Thursday, 20 April 2017

#11 – 27/04/17: Lying in Politics

When we talk about lying […] let us remember that the lie did not creep into politics by some accident of human sinfulness. Moral outrage, for this reason alone, is not likely to make it disappear.
–––Arendt, 'Lying in Politics'

The ultimate aim was neither power nor profit […] The goal now was the image itself.

In what promises to be an excruciatingly topical session, we'll be reading Arendt's 'Lying in Politics' next week, with Derrida's 'History of the Lie' as secondary material.

Arendt's essay responds to the 'Pentagon Papers', the U.S. Department of Defence's report on their involvement in the Vietnam and Korean Wars. These papers were leaked by The New York Times amidst the furore of the Watergate scandal; they exposed 'the extravagant lengths to which the commitment to nontruthfulness in politics went on at the highest levels of government' (Arendt, 4).

The response we find in 'Lying in Politics' is an interrogation of both the nature and the political uses of truth and lies. Prescient as ever, Arendt equips us with the tools for understanding post-truth, nationalism, and the way governments attempt to hold power.

What better to set you up for the coming months of Trump's narcissistic foreign policy, Erdogan's new mandate for authoritarianism, and May's manipulative, Brexit-fuelled electioneering?

Where? LHRI Seminar rooom 1
When? Thursday 27th March 2017, 57pm
Primary reading: 'Lying in Politics', from Crises of the Republic. PDF here.
Secondary reading: Jacques Derrida, 'History of the Lie: Prolegomena'. PDF here.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

#10 – 16/03/17: Patrick Hayden presents "The Heart of Politics: Amor Mundi and Human Plurality"

Before drawing up the constitution of a new body politic, we shall have to create–not merely discover–a new foundation for human community as such.
–Hannah Arendt, concluding remarks to The Origins of Totalitarianism

For our next session we will be joined by Patrick Hayden, Professor of Political Theory and International Relations at St Andrews, who will present his paper "The Heart of Politics: Amor Mundi and Human Plurality". Prof. Hayden has published widely on Arendt, including: a monograph, Political Evil in a Global Age: Hannah Arendt and International Theory (2010), an edited collection, Hannah Arendt: Key Concepts (2014), and numerous articles and chapters, the most recent of which explores Arendt, refugees, and world-making. Hayden's other publications include Camus and the Challenge of Political Thought: Between Despair and Hope (2016) and the co-authored Recognition and Global Politics: Critical Encounters between State and World (2015).

**Please note that we are meeting at the earlier time of 3-5pm.**

Where?: Botany House, 1.03
When?: Thursday 16th March, 3-5pm
Primary reading: Chapters 12, 13, and Appendix from The Origins of Totalitarianism. PDF here.

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.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

#7 – 02/02/2017: On Revolution

'In a constellation that poses the threat of total annihilation through war against the hope for emancipation of all mankind through revolution [...] no cause is left but the most ancient of all [...] the cause of freedom versus tyranny.’

Hannah Arendt, On Revolution

In our next session we'll be grappling with "The Meaning of Revolution". We'll explore Arendt's challenge to the Marxist idealisation of the French Revolution, and her argument that we should take inspiration from America instead. Here, Arendt brings her conceptions of freedom and political action to bear, and proposes revolutionary constitutionalism as the means for emancipation. Is this the answer to the question, 'what happens the day after the revolution'? 

Where? LHRI, Seminar room 1
When? Thursday, 2nd Feburary, 5-7pm
Primary reading: "The Meaning of Revolution", from On Revolution. PDF here.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

#6 – Guest speaker Simon Swift presents "Hannah Arendt, Tact and Critical Theory"

In the Jewish tradition there is a concept, hard to define and yet concrete enough, which we know as Ahabath Israel: "Love of the Jewish people..." In you, dear Hannah, as in so many intellectuals who came from the German Left, I find little trace of this. [...] Would there not have been a place [in Eichmann in Jerusalem] for what I can only describe with that modest German word – "Herzenstakt"?
Gershom Scholem, Letter to Hannah Arendt, June 23 1963

At stake in Arendt’s tactlessness [...] is a crucial, although often unacknowledged strand in her thought as a whole, namely the issue of the relation between politics and feeling. 
Simon Swift, 'Hannah Arendt's Tactlessness'

Our first session of 2017 will be run by guest speaker Simon Swift, director of the Northern Theory School and Associate Professor of English Literature at the University of Geneva. Simon has published extensively on Hannah Arendt - from articles such as 'Hannah Arendt's Tactlessness: Reading Eichmann in Jerusalem' to his monograph Hannah Arendt, which is part of the Routledge Critical Thinkers series. 

Simon will be presenting on Arendt, tact and critical theory, covering issues such as the relationship between tact, tactlessness and theory, and the 'tactlessness' of Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem. His presentation will be followed by a Q&A, and then a group discussion of chapters 1, 3, 7, and 14.

Where?: LHRI, Seminar Room 1 
When?: Thursday 19th January, 5-7pm
Primary reading: Chapters 1, 3, 7 and 14 from Eichmann in Jerusalem. PDF here.