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Critical Cultural Theory Seminar

Colloquium organized by the Critical Cultural Theory group of the Department of Philosophy | Organizing committee: Josef Fruchtl, Katia Hay Rodgers, Stefan Niklas, and Aukje van Rooden  | Contact: Aukje van Rooden (

Whether we think of critical theory in the narrow or in the broad sense, culture is always central to it. For the thinkers around Max Horkheimer, Theodor W. Adorno, Herbert Marcuse and also Walter Benjamin, the tradition that reaches from German idealism via Marx to Nietzsche, Max Weber and Freud forms the groundwork of a theory that is aware of cultural self-reflection as necessary part of philosophy and social theory. The same is true, more or less, for the thinkers of so-called postmodernism, poststructuralism and philosophy of difference for whom even more Nietzsche is the turning point, accompanied now by Heidegger. But it is well known that culture has several basic meanings: it means, normatively, a desirable state of human life, descriptively a way of living that allows for cultures in the plural, and sociologically a subsystem of society being specialized to world-interpretations or symbolic understanding.

A contemporary critical theory of culture, thus, has to deal with questions like: What do we need to still argue for a normative concept of culture or good life? How is it reconcilable with the liberal-democratic and “postmodern” pluralism of ways of living and thinking? How does critique work at all under conditions where there are no transcendent criteria any more? What is the distinct value of certain forms of art for philosophy and society? Can we learn something from certain cultural phenomena – be it from distinct art, pop-art or everyday life - about our epoch? And, finally, what is the specific value of the Humanities for societal self-reflection?

Giving an answer to such questions needs historical, systematic and interdisciplinary approaches at the same time. The colloquium is organized intermittently to bring together scholars from various academic disciplines and also non-academic professions.




Filmscreening and discussion: ‘The Toxic Reigns of Resentment’ by Jürgen Schaflechner and Sjoerd van Tuinen
Time and place: Feb. 5, 16h00-18h00, Oude Manhuispoort D.0.09, Amsterdam\

Filmscreening of the documentary 'The Toxic Reigns of Resentment' (directed and produced by Jürgen Schaflechner, Tim van den Hoff and Sjoerd van Tuinen) followed by an open discussion of the film with film director and anthropologist Jürgen Schaflechner (South Asia Institute, University of Heidelberg) and philosopher Sjoerd van Tuinen (Erasmus University Rotterdam).

Summary of the film:
After the fall of the Soviet empire and the triumph of global capitalism, modernity appeared to keep its dual promise of liberty and equality. Only a few decades later, however, we witness an oppositional trend: A revival of nationalism paired with xenophobia, an increasing tribalization of politics, a public sphere oscillating between cruelty and sentimentality, and a Left caught up in wounded attachments. Social media, once the promise to give voice to the disempowered, link cognitive capitalism with a culture of trolling and hyper moralization. Algorithms programmed to monetarize outrage feed isolated information bubbles and produce what many call the era of post-truth politics.
How did we enter this toxic climate? Are these developments a response to the ubiquity of neoliberal market structures eroding the basic solidarities in our society? Has the spread of social media limited our ability to soberly deal with conflicting life worlds? And have both the left and the right given in to a form of politics where moralization and cynical mockery outdo collective visions of the future?
Featuring: Wendy Brown, Grayson Hunt, Rahel Jaeggi, Alexander Nehamas, Robert Pfaller, Gyan Prakash, Peter Sloterdijk, and Sjoerd van Tuinen

Katia Hay Rodgers on Laughter and Philosophy in Schlegel and Nietzsche
Time and place: Dec. 18, 2019, 14h00-16h00, Faculteitskamer, Oude Turfmarkt 147, Amsterdam

Katia Hay Rodgers (University of Amsterdam) presents a working paper discussing the role of laughter in Nietzsche’s and Friedrich Schlegel’s philosophies. It addresses this topic by reference to Kant, showing how both authors respond to and challenge Kant’s (but not only Kant’s) ‘prejudice’ (as Nietzsche calls it in his ‘Gay Science’) against laughter and joy. The main question being: in what ways are their responses similar and where do they differ? In order to address this question I pay special attention to the way in which they incorporate ‘laughter’ in their writings.

Howard Caygill on The Cynegetic Paradigm in Art, Politics and War
Time and place: Oct. 17, 17h00-19h00, PC. Hoofthuis, room 1.15, Amsterdam

In this lecture, Howard Caygill (Kingston University) will discuss what he coins the cynegetic paradigm in art, politics and war.