence: the Poltiical Thought of Gerrard Winstanley, was published by California in 1988. I also contribute to the civil religion and religion and secularism blogs hosted by SSRC. 

Catherine Keller
Catherine Keller is Professor of Constructive Theology in the Graduate Division of Religion of Drew University. She is the author, most recently, of On the Mystery (Fortress 2008); God and Power(Fortress 2005); Face of the Deep: a Theology of Becoming (Fortress 2003);); she has co-edited several Transdisciplinary Theological Colloquium volumes, the most recent being Apophatic Bodies: Negative Theology, Incarnation and Relationality (Fordham:2009). 

Michael J. Shapiro
Mike Shapiro began teaching at the University of Hawaii’s Department of Political Science after receiving my Ph.D. from Northwestern University in 1966. I have also taught at the University of California-Berkeley, 1968-1970, twice at the University of Massachusetts on exchanges (1979 and 1986), at the University of Bergen in Norway (1972-73) and in the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU (2002) and at Scoula Lorenzo de' Medici in Florence, Italy. My early research was in the areas of political psychology and decision making (applied to electoral politics, to US foreign policy decision making, and to Norwegian Oil production decision making). Since the early 1980's my research and writing has been in the areas of political theory and philosophy, critical social theory, cultural studies, politics of media, indigenous politics, and critical international studies. In connection with this turn in my research I have been involved in co-editing two books series, one in International studies and Comparative politics (with the University of Minnesota Press) entitled Borderlines and one in Political Thought (with the University of Edinburgh Press) entitled Taking on the Political.
Research Interests: My research and teaching interests are in the areas of political theory and philosophy, critical social theory, global politics, politics of media, politics of aesthetics, politics of culture, and indigenous politics.
John Protevi
I’m a philosopher (PhD, Loyola Chicago, 1990), but I work in a French Department (LSU, Baton Rouge). In the first part of my career I worked on Heidegger, Derrida, and their readings of Greek (Plato and Aristotle) and German philosophers (Kant, Hegel, Husserl). In the second and ongoing part, I work on Deleuze, dynamical systems theory, and the biological, cognitive and affective sciences. My most recent book is Political Affect: Connecting the Social and the Somatic (Minnesota, 2009). I have a website with research papers and course materials and contribute to the group blog New APPS

Siba N. Grovogui
Professor of International Relations and Political Theory
Johns Hopkins University Department of Political Science
His most recent book is Beyond Eurocentrism and Anarchy: Memories of International Order and Institutions.’ (Palgrave, 2006).

Romand Coles
Romand Coles is the Frances B. McAllister Chair and Director of the Program for Community, Culture, and Environment at Northern Arizona University. His publications include Beyond Gate Politics: Reflections for the Possibility of Democracy; Christianity, Democracy, and the Radical Ordinary: Conversations Between a Radical Democrat and a Christian (with Stanley Hauerwas); Rethinking Generosity: Toward a Post-secular Caritas; and Self/Power/Other: Political Theory and Dialogical Ethics.

Terrell Carver 
Terrell Carver is Professor of Political Theory at the University of Bristol, UK. He has published extensively on Marx, Engels and Marxism, and sex, gender and sexuality. He co-general-edits two book series: "Globalizations" for Rowman & Littlefield, and "Routledge Innovators in Political Theory". Together with Sam Chambers he is taking over the editorship of Contemporary Political Theory from 1 July 2010.

Kathy Ferguson 
Research interests: My central research interests are contemporary political theory, feminist theory, and militarism. I am currently writing a book on Emma Goldman as a political thinker, and another book on homeschooling. My work on Goldman reflects a longstanding fascination with her anarchist and feminist ideas and actions at the turn of the last century, while my more recent interest in homeschooling results from my year of homeschooling my own sons while traveling in the U.S. mainland and Israel. I continue to work on questions of gender and militarism, this time within the context of globalization, with co-author Phyllis Turnbull. When I finish these two projects I've been invited to write a new introduction and conclusion to my earlier book The Feminist Case Against Bureaucracy, to coincide with the second edition of that book in 2004.

Davide Panagia
Davide Panagia is a political and cultural theorists who holds the Canada Research Chair in Cultural Studies at Trent University. His writings focus on the relationship between politics, aesthetics, popular culture, and ethics and include two books: The Poetics of Political Thinking (Duke, 2006) and The Political Life of Sensation (Duke, 2009). He is also Co-Editor of the political and cultural theory journal, Theory & Event. His current research includes a monograph on David Hume and his contributions to contemporary political and cultural thought, and a book-length project that explores the possibility of an ethics of appearances for contemporary democratic life. His ambition is to some day become a staff writer for Entertainment Weekly.

Timothy Morton
Timothy Morton is Professor of English (Literature and the Environment) at the University of California, Davis. He is the author of The Ecological Thought(Harvard UP, 2010), Ecology without Nature (Harvard UP, 2007), seven other books and over sixty essays on literature, ecology, philosophy, and food.

Steven Johnston
Steven Johnston is Associate Professor in the Department of Government and International Affairs at the University of South Florida. He is author of The Truth about Patriotism (Duke University Press) and is currently writing a book manuscript tentatively titled Tragedy and Politics, addressing issues such as humanitarian war and the Palestine-Israel conflict.

Kam Shapiro
Kam Shapiro was born in Honolulu, or so he claims. He received his B.A. from Reed College and his Ph.D. in Political Science from Johns Hopkins University. He currently serves as Associate Professor of Politics and Government at Illinois State University. His work explores various means by which sovereignty, citizenship are invested in and composed by affects and habits. He is the author of Sovereign Nations, Carnal States (Cornell University Press, 2003) and Carl Schmitt and the Intensification of Politics (Rowman and Littlefield, 2008). He lives in Chicago.