Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis

Brains, Maps and Rhythms: Knowledge and Experience in (Bio)political Orders

ASCA Workshop April 16-18, 2014. Organized by Artyom Anikin, Uzma Ansari, Simon Ferdinand, Annelies Kleinherenbrink

From 16-18 April 2014, the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA) will host its annual international conference and workshop. We will welcome 45 speakers to the University of Amsterdam to present and discuss their scholarly work on the formation, mediation and circulation of knowledge and experience of and within the global dispensation of power. Alongside the conference, an exhibition of artwork relating to the conference theme is organized.


How might we relate, accommodate and account for the salient historical developments unfolding around us?  Which amongst these geopolitical tendencies, if any, necessitate renewed scrutiny of dominant explanatory concepts, reversion to residual approaches or to the formulation of new frames altogether? Can we move towards a political phenomenology of the present - an account, that would be, of the various structures of feeling, knowing and being that prevail under contemporary capitalism?  How are lived worlds constituted or mediated today, by what and to whose advantage? Should subjects today – be they considered individuals or brains - be considered a privileged site of knowledge and experience, perhaps even their possessors and masters? These and many other questions will be addressed throughout the conference, which is organized in three parallel streams with five panels each. These streams are organized around brains, maps, and rhythms – challenging participants to attend to questions of temporality, spatiality, and  ‘cerebrality’ throughout their discussions.


This year’s keynote speakers are (in speaking order – more information below):


  • Jasbir Puar, Associate Professor of Women’s & Gender Studies (Rutgers University)
  • John Protevi, Professor of French Studies and Philosophy (Louisiana State Universit
  • Kate Soper, Emeritus Professor of Critical Theory (London Metropolitan University)   
  • Alan Ingram, Senior Lecturer of Geography (University College London)

Full program ASCA workshop 2014

Wednesday April 16th

8.45 –   9.30               registration and coffee

9.30 – 10.00               opening address

10.00 – 11.30               keynote lecture: Jasbir Puar

11.30 – 13.00               lunch

13.00 – 14.45               panel 1

14.45 – 15.15               coffee break

15.15 – 17.00               opening art exhibition

Thursday April 17th

9.15 –   9.45               coffee welcome

9.45 – 11.30               panel 2

11.30 – 13.00               lunch

13.00 – 14.45               panel 3

14.45 – 15.15               coffee break

15.15 – 17.00               panel 4


19.00 – 22.00        keynote lectures: John Protevi & Kate Soper

Friday April 18th

9.30 – 10.00               coffee welcome

10.00 – 11.30               keynote lecture: Alan Ingram

11.30 – 13.00               lunch

13.00 – 14.45               panel 5

14.45 – 15.15               coffee break

15.15 – 16.45               round-table plenary: all keynotes

16.45 –                        closing words & drinks


evening                       afterparty


Saturday April 19th

14:00-18:00                 masterclass with John Protevi




To register for the conference, please send an email with your name and affiliation to There is no fee. Upon registration, you will receive the conference reader, and an information package will be handed out to you at the start of the conference. NB: conference speakers are automatically registered.


There is a separate registration procedure for the masterclass, please visit for more information



Keynote speakers


Jasbir K. Puar is Associate Professor of Women’s & Gender Studies at Rutgers University.  She has also been a Visiting Lecturer in the Department of Performance Studies at NYU and a Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Cultural Inquiry in Berlin. Puar is the author of Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times (2007), which won the 2007 Cultural Studies Book Award from the Association for Asian American Studies. Her edited volumes include “Queer Tourism: Geographies of Globalization” (GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies). A forthcoming monograph, Affective Politics: States of Debility and Capacity (2014) takes up questions of disability in the context of theories of bodily assemblages that trouble intersectional identity frames. Puar is a 2013-14 Society for the Humanities Fellow at Cornell University, where she will be working on her third book, titled Inhumanist Occupation: Sex, Affect, and Palestine/Israel. Major awards Puar received include the Edward Said Chair of American Studies 2012-13 (American University of Beirut), a Rockefeller Fellowship at the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies (CUNY Graduate Center 1999-2000) and a Ford Foundation grant for archival and ethnographic documentation work (2002-2003). She recently received the 2013 Modern Languages Association Gay Lesbian/Queer Caucus Michael Lynch Award, and the Robert Sutherland Visitorship (Queens University).

Keynote abstract Jasbir Puar:

Debility/Capacity: From Narrative Prosthesis to Disaster Capitalism.  This paper examines the production of knowledge and experience about transnational and globalized flows of disability within shifting registers of neoliberalism. It looks at the various temporal and spatial dimensions of disability that render it differently yet insistently profitable for capitalism.


John Protevi  is Phyllis M Taylor Professor of French Studies and Professor of Philosophy at Louisiana State University.  He specializes in Deleuze and science, with a particular interest in geophilosophy and affective neuroscience. He has published widely on the intersections of dynamical systems theory; the cognitive, life, and earth sciences; and contemporary French philosophy. He was the Scots Philosophical Association Fellow for 2012, and received the 2013 LSU Distinguished Faculty Award in the humanities and social sciences. His most recent book is titled Life, War, Earth: Deleuze and the Sciences (2013); previous books include Political Affect (2009), Deleuze and Geophilosophy (2004) and Political Physics (2001). He is also founding editor of the book series New Directions: Cognitive Science and Continental Philosophy.

Keynote abstract John Protevi:

Earth, wind, water and sun are not just "the elements" of mythology, but are also dimensions of multiplicities which, when they "crystallize" in social and somatic "bodies politic," are interlocked with weapons, tactics, and social, political, and physiological processes. That is to say, I look to the way social and somatic bodies politic emerge from geological, biological, and technological processes above, below, and alongside subjects. Using the example of the 5th century BCE Athenian empire / Delian League, I look above the subject to the geopolitics of food circuits (i.e., transport of bio-available solar energy), below the subject to solidarity provoked by neuro-corporeal resonance or "entrainment," and alongside the subject to bio-technical assemblages such as the phalanx and the trireme.


Kate Soper is Professor Emeritus at the London Metropolitan University, having previously taught at the University of Sussex. Her work ranges widely throughout philosophy and cultural politics. In books that include Troubled Pleasures: Writings on Politics, Gender and Hedonism (1990), What is Nature? Culture, Politics and the Non-Human (1995) and To Relish the Sublime? Culture and Self-Realisation in Postmodern Times (with Martin Ryle, 2002), in addition to a wealth of chapters and journal articles, Soper has brought a nuanced critical realist and humanist  perspective to bear on diverse debates in ecology, feminism, socialism and consumption. There is a strong public dimension to Soper’s activity. In columns and radio she has urged for the importance of education as an arena within which alternative models of prosperity to that promoted by growth capitalism might be fostered and explored. Indeed, much of her recent work has advanced a plea for an ‘alternative hedonism’: a more socially and ecologically tenable vision of the good life.

Keynote abstract Kate Soper:

My talk will open with some reflections on the pervasive acceptance (‘naturalisation’) of capitalism as the inevitable system of wealth production, and consider the implications for analysing the power/knowledge relationship (noting in particular here the tensions between Marxist and Foucaultian accounts). It will move from there to closer scrutiny of the opposition between realist and constructivist approaches to the ‘politics of nature’, drawing on my argument in What is Nature ? to present a position that is influenced by, but also critical, of both. This position, by reason of its views on the unique qualities and environmental positioning of human beings, and its resistance to collapsing differences between humans and other animals, is committed to a human ‘exceptionalism’ at odds with arguments found in both neuroscience and recent posthumanist theory.  These differences will be addressed in the latter part of the paper with a view to exposing the implicit continuing commitment to human ‘exceptionalism’ (and by extension to human intentionality and conscious agency) to be found in the more interesting parts of the argument of those who present themselves as having gone beyond that framework. 

Ending on a more overtly political note, the paper will draw out the connections between this humanist critique and my ‘alternative hedonist’ call for the adoption of a post-growth,  post-consumerist ‘politics of prosperity’. Capitalism, consumerism, the shopping mall culture:  all this can be viewed in the broadest sense as generated in response to an appetitive dynamic which makes us quite distinct from other creatures.  Yet not only is constant expansion of desire and consumption reliant on social exploitation, it is also clearly ecologically unsustainable, and becoming much more widely acknowledged as such. This indicates a need to re-think the nature and conditions of human flourishing in such a way as to shift the dynamic of human pleasures and modes of self-fulfilment away from its current model of satisfaction and allow gratification through  less polluting and resource intensive modes of consumption.


Alan Ingram is currently a Senior Lecturer at the University College London Department of Geography, having previously lectured at the University of Cambridge, where he studied. Dr. Ingram’s book Spaces of Security and Insecurity: Geographies of the War on Terror (2009, co-edited with Klaus Dodds) examines the questions of geopolitical space which also feature prominently in his other writing. A major theme in his writing is the examination of geopolitics as they appear in everyday life and cultural products, and more specifically as they appear in artwork. The embodiment of geopolitics as it is encountered or perceived within installations, performances, and in other media forms a crossroads upon which Dr. Ingram reflects. Besides the practices of contemporary art, Dr. Ingram also has written much about global health in geopolitics, an interest which is rooted in his work outside of academia at a policy research and development program at the Nuffield Trust. Furthermore, his graduate and post-doctoral research explored Russian nationalism in post-Soviet geopolitics.

Keynote abstract Alan Ingram:

Experimental geopolitics: aesthetics, art and the Iraq war. How might we establish accounts of the salient geopolitical developments unfolding around us? In this talk I will consider this question with reference to artistic engagements with the 2003 invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq. Drawing on a range of conceptual resources and empirical examples, I will discuss art practice as a kind of experimental geopolitics that may register, enact and interfere with geopolitical reality in a variety of ways. Examining relations between geopolitics and aesthetics in works by artists from Iraq, Britain, the United States and beyond, my talk will consider the multiple ways in which geopolitics is experienced and experimented upon through art and the implications of this for practicing geopolitics otherwise.


Artwork: "Dorsal Root Ganglion" by Bart Nieuwenhuis of Cambridge University

Published by  ASCA

18 March 2014