Blog post

Anarchist Turn conference viewable online

Audrea Lim 7 June 2011

In his introductory remarks at the recent Anarchist Turn conference at the New School, Simon Critchley, author of Infinitely Demanding, recalled being handed photocopies of a text from a then-virtually-unknown French journal called Tiqqun. At the time, the second New School student occupation was underway, and hundreds of polices officers had descended upon the school, pepper-spraying students, using force and arresting many. A few months later, Glenn Beck devoted one of his signature tirades to The Coming Insurrection (whose alleged authors have been associated with Tiqqun), which brought the group into the American public consciousness and made the book into a bestseller. “This is quite possibly the most evil thing I've ever read,” Beck had said.

Against the knee-jerk dismissal of the term “anarchism” as a derogatory thing, the aim of the Anarchist Turn conference was to argue for an “anarchist turn” in political philosophy and to explore the emancipatory potential of anarchist ideas for our times. Judith Butler, author, most recently of Frames of War, speaking via video and Skype due to a family emergency, discussed the work of the Israeli group Anarchists Against the Wall and Israeli pinkwashing as a way to detract from the occupation. The only radical position, she argued, is in support of an end to the Palestinian occupation. Philosophy professors Todd May (Clemson University) and Banu Bargu (New School) examined movement-building practices at the personal level—friendship and the practice of eating together, respectively—a gesture toward the importance of prefigurative politics in anarchist movements. Activist Andrej Grubačić gave a rousing speech about anarchism in his work and life. Verso authors Steven Duncombe and Alberto Toscano spoke on the geographies of anarchy, and finally, the “alleged authors” of The Coming Insurrection packed the hall—my neighbors in the audience were an entire group of people down from Montreal. I can’t say I took in much of their “talk”—manifesto read out in deadpan—but fortunately, Anarchist Developments in Cultural Studies filmed the entire conference and have uploaded all videos for our viewing pleasure.

See all the talks here.