Call for Papers
Theme: History, Progress, Critique
Type: 3rd Istanbul-Oldenburg Critical Theory Conference
Institution: Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg
Location: Oldenburg (Germany)
The relationship between historical analysis and critical social
praxis has been one of the central concerns of Critical Theory since
its beginnings. For critical theorists historical analysis plays a
key role in identifying immanent social forces and potentials as
resources for a better society, i.e. for social and moral progress.
While it was sufficient for the first generation of critical
theorists to adopt a non-vulgarized version of historical materialism
– perhaps with a Nietzschean ‘genealogical proviso’ – as a method of
analysis, the experiences of the Second World War and the Holocaust
made it necessary to radically rethink the naive teleological
assumptions inherent in the notion of progress provided by German
Idealism and Marxism. Critical Theory found itself confronted with
the problem of grounding historical analysis on an alternative
conception of philosophy of history. The need to rethink philosophy
of history found its first expression in the seminal work of Theodor
W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer, the Dialectic of Enlightenment. Since
then, any substantial reorientation of Critical Theory has required a
reassessment of the philosophy of history and its key notions.
This is perhaps the motivation behind Theodor W. Adorno's and Walter
Benjamin's engagement with the concept of progress. They were
questioning whether the very notion of progress presents an
impediment to the radical transformation of society. If so, the
concept would need to be transformed itself. A similar question plays
a crucial role in the poststructuralist and postcolonial strands of
contemporary critical theory. On the one hand, prominent theorists
such as Foucault and Derrida have developed their critical
perspectives on the rejection of not only rationalist but also
structuralist binaries such as traditional/modern, static/dynamic, or
progressive/regressive. The poststructural deconstruction of
processes of knowledge and subjectivity production has generated
transdisciplinary and emancipatory agendas that significantly enhance
the scope of critical analysis. On the other hand, critical
postcolonial theory has shown how the idea of progress has justified
colonial exploitation and domination. The reassessment of the
category of modernity, and the subsequent call for methodological
self-reflexivity aims at transcending the sometimes narrow and
eurocentrist perspective of the Frankfurt School tradition of
critical theory. Feminist theory has also opened new perspectives
that allow us to critique patriarchal historical narratives that
obscure gender differences and promote masculine ideas of progress.
In the light of these challenges, this conference aims at discussing
whether and how to hold on to a philosophy of history and a notion of
progress that enable critical theory to reflect on its own dependency
on historical developments and prevent reifications. We invite all
interested scholars to address the following questions:
- Does critical theory need a philosophy of history?
- How should the normative assumptions of critical theory relate to
- What role does historical experience play or should play in
transforming the theory and practice of critique?
- How should critical theory re-assess the notion of progress today?
- Can genealogy as a historical method be reconciled with a critical
notion of progress?
- Do we need to de-colonize critical theory’s philosophy of history?
How is that possible?
- Is the notion of progress an impediment to emancipatory
transformation? Is critique possible without the notion of progress?
- What understanding of temporality is necessary for a critical
theory of history and progress? How do changes in temporal
structures under neoliberal conditions affect our critical
understanding of history and progress?
- What relationship should be established between notions of progress
and contemporary political, social, economic and technological
Sonja Buckel (University of Kassel)
Estelle Ferrarese (Université de Picardie Jules Vernes, Amiens)
Rahel Jaeggi (Humboldt University Berlin)
The conference language will be English.
We invite interested scholars at all career levels to send proposals
(maximum 400 words) to: email@example.com
Deadline: 30 April, 2019.
Volkan Çıdam (Boğaziçi University, Istanbul / Humboldt University Berlin)
Zeynep Gambetti, (Boğaziçi University Istanbul)
Philip Hogh (Carl von Ossietzky University, Oldenburg)
Gaye İlhan-Demiryol (Bahçeşehir University, Istanbul)
Julia König (Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz)
This conference is a follow-up to the “Adorno and Politics”
conference organized in Istanbul at Bogazici University in June 2016
and to the one on "Arendt and Critical Theory Today” in July 2017,
which had to be displaced to Oldenburg owing to the political
atmosphere reigning in Turkey. Since the situation in Turkey has not
improved, the conference series continues in Oldenburg.
Istanbul-Oldenburg Critical Theory Conference