News Archive: 2016

Critical Theory’s 2016-2017 Season

Now in its eighth year, Critical Theory’s program of public lectures and events brings scholars from the United States and abroad to Berkeley to present new writing and scholarship. This season features lectures on Walter Benjamin’s idiosyncratic conception of “revolution,” the emergence of “whistleblowers” as a new political subject, and the politics of memory in a time of neoliberalism, among other topics. This fall’s Critical Vitalisms Working Group, organized by Patrick Lyons and Matthew Evans, explores genealogies of the concept of life and how a critical rethinking of ‘life’ may inform our contemporary politics, science, philosophy, and possibilities of interdisciplinarity. (more… )

Announcing Critical Vitalisms | 2016-17 Working Group Series

At present, there’s really no shortage of critical attention to “life.” Or, restated, attention around life, studies built upon life, taking a concept of life somewhat as given, more or less common, and workable. Perhaps, in our era of biopolitics, bare and precarious lives, we’re far enough along with life to be due for a critical refresher: what is this “life” of which we speak?  Given the premises of the last two Critical Theory working groups, moving from biopolitics to animal futures, we propose to examine genealogies of the concept of life itself, that which underpins both bios and anima. We believe this may allow us to trace what critical potential or problems a rethinking of life may hold for the present moment in politics, science, and philosophy, and also a framework to engage across disciplinary boundaries with a concept that seemingly knows none.

In recent works, Frédéric Worms (ENS Paris) has sought to reconsider the occulted lineage of vitalist thought, deserted in the shadows of the Second World War due to its volatile inclusion within Nazi ideology. Worms calls for a revisionist “Critical Vitalism,” which would trace the source of “life” through a confluence of relations and tensions, rather than in a transcendental arche or all-pervasive energy. Our three events will begin with a discussion with Worms of this Critical Vitalism, followed by a cross-disciplinary meeting on concepts of emergence and milieu between UC Berkeley Professors Terrence Deacon and Suzanne Guerlac, and closing with a consideration of forthcoming work on life and the war on terror by Berkeley’s Keith Feldman. Papers by each speaker will be circulated in the weeks preceding each event.

To register and receive readings, please contact

Organized by Critical Theory D.E. students Patrick Lyons and Mathew Evans through the Critical Theory Program.

Critical Theory DE Writing Group 2016-17 Meetings Commence

Critical Theory’s Writing Group is a student-led effort that brings the Designated Emphasis (DE) community together to support all aspects of the writing process. Now in its fourth year, the group creates a space for Critical Theory DEs to discuss aspects and challenges of the writing experience in a cross-disciplinary context. DE students at all stages of the research and dissertation-writing process are invited to attend and contribute. The first meeting of the semester is Friday, September 09, 12-2 pm, 340 Moffitt Library. Meetings continue on a bi-weekly basis throughout the semester.

Designated Emphasis Students Paul Martorelli and Milad Odabaei Receive Critical Theory Dissertation Fellowships

The Program in Critical Theory is pleased to announce the selection of UC Berkeley graduate students Paul Martorelli and Milad Odabaei for its 2016-2017 Dissertation Fellowships. The fellowship is awarded to Critical Theory Designated Emphasis (DE) graduate students with a record of achievement and promising dissertation projects. This year’s awardees will receive a semester of support, generously provided by the Magistretti Graduate Fellowship Fund, through the UC Berkeley College of Letters and Sciences, Division of Arts and Humanities.

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Eighteen UC Berkeley Graduate Students Accepted into Critical Theory’s Designated Emphasis Program

The Program in Critical Theory welcomes eighteen new graduate students to the Designated Emphasis (DE) in Critical Theory. The incoming cohort includes students from ten different departments across campus, whose work in critical theory will add to the depth and range of the Program’s interdisciplinary approaches and conversations. We’re delighted that these individuals are joining our community of nearly 100 students and 60 faculty; we look forward to their participation in and contributions to the Program’s coursework and activities.

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Critical Theory Welcomes New Co-Directors Suzanne Guerlac and Dan Blanton

We are pleased to announce that starting in July, long time Critical Theory faculty members Suzanne Guerlac and Dan Blanton will assume the co-directorship of the Program in Critical Theory’s academic and public programs. Suzanne Guerlac is Professor of French; her principal areas of research have involved nineteenth and twentieth-century literature and philosophy, including the examination of cultural ideologies, visual culture (photography) and questions of critical vitalism. Dan Blanton is Associate Professor of English; his work has centered on the relations among critical theory, nineteenth-century British poetry, and twentieth-century British literature across the genres.

Announcing Critical Theory Dissertation Fellowship | Applications Due March 31

The Critical Theory Dissertation Fellowship is awarded to Critical Theory Designated Emphasis (DE) graduate students with records of achievement and promising dissertation projects. The fellowship supports students writing their dissertations with up to $36,000 toward fees and stipend. Depending on the applicant pool, the funds might be offered to two candidates as a single semester of support, at $18,000.

Applications for the 2016-2017 Critical Theory Dissertation Fellowship are due Thursday, March 31, 2016. Eligible students must be enrolled in the Critical Theory DE and not receive significant (non-teaching) financial support from their Departments during the period of the award. Applicants must have completed their Qualifying Exams and have an approved dissertation prospectus.

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Critical Theory Welcomes Visiting Scholars Rosaura Martínez and Robin Maialeh

Please join us in welcoming Professor Rosaura Martínez of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and Robin Maialeh, Ph.D. candidate at the University of Economics, Prague, two scholars joining The Program in Critical Theory in January 2016.

Professor Martínez will be continuing her research into forms of violence that draw from state powers as well as less formal forms of power in society. In March, she presents a lecture, Limits and Possibilities of the Theory of Psychoanalysis for Kant’s “Eternal Peace”. Robin Maialeh comes to Berkeley to research the confrontation of contemporary economic thought and critical theory. (more… )

Announcing the Designated Emphasis Open House and Information Session

Designated Emphasis Open House and Information Session

Thursday, February 18, 5-6:30 pm

340 Moffitt, UC Berkeley

Join The Program in Critical Theory’s faculty and students for a panel discussion and Q&A about the Designated Emphasis (DE) in Critical Theory. All UC Berkeley Ph.D. students interested in applying to the DE are invited to attend. Refreshments and informal social to follow.

The Program in Critical Theory’s DE enables graduate students already enrolled in UC Berkeley Ph.D. programs from across the social sciences, arts, and humanities to obtain certification of a Designated-Emphasis specialization in Critical Theory. Students admitted to the DE who complete its requirements (three core courses and two electives) will receive a parenthetical notation to that effect on their doctoral degrees. The DE offers graduate fellowships, hosts international scholars, and presents lectures, seminars, and other events for the wider campus community and local public. Serving over 80 graduate students from the humanities, social sciences, and arts at UC Berkeley, the DE in Critical Theory also maintains important collaborative relations with other critical theory institutes and programs nationally and internationally.

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