31st March 2016
Dr. Arne De Boever (California Institute of the Arts)
Prof. Francis O'Gorman (Leeds)
Joanna Walsh (author of Hotel)
In the impasse induced by crisis, being treads water; mainly, it does not drown. Even those whom you would think of as defeated are living beings figuring out how to stay attached to life from within it, and to protect what optimism they have for that, at least.
Lauren Berlant Cruel Optimism
Following Lauren Berlant we can see the contemporary period as an era of affective precariousness. Long-standing cultural and political anxieties have accelerated beyond control to form what she describes as ‘crisis ordinariness’. Many of the crises of the twenty-first century have been crises in security. The Millennial ‘War on Terror’, the conflict in Ukraine, or the legacies of the Arab Spring, have all undermined the security of the state. The collapse of the banking sector, and the associated currency crises, has dented trust in the market as well as in the forms of money itself. What is more, the social contracts of the post-war era, with their attendant mythologies of social mobility and well-being, have been usurped by entrenched regimes of competition and flexibility. Increasingly dire warnings about the earth’s environment have cast even the security of the species into doubt. As these certainties of modernity retreat, the experience of insecurity has come to define the age as one of anxiety and doubt.
Writing in the twenty-first century continues to respond to these events in a wide variety of ways. Drama, poetry and the novel have all attempted to appraise ecological threat, the risk of violence, and the fragility of the state and its institutions. Experiments with form, narrative and genre have been successful in giving expression to the ontology of insecurity as it is felt. Writing has been able to interrogate, mimic and critique the textual manifestations of security itself. Where the formal institutions of power express themselves as texts, such as banknotes, or signage, or as documents, writing has been able to respond with different kinds of critical repetition. Criticism and critical theory have also responded to contemporary insecurity by asking questions about the role of criticism and about its conventional methods of analysis.
Organised in partnership with Bloomsbury Publishing
NOW AVAILABLE TO WATCH ONLINE:
Joanna Walsh reading from Hotel
The full conference programme can be found here