May 18, 2015

Small Cinema, Richard Hoggart Building

The Political Imaginary of the Paris Commune

Kristin Ross discusses her new book at Goldsmiths, London
The Unit for Global Justice, Department of Sociology, Goldsmiths,
University of London invites you to:
The Political Imaginary of the Paris Commune
Kristin Ross
18 May 2015

In this talk based on her new book (Communal Luxury [Verso]; 'Imaginaire de la Commune [La Fabrique]), Kristin Ross discusses the political imaginary that fueled and outlived the Paris Commune of 1871, when Communard exiles in the 1870s and 80s met up with supporters like Karl Marx, Peter Kropotkin and William Morris. The imaginary the Commune leaves to us, she argues, is neither that of a national republican middle class nor that of the state-managed collectivism that dominated the first half of the 20th century. For this reason the Commune's laboratory of political invention lends itself to a consideration framed by our own concerns today: how to refashion an international conjuncture; the future of education, labor and the status of art; the commune-form and its relation to ecological theory.

Kristin Ross is Professor of Comparative Literature at New York University. Her previous books include Fast Cars, Clean Bodies: Decolonization and the Reordering of French Culture, and May '68 and its Afterlives.

All welcome.

Any inquiries to:

5.00pm – 7.00pm

Small Cinema, Richard Hoggart Building

Lewisham Way, London, SE14 6NW
United Kingdom



  • Chrono-cartography of the Paris Commune

    For Marx, the greatest achievement of the Paris Commune was its "actual working existence", and we should certainly not exclude its geographical organisation and defensive arcitecture from this category. Ahead of Kristin Ross' discussion with Alberto Toscano at Goldsmiths tonight on the political imaginary of the Paris Commune, we share a series of maps created by Leopold Lambert detailing the shifting architecture of the Commune over time. You can download a high-resolution version of the map here.

    From Lambert's essay:

    History tends to describe the city where events unfold themselves as a mere context, indifferent to the action that it hosts … I wanted to illustrate how the city, through its constructive, destructive and modificative logics plays a biased role in these historical events. As Karl Marx pointed out in The Civil War in France (1871), many things could have given the Commune higher chances to survive (a more organized offensive against Versailles in the beginning of its existence, the use of the Banque de France left untouched, a more comprehensive defensive strategy etc.), but the thing that the Commune has lacked the most is likely to be time itself, in an effort to transform and subvert the capitalist, imperialist and militarized logics that contextualized the urban fabric in which it was attempting to exist.

    For more studies the Paris Commune, see Lissigaray's classic The History of the Paris Commune of 1871 and Eric Hazan's The Invention of Paris: A History in Footsteps.

  • Kristin Ross: The contemporary relevance of the Paris Commune

    Interview with Joseph Confavreux for Mediapart on the occasion of the publication of the French translation of Communal Luxury:  The Political Imaginary of the Paris Commune 

    Convinced that “the world of the Communards is closer to us than the world of our parents,” and that “it is actions that produce dreams and not the reverse,” Kristin Ross explores the imaginary and the practices of the Paris Commune, in order to show its political actuality today. At the juncture of a history of ideas, of imaginaries and of facts, Ross, a Professor of Comparative Literature at New York University, explores the Commune and its “afterlives,” in a book that is at once a textual study, an exploration of the thoughts and practices of Communards and their fellow travelers, and a political proposition for the present moment. 

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