‘I grasped thoughts which are so clear that I hope to set them down soon. They concern politics.’
Walter Benjamin, Letter to Schoen, September 1919
Like many of his other works, Walter Benjamin’s reflections on the concept of politics have a fragmentary character. In the early 1920s, Walter Benjamin worked intensively on a project that he came to refer to simply as his Politics; but even though this study appears to have been largely completed, most of the resulting texts have been lost or survived only in the form of outlines, notes, drafts, and fragments. Despite this fragmentariness, the traces of this project contain numerous clues as to the central themes and problems at the heart of Benjamin’s political thought. These range from the elaboration of an ‘intensive’ philosophy of language and a critique of law, including related reflections on justice, to a theory of “ethical anarchism”; and from a rigorous rethinking of the human being qua political being, including a subsequent attempt to draw the outlines of a planetary politics, to a redrawing of the nexus between politics, aesthetics and technology. All of this, finally, marks Benjamin’s investment in political practice.
This two-day workshop will take the constellation of problems and concepts presented in these texts as a starting point for a broader exploration of Benjamin’s political thought, especially with a view to its “actuality” (Aktualität). Taking the fragmentary remainders of Benjamin’s reflections from the early 1920s as a starting point, we will focus on the central preoccupations of this project, ranging from his planned essays on “The True Politician” and the “Dismantling of Violence” to his extended treatment of Paul Scheerbart’s asteroid novel, Lesabéndio. The workshop will be organised around close readings of selected text passages in which these preoccupations will be traced through Benjamin’s earlier writings, as well as his later thought, probing the currency of these reflections for contemporary political struggles. We intend to focus on the question what it means to read these texts today – and how we might understand their renewed actuality.
For this workshop we will be joined by AGATA BIELIK-ROBSON (Nottingham) and IRVING WOHLFARTH (Paris/Bremen).
Since the event revolves around intensive reading sessions, some prior knowledge of Benjamin’s philosophical writings is strongly encouraged. Bilingual, German-English copies of the texts will be made available. To facilitate the discussion, the number of participants for this workshop is limited.
If you are interested to participate, please send a message and a brief biographical note to the organisers before 15 March, 2020.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Organisation: Stefano Marchesoni (Milan/Paris), Nassima Sahraoui (Frankfurt), Sebastian Truskolaski (London), Tom Vandeputte (Hannover/Amsterdam)
Co-Organisation: Nicolò Pietro Cangini (Verona), Caterina Diotto (Verona)
In collaboration with Centro di Ricerca ORFEO (Dipartimento di Scienze umane, Università di Verona), Professor Tommaso Tuppini (Verona), as well as the Philosophical Colloquium / Frankfurt Benjamin Lectures (Thomas Regehly), and the Walter Benjamin Archiv, Akademie der Künste, Berlin.