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Critical Theory Reading Group

This week, we will discuss debt through three different works:

Maurizio Lazzarato: The Making of the Indebted Man (select your own chapter*)

Julie Beth Napolin: Convocation Video on Debt

Yanis Varoufakis: How Europe Crushed Greece (NY Times Op Ed)

*The book by Maurizio Lazzarato extensively works to unpack debt. While you are certainly welcome and encouraged to read the whole book, we ask that, for purposes of our meeting, you select one chapter independently and highlight points that you would like to bring up in discussion.

Taken together, these three texts work to provide more panoramic view on present issues of debt, moving from theoretical underpinnings to the personal to global political structures. Together, we will explore how these pieces inform one another and our own understanding of the issue.

Critical theory is a way of working, thinking, reading, and knowing at the intersection of more traditional education disciplines stemming largely from the humanities and social sciences.  Drawing on its history anchored in literary and philosophical practices, critical theory functions today as a means of applying social, political, and cultural knowledge in order to reflectively examine, assess, and critique current circumstances of society and culture. 

While not a rigid discipline in the traditional sense, critical theory is a structured form of constant engagement with the world around us. Critical theory involves the direct participation of the ideas, thoughts, products, and mechanisms of others. Contrary to what its name suggests, critical theory is not merely a  deconstructive mechanism for applying a critique or criticism to a static thing or object, rather it is a fluid and dynamic way of examining, understanding, and interrogating the structures and modes of existence. While Critical Theory has no end unto itself and can therefore not be said to be pursuing a particular agenda or predetermined political outcome, the practice of critical theory itself is an overtly political action insofar is it involves the co-disciplinaryco-operative, and co-mmunicative engagement of multiple bodies. 

As its primary mode of operation, critical theory seeks to understand its object of interest through close intimate engagement and critical attentions (see Fawaz How to Read and Watch). As our primary mechanism for engagement we will undertake weekly examinations of what Fawaz calls works of culture which can range in their form from literary texts (theory, manifestos, fiction, poetry, new articles, &c..) to film and photodocuments, to art objects (plastic and performance based). Depending on the direction and desires of the cohort the weekly selection of the works of culturemight center around a central or over-arching theme or we may choose to re-examine a same or similar object from a series of differing vantage points or applied disciplines. In all instances the readings and/or viewings along with all supplemental and supporting materials will be announced and made available on the Friday preceding the Wednesday morning meeting time. As we expand and grow we look forward to providing a space where, more and more, the particular insights and interests of the cohort help to determine the selection of future materials. If at some future point, due to growing interest or fluctuating schedules, it becomes necessary for the reading group to alter or expand their meeting days/times/frequency we will, of course, be fluid and flexible in terms of accommodating the desires and needs of the group. While a bit more relaxed and free-form in it's expression, the group will follow a socratic seminar structure and each session will have a clear and pre-determined flâneur, however this person should change from week to week as the center and focus of the work shifts.

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Earlier Event: October 10
Words Solo Exhibition and Book Release
Later Event: October 21
Critical Theory Reading Group