Wednesday, 22 February 2017

#9 02/03/17: The Jewish Writings

 Even if the Jews were to win the war, its end would find the … achievements of Zionism in Palestine destroyed … The “victorious” Jews would live surrounded by an entirely hostile Arab population, secluded inside ever threatened borders, absorbed with physical self-defence to a degree that would submerge all other interests and activities.
Hannah Arendt, 'To Save the Jewish Homeland'

In this session we will explore excerpts from Arendt's so-called 'Jewish writings'. Starting with her incendiary essays from the early 1940s, we will trace her development of ideas about the struggle for Jewish emancipation, culminating in the prophetic 'To Save the Jewish Homeland'.

These writings bring out some of the questions of political violence and revolution that we have examined in previous sessions. They also document Arendt's views regarding Jewish nationalism as well as the Israel and Palestine conflict (which, by the time of 'To Save the Jewish Homeland' had evolved into an armed struggle).

Where? LHRI Seminar rooom 1
When? Thursday 2 March 2017, 5-7pm
Primary reading: Selected essays from The Jewish Writings, by Hannah Arendt, edited by Jerome Kohn and Ron Feldman. PDF here.
Secondary reading: ‘I merely belong to them’, Judith Butler's review of The Jewish Writings, in The London Review of Books (May 2007). Read it here.

Monday, 6 February 2017

#8 – 16/02/2017: On Violence

No one engaged in thought about history and politics can remain unaware of the enormous role violence has always played in human affairs.
Hannah Arendt, On Violence

Arendt’s dismissal of African histories, literatures, and languages as nonexistent subjects is troubling. [...] She presents Blacks as trapped in a dream world of escapism and suffering from irrational rage, while desribing a "potentially" violent backlash from the white community as perfectly rational. And as with her analysis of the violence of imperialism/colonialism and the violence of decolonisation, Arendt is far less condemning ofthe oppressors' offensive violence than she is of the defensive violence of the oppressed.
—Kathryn T. Gines, Hannah Arendt and the Negro Question

Hannah Arendt's On Violence (1970) is a short but multifaceted text. Pitched as a direct response to the events and debates of the 1960s, Arendt's reflections set out to critique the escalating civil rights and anti-Vietnam protest movements, Sartre's and Fanon's theorisations of violence, and the question of natural human behaviour and "aggressiveness". Importantly, Arendt's intervention articulates a central idea: violence and power are opposites. While violence can be justifiable as a self-defensive act, Arendt says, it is not a "legitimate" act of politics. Violence is only a means to an end, a tool, an instrument, rather than a political event of acting in concert. For this discussion we are particularly interested in situating Arendt's theory of violence within her broader understanding of action, and we also want to think specifically about what Kathryn T. Gines calls Arendt's "dismissal" of African American activists.

Where? LHRI, Seminar room 1
When? Thursday, 16th February, 5-7pm
Primary reading: Excerpts from On Violence, pp. 1-31, 43-56. PDF here.
Secondary reading: Kathryn T. Gines, Hannah Arendt and the Negro Question (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2014), pp. 93-122. PDF here.