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Critical Cultural Theory Seminar

Colloquium organized by the Critical Cultural Theory group of the Department of Philosophy | Organizing committee: Organizing committee: Katia Hay Rodgers, Stefan Niklas, Monique Roelofs, Aukje van Rooden, Maarten Coolen, Sybrandt van Keulen en Frank Rebel | 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.


What if Truth Were a Woman? On Nietzsche, Women, and Philosophy

The Critical Cultural Theory Group is co-hosting, together with the FNS and the Nova University of Lisbon, the 26th International Conference of the Friedrich Nietzsche Society on 16-18 September 2021.

Nietzsche’s writings abound in references to ‘woman’ and the feminine. His predominately controversial remarks on this subject pervade in his philosophical questioning about the notions of humanity, Western culture, nihilism, modernity, life and death, nature, suffering, art and creativity, illusion, truth and philosophy itself. It is therefore not surprising that his thoughts on women and the feminine should have raised diverse, and even opposed interpretations. What is perhaps more surprising is how these issues have remained somewhat under-interpreted. In other words: there is  much more to be thought and said on this topic.
This conference addresses the mysterious, polemical and in many cases unexpected relationship that Nietzsche establishes between women and philosophical thought throughout his writings. Presenters will examine the way Nietzsche uses and thematizes the notion of ‘woman’ and the feminine (and related concepts such as motherhood, pregnancy, love, desire, difference, the representation of life and truth as a woman), the importance these concepts had for the development of his thought, and their intersection with other themes and ideas in his work. In addition, this conference considers the influence Nietzsche has had and may still be having in the development of feminist theories. The organizers therefore also invite discussions of feminist readings of Nietzsche and Nietzsche’s influence on Feminism. 

Confirmed keynote speakers:

  • Judith Norman (Trinity University, Texas)
  • Paul Patton (Wuhan University)
  • Maria Cristina Fornari (University of Salento)
  • Sigríður Þorgeirsdóttir (University of Iceland)

Make sure you register on time so you have access to the schedule and the pre-recorded video conferences, since parallel sessions will only be for the discussion of papers.


13 September 2021: Boehme, Hegel, Schelling, and the Hermetic Theology of Evil

The Critical Cultural Group cordially invites you to the following events and students from the tutorial on Schelling’s Freedom Essay, would like to invite you to the next Critical Cultural Theory Seminar, for which we are organizing a workshop with Prof. Sean J. McGrath

The workshop will be dedicated to Schelling’s Freedom Essay, but we will be working with and discussing McGrath’s paper on: Boehme, Hegel, Schelling, and the Hermetic Theology of Evil

Abstract: Building on recent research exposing Hegel’s debt to esoteric Christianity (both Gnostic and Hermetic traditions), the aim of this paper is to show how Hegel and Schelling resolve an ambiguity in the Boehme’s theology of evil in opposing ways. Jacob Boehme notion of the individuation of God through the overcoming of opposition is the central paradigm for both Hegel’s and Schelling’s understanding of the role of evil in the life of God. Boehme remains ambiguous on the question of the modality of evil: Is it necessary to God’s self-unfolding, or is it rather an anarchic act that God permits in the interest of preserving the autonomy of finite freedom? If the former, Boehme becomes much more closely aligned to Gnosticism by identifying finitude with evil. This identification is shown to be exactly Hegel’s solution to the ambiguity, one Hegel opts for in the interest of maintaining the absolute rationality of the system. Hermeticism opposes Gnosticism on this point: for the Hermeticist, finitude / material being / nature is not evil but ‘of God,’ the means of his individuation. The conflict in interpretations of Boehme illuminates an often overlooked but essential difference between Gnosticism and Hermeticism. Schelling remains faithful to the Hermetic tradition by sacrificing system for the sake of preserving the contingency of evil, and disidentifying finitude and evil.

Sean J. McGrath researches and teaches in the areas of metaphysics, classical German philosophy (Kant to Heidegger), phenomenology and hermeneutics, and psychoanalysis. He is author of The Early Heidegger and Medieval Philosophy: Phenomenology for the Godforsaken (Catholic University of America Press, 2006, reprinted 2013). In 2008 he published a second book, Heidegger: A (Very) Critical Introduction (Eerdmans), which was commissioned by the Centre for Theology and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham. That same year he was awarded a Humboldt Fellowship for two years of research in Germany on the topic of the historical and systematic connections between psychoanalysis and German Idealism. The fruit of that research was published in 2012 as The Dark Ground of Spirit: Schelling and the Unconscious (Routledge). He is the co-editor of A Companion to Heidegger’s Phenomenology of Religious Life (Rodopi, 2010) and the editor of Analecta Hermeneutica, an annual journal on philosophical hermeneutics and related fields. He serves as the co-chair of the North American Schelling Society (which he founded with Jason Wirth in 2011) and a member of the executive committee of the Canadian Society for Continental Philosophy. Sean McGrath is currently working on a book dedicated to a further analysis of Boehme’s influence also in Schelling’s later works.

Please contact Katia Hay if you would like the paper.

Monique Roelofs on Arts of Address: Being Alive to Language and the World

Time and place: April 1, 2021, 16h-18h, via zoom

We are happy to invite you to the next Critical Cultural Theory Seminar on Arts of Address. Prof. Monique Roelofs will discuss her new book Arts of Address: Being Alive to Language and the World that has been published in 2020 with Columbia University Press

Modes of address are forms of signification that we direct at living beings, things, and places, and they at us and at each other. Seeing is a form of address. So are speaking, singing, and painting. Initiating or responding to such calls, we participate in encounters with the world. In readings of writers and artists ranging from Julio Cortázar to Jamaica Kincaid and from Martha Rosler to Pope.L, Roelofs demonstrates the centrality of address to freedom and a critical political aesthetics. Hume, Kant, and Foucault enter into conversation with Fanon and Anzaldúa. Drawing on a wide array of artistic and theoretical sources and challenging disciplinary boundaries, the book illuminates address’s significance to cultural existence and to our reflexive aesthetic engagement in it.

Monique Roelofs is Professor of Philosophy of Art and Culture and Chair of Critical Cultural Theory at the University of Amsterdam. Her research focuses on the relation between aesthetics and politics, with special attention paid to the dynamics of race, gender, coloniality, and the global. She is the author of Arts of Address: Being Alive to Language and The World (Columbia UP, 2020) and The Cultural Promise of the Aesthetic (Bloomsbury, 2014). Roelofs has a new book in the works titled “Aesthetics, Address, and the Politics of Culture.” She is also coauthoring a book on aesthetics and temporality in Latin(x) America and coediting an anthology on Black Aesthetics.

Please contact to receive the zoom link and, if desired, the introduction and the first chapter of the book.

Philippe van Haute & Herman Westering on Psychoanalysis From a Philosophical Perspective
Time and place: January 25th at 16-18h, via zoom

The CCT group and RMA students working on a tutorial on psychoanalysis would like to invite you to the next Critical Culture Theory Seminar on psychoanalysis from a philosophical perspective. Prof. Philippe van Haute and Prof. Herman Westerink will present and discuss their new book, 'Three Essays', which will be published this year as part of Routledge's 'History of Psychoanalysis Series' called 'Reading Freud's Three Essays on Sexuality'. It focuses on Freud's 1905 text, which has been neglected despite its central academic importance to the development of psychoanalysis.

Professor Philippe van Haute is a professor at the Centre for Contemporary European Philosophy, Radboud University Nijmegen. Prof van Haute has published extensively on Lacan and Freud and is a founding member of the International Society of Psychoanalysis and Philosophy. van Haute's books include Against Adaptation (2001), A Non-Oedipal Psychoanalysis? (with Tomas Geyskens, 2012), and Deconstructing Normativity, (2016) co-authored by Professor Herman Westerink.

Professor Herman Westerink is an associate professor at the Center for Contemporary European Philosophy, Radboud University Nijmegen. He is also a member of the International Society for Psychoanalysis and Philosophy. He has published numerous books and articles on psychoanalysis, including A Dark Trace (2009) and The Heart of Man’s Destiny (2012) and is editor of the book series Sigmund Freuds Werke: Wiener Interdisziplinäre Kommentare (Vienna University Press). His work focuses on the intersections between mental health, religion, identity formation, and Freud.

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.