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Summer School 2024 – Guest Lecturers
5. June 2024, Melanie Sampayo | 0 Comments

jackJack Halberstam is the David Feinson Professor of The Humanities at Columbia University. Halberstam is the author of seven books including: Skin Shows: Gothic Horror and the Technology of Monsters (Duke UP, 1995), Female Masculinity (Duke UP, 1998), In A Queer Time and Place (NYU Press, 2005), The Queer Art of Failure (Duke UP, 2011), Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender, and the End of Normal (Beacon Press, 2012) and, a short book titled Trans*: A Quick and Quirky Account of Gender Variance (University of California Press).  Halberstam’s latest book, 2020 from Duke UP is titled Wild Things: The Disorder of Desire. Places Journal awarded Halberstam its Arcus/Places Prize in 2018 for innovative public scholarship on the relationship between gender, sexuality and the built environment. Halberstam  is now finishing a second volume on wildness titled: Unworlding: An Aesthetics of Collapse. Halberstam was recently the subject of a short film titled “So We Moved” by Adam Pendleton. Halberstam was recently named a 2024 Guggenheim Fellow. Website 
angeAnge-Marie Hancock is Executive Director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at The Ohio State University, where she also serves as ENGIE-Axium Endowed Professor of Political Science. Dr. Hancock joined Kirwan in January 2023 after 15 years at the University of Southern California and previous positions at Yale University, Penn State, and the University of San Francisco.

A globally recognized scholar of intersectionality theory, she has written numerous articles and three books on the intersections of categories of difference like race, gender, class, sexuality and citizenship and their impact on policy: the award-winning The Politics of Disgust and the Public Identity of the “Welfare Queen,”(2004), Solidarity Politics for Millennials: A Guide to Ending the Oppression Olympics (2011) and Intersectionality: An Intellectual History (2016). She is hard at work on her fourth book, The Scope and Vision of African American Political Thought, a book that covers more than 250 years of African American political thought. In 1993, under the mentorship of NBA Hall of Famer Tom “Satch” Sanders, Hancock conducted the original survey research and designed the business model for the Women’s National Basketball Association. The only women’s professional basketball league to succeed in the United States, the WNBA has been in existence for over 25 years. More recent applied forms of her research focus racial and gender equity at the local and regional levels, including leading a racial equity baseline study for the City of Los Angeles and co-chairing an academic analysis of governance reform in Los Angeles. She has also led community-engaged, empirically rigorous data analyses for the Black Experience Action Team (BEAT) and the USC Department of Public Safety Community Advisory Board. Her current work includes new research projects on asylum requests by survivors of domestic violence, empirical applications of intersectionality, and The Kamala Harris Project, a nonpartisan collective of scholars dedicated to tracking all aspects of the first woman of color vice president in U.S. history. Born in Columbus, Hancock is an alumna of Thomas Worthington High School. Long committed to community work, she has served on the boards of Community Partners, the Los Angeles African American Women’s Public Policy Institute (LAAAWPPI), LA Voice, the Liberty Hill Foundation, and the ACLU of Southern California. She received a bachelor’s degree from New York University, and her MA and PhD from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Website
dannyDaniel Loick is Associate Professor of Political and Social Philosophy at the University of Amsterdam. After receiving his PhD in 2010 from Goethe University Frankfurt, he held positions at multiple institutes in Germany, Switzerland, and the US, such as Harvard University, the New School for Social Research in New York, the Center for Humanities and Social Change in Berlin, and Barnard College, New York. Daniel’s main research interests are critiques of state-inflicted violence (prisons, police, borders) and politics of forms of life. Among his publications are five books, Kritik der Souveränität(Frankfurt 2012, English translation as A Critique of Sovereignty, 2018), Der Missbrauch des Eigentums (Berlin 2016, English translation as The Abuse of Property, 2023), Anarchismus zur Einführung (Hamburg 2017), Juridismus. Konturen einer kritischen Theorie des Rechts (Berlin 2017) and most recently Die Überlegenheit der Unterlegenen. Eine Theorie der Gegengemeinschaften(Berlin 2024). Daniel is also Principal Investigator of the research project “Abolition Democracies – Transnational Perspectives” as well as (together with Judith Butler, Robin Celikates and Zeynep Gambetti) of the project “Emergencies of Authoritarianism”. Website

Summer School 2024
25. March 2024, Melanie Sampayo | 0 Comments



Reimagining Identities, Positionalities, Multiplicities, Alterities

In a world increasingly shaped by displacement, crisis and uncertainty, ‘identity’ has resurfaced as a crucial concept and is at the core of highly politicized and medialized disputes ranging from antiracist and feminist protests (e.g. #blacklivesmatter, #metoo) to nativist backlashes and anti-immigration stances. A prevailing climate of division and fear is punctuated by moments of solidarity. Academia is right in the thick of it.

Few other concepts in the humanities and social sciences have been subject to such widespread debates in recent decades and yet have persisted as stubbornly as the concept of ‘identity’. While until recently the concept’s heyday was mainly localized in 1990s academic discourse, of late it has found its way back into focus, along with related concepts such as ‘subjectivity’, ‘alterity’, ‘difference’.

Discourses on identity have always been manifold, heterogenous and contradictory: somewhere between constant flux and essential stasis, becoming and being, between particularism and universalism, between difference and similarity. Stuart Hall has conceived of (cultural) identities as unstable points of identification that are produced in discursive imaginings of history and culture. Not an essence, but a positioning. Paul Ricoeur put forward the idea that humans self-author identity by creating meaningful narratives or stories to make sense of the past, present and future. The idea of ‘third space’ as a liminal in-between space of colliding cultures within which new hybrid cultural identities are being formed and transformed, has been developed in Homi Bhabha’s work. ‘Intersectionality’, a concept that emerged within the civil rights movements and particularly in Black feminism, entered the academic debate, first through Kimberlé Crenshaw and then through other scholars such as Ange-Marie Hancock, Jennifer C. Nash, Patricia Hill, and Sirma Bilge. The concept showed the importance of understanding subjectivity and identity as shaped by mutually reinforcing factors such as race, gender, class, sexuality, age, education, dis/ability, etc. and their embedding in various power dynamics. Meanwhile, psychoanalysis, post-structuralism and phenomenology have long expressed the idea of the multiplicity of the subject and the self: our “auto” is always already radically altered through language, culture, time and space. A deferring game of inclusion and exclusion, differentiation and alterization brings permanently shifting selves and corresponding others into play. Relying mainly on Marxist frameworks, other critics of ‘cultural identity’ have suggested that, even though concepts of ‘identity‘ are useful to create moments of solidarity and connection, at the same time they open up the potential for conflict.  Instead, they have proposed to focus on similarity, shared struggles and a more inclusive universality. Queer theory, in its troubling of normative forms, moves away from an overemphasis on categories and ‘identities’ and attempts to find new forms of solidarity, community and care. In line with such a queering endeavor, Donna Haraway and other posthumanist feminist scholars replace all bounded individualism – including human exceptionalism – with a plea for a tentacular planetary thinking.

Amid this myriad of conceptualizations of identity and its contestations, the organizers of the Summer School sympathize with thinking from margins, boundaries, overlaps and transitions to open up innovative avenues of heuristic readings and engaged stances: Reading from in-between differences and identities, reading from the intersection, allows to reflect on the ways in which knowledge is produced, shared, and evaluated. It puts forward a complicating, connecting, vibrant, processual, transmedial and open way to conceptualize the world, undermining monolithic conceptions of systems, structures, fields, disciplines, and research objects.

In the 2024 Summer School, we aim to reimagine ‘Identities, Positionalities, Multiplicities, Alterities’ from historical, literary, cultural, sociological, anthropological, philosophical, and artistic perspectives, which allows for discussions on broader epistemological questions on power and justice, not least in the process of knowledge production and our own positionalities as researchers. We thus aim to stimulate inter- and transdisciplinary reflections implicated on both sides – the researcher’s and those being researched – as we grapple with the messiness of past, present and future life and how to capture its ambiguities and complexities. Some of the guiding questions of this Summer School are:


  • What do we really mean by such elusive ideas and broad concepts as identity, difference or alterity and their avatars, whether by challenge or rediscovery? How have they evolved and changed in public discourse and academic analysis?
  • How might ways of reading from the intersection and the margins be translated into concrete research practices, helping us to account for past and present complex realities and contexts in new and more nuanced ways and self-reflect on our ethical responsibilities as researchers towards engaged and future-oriented scholarship?
  • Which participatory, narrative, experiential, poetic, sonic or artistic research methodologies could be employed to disrupt logocentric objectivism and linear methods?


Invited keynote speakers:

Prof. Dr. Jack Halberstam (Professor of Gender Studies and English at Columbia University, New York)

Prof. Dr. Ange-Marie Hancock (Professor and Executive Director, Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race & Ethnicity, Ohio State University, Columbus)
Prof. Dr. Daniel Loick (Associate Professor of Political and Social Philosophy at University of Amsterdam)


Organizers: Graduate School of the Arts and Humanities (GSAH), University of Bern, within the framework of the European Summerschool of Cultural Studies (ESSCS).


Call for Application For further information about the summer school and the application procedure (application deadline April 22, 2024), please have a look at our call.



Summer School 2022 – Abstracts Morning Lectures
11. August 2022, Michael Toggweiler | 0 Comments

At the Sea’s Edge: A Queer Anti-Narrative

Prof. Dr. Macarena Gómez-Barris

In my own work, I have sought new vocabularies and methods for tracking racial and extractive capitalism in the Americas, pointing to the need to decolonize the Anthropocene through critical analysis and modes of engaging epistemes otherwise. In this experimental keynote based upon my forthcoming book At the Sea’s Edge, I continue to propose a critical lexicon and writing practice that attends to non-binarized geographies and imaginaries that extend beyond the reach of the extractive gaze.

I work to undo the normative paradigm of sustainability by centering pluriversal modes of imagining and being that take place at the sea’s edge. Through proliferation, mourning, lingering, play, and acknowledging pain and exhaustion, new imaginaries of queer ecologies can be made and reshaped. The river and sea edge offer ways of thinking and being that exceed the container of the nation state. And there are modes of visual and literary engagement that offer sources for perceiving the world beyond narrative enclosure. In a time of extreme planetary crisis, climate change, vast racial and economic inequality, how do we find embodied and collective modes of rendering our environments? I draw from queer literary texts, decolonial social movements, pluriversal visual art, and my own water biographies in relation to oceans and rivers to model a critical queer femme environmental writing practice.

Mandatory reading:


Summer School 2022 – Abstracts Morning Lectures
28. July 2022, ebader | 0 Comments

The Ecological Imperative in Literary Studies: Cultural Ecology and Literary Sustainability

Prof. Dr. Hubert Zapf 

The ecological imperative manifests in different ways according to the linguistic, generic, medial, and semiotic conditions in which it is communicated. This is also true of creative forms of cultural practice such as literature and the aesthetic. In any of the prevailing definitions of literature, the criteria mentioned for literariness are ambiguity, polyvalence, structured complexity, and participatory openness for the reader’s reception – all of them, at first sight, at odds with communicating univocal messages or calls to action.  Nonetheless, imaginative literature – as other forms of art – does have something important to contribute to environmental ethics and thus can be said to implicitly transact something like an ecological imperative, even though this contribution is for the most part not explicitly formulated but is rather conveyed through the narrative, formal, and aesthetic procedures themselves that literary texts employ; in other words, it becomes an ecological imperative only in the translation of the autopoetic complexities of the aesthetic into the co-creative responsiveness of its recipients.

In my talk, I will look at some of the ways in which this intrinsic ecological dimension of literature can be described within larger discursive contexts that are significant for environmental studies in general: These contexts are survival, cultural ecology, sustainability, and the Anthropocene, all of them in some way or other relevant to the ways in which an ecological imperative is mediated in literature and art.

Mandatory reading:


Summer School 2022 – Abstracts Morning Lectures
28. July 2022, ebader | 0 Comments

More-than-optical: Media Theory for the Anthropocene

Prof. Dr. Caroline A. Jones

The Ecological Imperative demands that we communicate and grasp the changing climate and its contested human causes in ways that mobilize citizens beyond the stasis of denial and despair. What media are effective? Since the 1970s, developed nations’ activists have often assumed that pictures of environmental disaster would be sufficient in mobilizing the public against ecological degradation (the US government even commissioned such photographs to justify its newly-founded Environmental Protection Agency). But there are deep-set patterns of occlusion and revelation in our Western image repertoires. When does the volunteer cleaning an oil-soaked bird on the shores of Prince William Sound in 1989 impede our capacity to see relations between ecology, regulations, or the political economy of oil extraction and transportation? How did communities struggle technically and politically–against a determined push-back from industrial energy providers–to make visible the unseen methane plumes from the 2015 Aliso Canyon blowout outside Los Angeles, and what were the political-epistemic results of their efforts? What impact do US “ag-gag” laws seeded in the 1990s (with the follow-on 2002 “Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act” and its progeny) have on the struggle to make industrial animal depredations visible? And what senses beyond sight are propelled into action as more-than-optical cues for ongoing ecological harm?

Under water, on the ground, and in the air, images are prized and contested – yet increasingly, wavelengths beyond human detection (on the planetary scale) and stench (on the intimate human scale) must join the merely visual in our attempts to conceive of our geological epoch, identified as the Anthropocene. In this collaborative project with historian of science Peter Galison, we tackle specific cases in which visual arguments were mustered and more-than-optical data registered, in order to offer some steps toward a media theory of obscurity and visibility in our critical times.

Mandatory reading:


Summer School 2022
17. March 2022, ebader | 0 Comments

Firing Process

© Hans Baumann, Photo: Amy Santoferraro

The Ecological Imperative

Past and Contemporary Perspectives and Practices  

The Summer School takes the notion of an “ecological imperative” of cultural products as its starting point. We ask how specific formats of intermedial cultural production work to engender an ethical and political stance towards human resource management. A general ecological paradigm is part of a growing awareness of the image politics of climate change and the role of cultural sustainability, examined according to the principles of contemporary eco-aesthetics, literatures and new documentary ecologies, but also as revisions of premodern ecological potentials. Recent approaches to ecological temporalities and spatialization have blurred the boundaries between human and non-human life worlds as well as material, technological, socio-cultural, local/global, literary, visual, auditive and virtual spheres. An intermedial blurring of boundaries between the material and conceptual opens up time and space for an “ecological imperative”, a promising heuristic device. In face of an escalating environmental crisis, ecological imperatives have transformed the ways we perceive human interaction with the non-human environment and have nudged all disciplines towards an Environmental Humanities. A humanities-based ecological mode of thinking offers a complicating, connecting, vibrant, processual and open way to make sense of the world, undermining an all too monolithic conception of systems, structures, or fields. And, by starting from a point of entanglement, we recognize that we researchers do not preexist our relationships with our research objects and subjects, colleagues or institutions. Drawing attention to past and present ecological relationships might help us position our research and its objects and subjects, as well as ourselves as researchers, and thus invite us to take an ethical and political stance in a time of planetary crisis. We are in need of critical (re)readings, new self-definitions, and inter- and transdisciplinary dialogue – in short, what an Environmental Humanities seeks to kindle. The 2022 Summer School discusses present, past and future ecologies, both as research topics and as modes of thinking from historical, sociological, cultural, anthropological, philosophical, literary, and artistic perspectives. It reflects, particularly, on the temporalities and spatialization of material and media within which “ecological imperative(s)” are already inscribed.

  • How do time and space structure ecological imperatives? How are temporalities and spatializations manifested in concrete matter, artefacts, textures or performative bodies? How do temporal notions (Postapocalyptic, Eschatological, Deep Time, Anachronism, Chronotopos, Linear and Circular Time etc.) correspond to spatial concepts (Oikos, Heterotopia, Biosphere, Human Geographies etc.) and ecological scenarios of concrete environments?
  • Given that the “ecological imperative”, as a concept, largely decentralizes and destabilizes the human subject and turns towards non-human performativity, how can we reasonably reconcile the material and conceptual, body/matter and sign?
  • If the “ecological imperative” expands the spatio-temporal relationality of our research fields, how can we still reasonably delimit our research, keep it focused and avoid arbitrariness?
  • In what ways might performative, experiential, artistic or sensorial research methodologies help us to study ecological imperatives? For example, how can we account for sensual and performative aspects of material culture and media in our own research output—in textual, visual, verbal or auditive forms?
  • How can ecological modes of thinking interrogate our own disciplinary positions and lead us towards engaged and future-oriented scholarship?

Invited keynote speakers:

Prof. Dr. Macarena Gòmez-Barris (Professor and Chairperson of Social Science and Cultural Studies at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York)

Prof. Dr. Caroline A. Jones (Professor in the History, Theory, and Criticism section, Department of Architecture, MIT)

Prof. Dr. Hubert Zapf (Professor and Chair of American Literature at the University of Augsburg, Germany)

Organizers: Graduate School of the Arts and Humanities in cooperation with SNF Sinergia “Mediating the Ecological Imperative” / Partner: International Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture (GCSC)

Call for Application For further information about the summer school and the application procedure (application deadline April 24, 2022), please have a look at our call.

Summer School 2021 – Abstracts Morning Lectures

Materiality is the Name of a Problem

Prof. Dr. Caroline van Eck

Two major developments have shaped the humanities since the 1980s: the material turn and the renewal of interest in human-thing entanglement. The latter had been a central issue, under the various headings of persuasion, fetishism or Einfühlung, in many disciplines that study human culture, from rhetoric to anthropology, and from aesthetics to psychology, but the emergence of formalism and iconography as dominating paradigms in art history, and behaviourism in psychology, in the early 20th century had driven human-thing entanglement out of academia and into popular culture or psychopathology. In the context of the material turn human-thing entanglement is now often considered a feature of the materiality of objects: of their power to act on humans, their capacity to exercise agency.

These developments have led to a complete rethinking of the study of human culture, both artefactual and visual. But they also raise at least two pressing questions: how to theorize what happens between humans and objects in situations of human-thing entanglement; and how to contextualize it, historically and culturally?

Coming to these questions as an art historian makes it possible on one side to draw on a very old and rich tradition of thought on what makes human viewers become entangled with art works as if they are the living beings they represent, both in terms of design or style and by way of theorizing: the complex tradition of Einfühlung/empathy is a case in point. On the other side, one of the challenges posed by the arrival of the material turn, with its concepts and methods taken largely from the social sciences and archaeology, is how to calibrate historical views and theories with the insights of present-day anthropology or psychology; and conversely, how to historicize these present-day theories and concepts of agency, materiality, or human-thing entanglement.

In my lecture I will consider, starting from Alfred’s Gell’s Art and Agency, various historical theories developed to account for what we now call human-thing entanglement, to investigate the historical and methodological challenges outlined here. The historical focus will be on the rich source material provided by accounts of sculpture-viewing and restoration in Paris and Rome c. 1800.


Mandatory reading (available here):

  • Gell, Alfred. “The Problem Defined: The Need For an Anthropology of Art.” In Art and Agency: An Anthropological Theory, 1–11. Oxford/New York: Clarendon Press, 1998.
  • Eck, Caroline van, Miguel John Versluys, and Pieter ter Keurs. “The Biography of Cultures: Style, Objects and Agency: Proposal for an Interdisciplinary Approach.” Les Cahiers de l’École Du Louvre, no. 7 (October 1, 2015).
  • Eck, Caroline van. “‘Du lebst und thust mir nichts’!: Fear, Empathy and Protection.” In Aby Warburg und die Natur Epistemik, Ästhetik, Kulturtheorie, edited by Frank Fehrenbach and Cornelia Zumbusch, 91–102. Berlin/Boston: Walter de Gruyter, 2018.

Summer School 2021 – Abstracts Morning Lectures

New Materialism and/as Political Theory

Prof. Dr. Christian J. Emden

The lecture will probe the relationship between “new materialism” and political theory, asking whether new materialism can justifiably be regarded as political theory.

While the current “material turn” in the humanities and some of the social sciences can take many forms in different disciplines, from literary theory and gender studies to sociology and law, the theoretical framework of this “material turn” rests on a number of ontological claims about matter, objecthood, life, agency, and the status of the non-human that are central to what is commonly described as “new materialism.” These ontological claims—as they come to the fore in “agential realism,” “speculative realism,” “object-oriented ontology,” “posthumanism,” or “vital materialism”—almost always entail specific ethical or substantive political commitments to egalitarian principles of justice, to radical democracy, and to a strong environmentalism. The emergence of new materialism, then, is also a direct response to some of the most obvious political and social issues of the present from social inequality and political disenfranchisement to racism and climate change. Although new materialism, broadly speaking, is not a homogeneous theoretical movement, the work of Bruno Latour, Timothy Morton, Karen Barad, Rosi Braidotti, or Jane Bennett, among others, provide obvious examples for these ethical and political commitments. The latter seek to correct the primacy of the human, and of normative reason, as it has been central to modern political thought since the Enlightenment by extending the “social” to include non-human actors and actants. New materialism’s attempt to de-emphasize the human, and thus human subjectivity, paradoxically includes an emancipatory project for the human world that surprisingly overlaps with central positions in contemporary critical theory (e.g. Rainer Forst, Axel Honneth, Nancy Fraser).

On the one hand, contemporary political theory, rooted in a specific understanding of human subjectivity and reason, will do well in reflecting on the material conditions for the possibility of justice, power, equality, and democracy, for instance, by extending its conception of the social. On the other hand, new materialism’s emphasis on the non-human is grounded in a flat ontology that resists the ethical and political positions it ostensibly seeks to advance. It is precisely because of this flat ontology that new materialism cannot show why, or how, its ethical and political demands should be more normatively binding, or more legitimate, than any other ethical or political claims. Perhaps, then, new materialism fails as political theory, even though it is able to enrich the perspective of political theory.


Mandatory reading (available here):

  • Bennett, Jane. Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. Durham: Duke University Press, 2010.
  • Coole, Diana, and Samantha Frost. “Introducing the New Materialisms.” In New Materialisms: Ontology, Agency, and Politics, edited by Diana Coole and Samantha Frost, 1–43. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013.
  • Emden, Christian J. “Normativity Matters: Philosophical Naturalism  and Political Theory.” In The New Politics of Materialism: History, Philosophy, Science, edited by Sarah Ellenzweig and John H. Zammito, 270–300. London/New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group, 2017.

Summer School 2021 – Abstracts Morning Lectures

Formal Material and the Feel of Violence

Prof. Dr. Eugenie Brinkema

How does the material of aesthetic form relate to the things, objects, and vibrant matter at the heart of the various material turns at work in the contemporary humanities? If the latter was an effort to move past the “all structure and no stuff” attributed to the linguistic turn, how might a resolutely radical conception of form reintroduce the problem of materiality in dialogue with formalism instead of opposed to it? This talk departs from the premise that both titular terms of the summer school—materiality and subjectivity—are best reapproached through a reading strategy that regards both as, principally, questions of form. This is illustrated by putting the materiality of the body and the limits of subjectivity to the test at an extreme site: an occasion of great violence. A reading of the 2007 French horror film À l’intérieur in relation to its navigation of seemingly disparate realms—the formal material of tempo, pacing, and rhythm, and a critical interest in the disenfranchised subjects of the Parisian banlieues—will suggest how the material of form opens up novel questions of subjective life under conditions of exclusion and restraint, questions that do not return us to a naive view of subjectivity but that expose subject positions as themselves basic formal material for the state.


Mandatory reading (available here):

  • Balibar, Étienne. “Uprisings in the Banlieues.” Constellations 14, no. 1 (2007): 47–71.
  • Brinkema, Eugenie.“Form.” In A Concise Companion to Visual Culture, edited by A. Joan Saab, Aubrey Anable and Catherine Zuromskis, 259–75. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 2020.

Recommended reading (available here):

  • Brinkema, Eugenie. “(Nearly) Nothing to Express: Horror: Some Tread: A Toroid.” In How to Do Things with Affects: Affective Triggers in Aesthetic Forms and Cultural Practices, edited by Ernst van Alphen and Tomáš Jirsa, 82–99. Thamyris, Intersecting, volume 34. Leiden/Boston: Brill Rodopi, 2019.

Summer School 2021 – Guest Lecturers

eugenie-brinkema_bv24 (2)Eugenie Brinkema is Associate Professor of Contemporary Literature and Media at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her research focuses on violence, affect, sexuality, aesthetics, and ethics in texts ranging from the horror film to gonzo pornography, from structuralist film to the visual and temporal forms of terrorism. Her articles have appeared in the journals AngelakiCamera ObscuraCriticismdifferencesDiscoursefilm-philosophy, The Journal of Speculative Philosophyqui parle, and World Picture. Her first book, The Forms of the Affects, was published with Duke University Press in 2014. Her second book, Life-Destroying Diagrams, explores radical formalism’s relationship to horror and love, and will be coming out in November of this year (2021), also with Duke. More information about the new book is available here.


Regarding the topic of the Summer School 2021, her areas of expertise include contemporary art and literature, critical theory and psychoanalysis, cultural studies, embodiment and affect, literary theory, popular culture, film theory, continental philosophy, formalist reading, visual culture and iconography, gender and sexuality studies.




Emden, ChristianChristian J. Emden is the Frances Moody Newman Professor and professor of German intellectual history and political thought at Rice University. He is the founding director of Rice’s Program in Politics, Law & Social Thought and currently serves as chair of the Department of Modern and Classical Literatures and Cultures.

Emden’s current work is mainly concerned with varieties of political realism, especially as they focus on the relationship between active political citizenship and the constitutional demands of the modern state. A second line of inquiry is concerned with the emergence of normativity and the conditions of normative order. This approach links discussions in philosophical naturalism and new materialism to central issues in political theory and the history of political thought.

He is currently finishing a longer book project on philosophical nihilism in modern European political thought from the eighteenth century to the present, In a Meaningless World: Philosophical Nihilism and Political Thought, 1750-1960. A second book project, Hannah Arendt, Political Theory, and American Empire, is focused on the writings of Hannah Arendt as a public intellectual in the context of American political life during the 1950s and 1960s.

Emden is one of the chief editors of the journal Nietzsche-Studien and he is also on the editorial board of the Journal of Nietzsche Studies. Previously, he was on the editorial boards of the Zeitschrift für Kulturphilosophie and Modern Intellectual History.


Regarding the topic of the Summer School 2021, his areas of expertise include modern intellectual history, history of life sciences, history of scientific materialism and positivism, European philosophy since 1750, new materialism (critical gaze), genealogy of philosophical naturalism and political realism, theories of subjectivity.





Caroline van Eck studied art history at the Ecole du Louvre in Paris, and classics and philosophy at Leiden University. In 1994 she obtained her PhD in aesthetics (cum laude) at the University of Amsterdam. She has taught at the Universities of Amsterdam, Groningen and Leiden, where she was appointed Professor of Art and Architectural History in 2006. She has been a Visiting Fellow at the Warburg Institute and the Paul Mellon Centre for British Art at Yale University, and a Visiting Professor in Ghent, Yale and York. In September 2016 she took up her appointment as Professor of Art History at Cambridge, and in 2017 she gave the Slade Lectures in Oxford on Piranesi’s late candelabra: ‘The Material Presence of Absent Antiquities: Collecting Excessive Objects and the Revival of the Past’.

Her main research interests are art and architectural history and theory of the eighteenth century and early nineteenth century; classical reception; the anthropology of art; Giovanni Battista Piranesi, Gottfried Semper and Aby Warburg.

Recent publications include Classical Rhetoric and the Arts in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007); Art, Agency and Living Presence. From the Animated Image to the Excessive Object (Munich and Leiden: Walter De Gruyter/Leiden University Press, 2015); ‘Art Works that Refuse to Behave: Agency, Excess and Material Presence in Canova and Manet’, New Literary History, 46 (2015), pp. 409-34; ‘The Hôtel de Beauharnais in Paris: Egypt, Rome, and the dynamics of cultural transformation’, in: K. von Stackelberg and E. Macaulay-Lewis (eds.), Housing the Romans (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016);’The Primal Scene of Architecture: Gottfried Semper and Alfred Gell on the Origins of Art, Style and Agency’, Revue Germanique Internationale 26 (2017), and  Restoring Antiquity in a Globalizing World: Piranesi’s Late Work and the Genesis of the Empire Style (Munich: DKV, 2019).

In 2014 she received the Prix Descartes-Huygens, awarded by the Académie des Sciences, the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres in France and the Dutch Royal Academy of Sciences; in 2015 she was made a Chevalier of the Ordre National du Mérite, and in the same year she received the Grand Prix du Rayonnement de la Littérature et Culture Françaises, awarded by the Académie Française. In 2016 she received a honorary doctorate from the University of Neuchâtel. She was elected a Fellow of the Academia Europaea in 2019, and a Fellow of the British Academy in 2020.

Funded by the Cambridge-Paris Sciences Lettres Strategic Partnership Van Eck directs, together with Prof. Isabelle Kalinowski (Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris) the program ‘Entangled Histories: Archaeology, Interiors and Design 1750-1900. Van Eck and Kalinowski als convene a graduate online seminar, organized together with the Labo Translitterae at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris: KUNST. German Theoretical Approaches to Art (1750-2000).


Regarding the topic of the Summer School 2021, her areas of expertise include art and architectural history (mainly 18th and 19th Century), anthropology of art, organicism in artistic theory and practice, agency, excess and material presence of art works, entangled history.




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