Fragmentary Institute of Comparative Timelines

The Unit of Play is collaborating with multiple other institutions and groups around the world in a speculative storytelling project, the Fragmentary Institute of Comparative Timelines (led by colleagues at Osaka University, Japan) working on the impact of European Colonialism in our timeline by creating artefacts and stories from another timeline in which the disease(s) known as the “Black Death” or “Plague” would have triggered a series of events that quickly ended attempts by countries of what was called “Europe” to invade and colonize much of the Earth. As part of this project, a group of postgraduate students from a variety of programmes in the Departments of Sociology and Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths are working together to develop a speculative artefact that contributes to a forthcoming digital exhibition. Stay tuned for updates!

What Comes After Entanglement?

Friday 6th March 2020 | 4.30.00-6.30pm  
Margaret Macmillan Building (MMB) 220
Goldsmiths, University of London
London SE14 6NW

Part of the Pluralistic Variations Lecture Series
Organised by Martin Savransky (Sociology)

What Comes After Entanglement?

The Wrong Framing of the Question

Drawing on examples from environmental and vegan activism, this paper asks what possibilities for action and intervention might exist in the wake of theoretical narratives that have emphasised the entangled composition of the world. The purpose of centralising these entanglements is an ethical one, promising a means of moving beyond a worldview where the human is seen as exceptional, in order to find less anthropocentric ways of conceiving of and acting in the world. Recently, however, there have been growing concerns that these approaches might make it difficult to determine where responsibilities for particular environmental problems really lie, let alone how to meet these responsibilities. This problem has been compounded by the way that relational approaches have been critical of existing strands of animal and environmental activism, which have been depicted as offering insufficiently complex and overly moralistic solutions to ecological problems. This paper works to map some of the tensions between ‘theory’ and ‘practice’ and draws on activist narrative to complicate particular conceptual assumptions. In the process, explore the value of shifting the emphasis away from an ethics based on relationality and entanglement, towards an ethics of exclusion, which pays attention to the entities, practices and ways of being that are foreclosed as particular relations emerge at the expense of others. The paper is based on interview materials from an ongoing project about tensions surrounding contemporary vegan food politics, alongside work from my recent book What Comes After Entanglement?: a title that I ultimately suggest offers a less-than-helpful framing of the question.

Eva Haifa Giraud is a senior lecturer in Media at Keele University, whose research focuses on frictions and affinities between non-anthropocentric theories and activist practice. She has published (or has work forthcoming) on these themes in journals such as Theory, Culture & Society, Sociological Review, Social Studies of Science and New Media & Society. Her monograph What Comes After Entanglement? (Duke University Press) was published in 2019.

Philosophy Without Grounding

Thursday 13th February 2020 | 4.30-6.30pm
Margaret Macmillan Building (MMB) 220
Goldsmiths, University of London
London SE14 6NW

All Welcome.

Part of the Pluralistic Variations Lecture Series
Organised by Martin Savransky (Sociology)

Philosophy without Grounding

In the wake of the so-called “foundational crisis” in philosophy, one can discern at least two distinct responses. The first one gives up the idea of grounding thought, and replaces it by an axiomatics (as analytical philosophy has done). The second, however, never gave up the question of foundations but discovered the depths of groundlessness. This is the case of philosophers such as William James, Henri Bergson, Gilles Deleuze, or Etienne Souriau. Situated in the latter tradition, the aim of this talk is therefore to explore the following question: how is foundation possible on the basis of groundlessness? 

David Lapoujade is Professor of Philosophy at l’Universite Paris-1 Pantheon-Sorbonne. He has written extensively on the philosophy of William James, Henri Bergson, Gilles Deleuze and Etienne Souriau. His publi- cations include William James: Empiricism and Pragmatism (1997, trans. forthcoming with Duke University Press), Powers ofTime:Versions of Bergson (Univocal, 2010), Aberrant Movements:The Philosophy of Gilles Deleuze (Semiotext(e), 2017), and most recently Les Existences Moindres (Les Editions de Minuit, 2017) 

After Progess | Plural Potentialities

29th November 2019, 2.00-6.30pm
London Bridge Hive
1 Melior Place
London SE1 3SZ

In the course of the first two After Progress symposia it has become apparent that, rather than an idea to be criticised, “progress” names instead an entire array of capitalist, colonial and extractivist operations. It is a world-ploughing machine that suffuses the very modern mode of evaluation from which the values of global development, infinite growth, technological innovation, and salvage accumulation are derived. And it is one which simultaneously infuses and animates well-meaning dreams of cosmopolitan redemption, and stories of innocence and reconciliation. Yet, despite its poisonous, ecocidal effects, we have also learned that its ruins are nevertheless teeming with divergent collective experiments whose practices upend the modern dream of progress, cultivating plural and divergent value-ecologies of living with others on Earth. Immanently, such experiments make present that other ways of making life worth living, and of making death worth living for, are not only possible but underway. Thus, in this third session of the series we seek to collectively hold out a trusting hand to a whole series of interstices and undercurrents, to a plurality of minor stories, earthly experiments, speculative propositions, and insistent possibilities, that intensify the political potentials of cultivating pluralistic value-ecologies otherwise – in the ruins of progress.

Speakers include (alphabetically):

Dimitris Papadopoulos (University of Nottingham)
“Progress aside, let’s talk about commoning planetary boundaries.”

Elizabeth A. Povinelli (Columbia University)
Progress in the Shadow of the End

Against the horizon of a possible climate catastrophe idea of progress has recently taken a battering. What is progress if the practices that have driven it since the Industrial Revolution have led to the “sixth extinction.” This talk reflects on progress from two competing traditions. On the one hand, I place the current discussion of the horizon of climate catastrophe in relation to Hannah Arendt’s discussion of atomic catastrophe The Human Condition and Gregory Bateson’s discussion of ecological catastrophe in Mind and Nature. I place these three discussions—atomic, toxic, and climate catastrophe—in a longstanding conversation in Indigenous and Black Atlantic contexts about political tactics in the wake of the colonial catastrophe.

Isabelle Stengers (Université Libre de Bruxelles)
Reclaiming Resurgence

Resurgence may be a common characterization for the divergent collective experiments to what we should hold a trusting hand. Resurgence is what comes after an eradication, and eradication or systematic attempt to eradicate is one of the many meanings of modern progress. It is always a minority experiment, experimenting moreover in a hostile majoritarian environment, an environment which has been shaped and are still shaped, by the very same ongoing eradicating powers. Since this environment includes the academy we are part of, holding a trusting hand may not be sufficient. We have to earn and deserve the trust of those who experiment, that is also, again and again, ask  what William James presented as the “great question” associated with a pluriverse in the making: “does it, with our additions, rise or fall in value? Are the additions worthy or unworthy?” And worthy, here, may well include accepting that our additions express and perform our own need to learn and cultivate resurgence, challenging a hostile academic milieu. I will take two examples, that of a missed opportunity, when feminist academics rejected the so-called ”spiritualist” eco-feminists of the eighties as escapist regression. The second will be the speculative trust required in order to take seriously the possibility of a “right to commoning”. In both cases, generativity will be at the centre of my approach.

Bronislaw Szerszynski (Lancaster University)
Planetary multiplicity, earthly multitudes

Human society has always had to engage with ‘planetary multiplicity’: the way that planets like the Earth, held far from equilibrium, manifest ‘internal difference’, are ‘out of step’ with themselves at all spatial and temporal scales.  This engagement has historically been organised through ‘earthly multitudes’: shared, skilled ways of responding to the opportunities and challenges presented by processes of planetary self-ordering.  Yet modern ‘progress’ has involved the insulation of (some) humans from planetary multiplicity, an insulation that was organised socially (through class relations), geospatially (through colonialism), materially (through the construction of an artefactual milieu for social life), intellectually (in ideas of human exemptionalism in modern thought) and culturally (in utopian fantasies of control) – making earthly multitudes almost disappear from social life.  In this talk, drawing on collaborations with Nigel Clark, I speculate on how, ‘after progress’, new earthly multitudes might arise that engage with planetary multiplicity in new and generative ways.

The event is free, but registration is required due to limited capacity.  To register, please click here.A small number of BURSARIES for unfunded PhD students/ECRs are available (places will be reserved for these, even if the registration list fills up). Deadline for applications is November 6th 2019. For further details on the eligibility criteria and the application process please go here.

This symposium is the second of the After Progress symposium series. The After Progress symposium series co-organised by Dr Martin Savransky (Goldsmiths, University of London) and Dr Craig Lundy (Nottingham Trent University). It is part of the Sociological Review Seminar Series and it is generously funded by The Sociological Review Foundation.

The room that the event will take place in is FULLY ACCESSIBLE.

Travel Directions:

The London Bridge Hive (1 Melior Place) is located to the immediate south of London Bridge Station, less than 5min walk.


After Progress | Plural Potentialities
After Progress |Plural Potentialities

After Progress | Decolonial Alternatives

Wed 12th September 2019 | 2-6.30pm
Richard Hoggart Building (RHB) 274
Goldsmiths, University of London
New Cross, London, SE14 6NW

Can we reimagine human and more-than-human arts of living and flourishing from the ruins of the modern idea of progress? Continuing our collective experimentation with this question, in the second session of the After Progress symposium series we’re keen to discuss experiments, practices, experiences, concepts, challenges and cosmo-visions of collective arts of living and flourishing with others in and out of Europe. Indeed, just as decolonisation movements were instrumental in the critique of the deleterious global consequences of the modern imagery of progress, it is also on the margins and in the interstices of the modern world-system that, today, divergent alternatives to progress are being collectively invented and experimented with. Some (like “Buen vivir”, “Swaraj”, “Degrowth”, or “Permaculture”) are now fairly well-known and much discussed, but there is still a profusion of other, plural and concrete experiences and experiments which may be yet to be named but whose practices upend the colonial, developmental, and extractivist consequences of the modern dream of progress, making it present that other ways of living and flourishing with others –humans and more– are not only possible but underway. Exploring practices and possibilities for living and flourishing otherwise, this session will engage in the ongoing and unfinished experiment of decolonizing progress and composing other worlds in its wake.

Speakers include:

Marisol de la Cadena (University of California, Davis).

Species and Not Only: onto-epistemic openings towards a world of many worlds

A mountain that is not only such—my proverbial example– offers the grounds for this talk. It is persistently not only, the phrase around which I build my conversation with you.  Urged by that mountain, I have used the phrase to talk about complex entities, those that occupy the same space, even overlap, yet also diverge. I propose that “not only” performs ontic-openings, and has the capacity to indicate a potential emergence that could challenge what we know, the ways we know it and even suggest the impossibility of our knowing, without such impossibility canceling the emergence. This phrase shares the post-plural vocation of the cyborg and the “more than one, less than many” of partial connections. In this talk, using ‘not only’ I try to open up ‘species’—the concept, and its practice– to what might exceed it, yet also be within it. With the work of many persons, I will propose that animals, plants, and humans may bespecies and not only such. My purpose is to offer a decolonial proposal to think about “multispecies” as an emergence through a world of many worlds. In such a world, “when species meet,” the practice and notion of species may be insufficient, and constrain imagination towards decolonial justice. Notions and practices world worlds.

Barbara Glowczewski (CNRS)

What to defend? The ZAD (zone to defend) movement and Indigenous cosmovisions

Is struggling against big projects, like an airport in Notre-Dame des Landes or gold mining in the Amazon of French Guiana enough to establish an alternative mode of existence? Certainly during the time of the struggle, but how to move on afterwards? For ten years, activists in France occupied the land, squatted on old farms that were slated to be destroyed, built shelters and invented new collective ways to live together. During the same time native Americans in French Guiana tried to stop the deadly mercury pollution of their rivers by clandestine gold miners, and constructed national and international alliances against the Russian-Canadian “Mountain of Gold” project. We will discuss what is at stake when new forms of economic or religious colonisation replace or play hand in hand with the State.

Henrietta L. Moore (University College London)

The Future of Agriculture

Multispecies ethnography is currently enjoying a love affair with plants. Tending gardens is one of humanity’s oldest pursuits and one which has engaged the attention of ethnographers, from tending enormous yams to building hydroponic green towers. Demography has driven increases in agricultural productivity, and is in the limelight once again with questions about how we intend to feed 9 billion people on the planet. The scale of this challenge and the ecological threat from collapsing resources has generated a sense of impending crisis, but remarkably little action. The frames of reference tend towards climate change and the anthropocence, but perhaps a more fruitful approach to agriculture might begin with questions about progress and productivity. Instead of focusing on denial, scepticism and ignorance as the main drivers of inaction, we might turn instead to longer running ideas of value, generation and excess. This paper discusses why agriculture and not just climate change is the big challenge, and whether forms of hope might be possible, and from whence they might arise.

Krithika Srinivasan (University of Edinburgh)

Re-placing the social

The pursuit of ‘development’ has been a key hallmark, and indeed, driver, of the Anthropocene. Development is usually justified in terms of human wellbeing and progress but nonetheless often has negative impacts on people. Indeed, there is now widespread recognition that humanity’s quest for progress is endangering its (humankind’s) very conditions of possibility. In this talk, I explore the manners in which the human and human wellbeing are understood and pursued in the contemporary world. I argue that particular entrenched notions of what humanity is and should be are at the foundation of the social and ecological troubles facing today’s societies, and develop some thought experiments on re-visioning the human and human wellbeing. My purpose in doing this is to suggest that achieving multispecies justice in and after the Anthropocene requires a fundamental re-placement of the social in the rest of the nature.

The event is free, but registration is required due to limited capacity. To register please click here. A small number of BURSARIES for unfunded PhD students/ECRs are available (places will be reserved for these, even if the registration list fills up). Deadline for applications is AUGUST 19TH 2019. For further details on the eligibility criteria and the application process please go here.

This symposium is the second of the After Progress symposium series. The After Progress symposium series co-organised by Dr Martin Savransky(Goldsmiths, University of London) and Dr Craig Lundy (Nottingham Trent University). It is part of the Sociological Review Seminar Series and it is generously funded by The Sociological Review Foundation.

Please tweet about this event by using the hasthag #AfterProgress

After Progress: Modernity in Ruins

Wed 5th June 2019 | 13.30-18.30pm
Professor Stuart Hall Building (PSH) 326
Goldsmiths, University of London
New Cross, London, SE14 6NW

The event is free, but registration is required due to limited capacity. To register, please go here. A small number of BURSARIES for unfunded PhD students/ECRs are available. Deadline for applications is APRIL 30. For further details on the eligibility criteria and the application process please go here.

This symposium is the first of the After Progress symposium series. Together with fours guest speakers, we will begin to explore collectively how to understand our present as populated by the ruins of the modern idea of progress, and we’ll explore key questions concerning how we might cultivate plural arts of living and flourishing in the ruins.

Andrea Bardin (Oxford Brookes University)
“Political Automata at an End”
Andrea Bardin is Lecturer in Politics in the Department of Social Sciences at Oxford Brookes University, where he teaches political theory and philosophy. He is the author of Epistemology and political philosophy in Gilbert Simondon: individuation, technics, social systems (Springer 2015).

Didier Debaise (Université Libre de Bruxelles)
“The Contingency of the World”
Didier Debaise is a permanent researcher at the Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique (FNRS), and director of the Research Center in Philosophy at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB).  He is the author of Speculative Empiricism: Revisiting Whitehead (Edinburgh UP, 2017 ) and Nature as Event (Duke UP, 2017).

Sanjay Seth (Goldsmiths, University of London)
“Defending Modern Reason?”
Sanjay Seth is Professor of Politics in the Department of Politics and International Relations and co-director of the Centre for Postcolonial Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is the author of Subject Lessons: The Western Education of Colonial India (Duke UP, 2007), Marxist Theory and Nationalist Politics: The Case of Colonial India (Sage, 1995), and editor of Postcolonial Theory and International Relations: A Critical Introduction (Routledge, 2012).

Iris van der Tuin (Utrecht University)
“Haraway’s Webs of Connection”
Iris van der Tuin is Professor in Theory of Cultural Inquiry in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Utrecht University. She is the author of Generational Feminism: New Materialist Introduction to a Generative Approach (Lexington Books, 2015), co-author of New Materialism: Interviews & Cartographies (Open Humanities Press, 2012), and editor of Nature for Macmillan Interdisciplinary Handbooks: Gender (Macmillan Reference USA, 2016) 

The After Progress symposium series co-organised by Dr Martin Savransky (Goldsmiths, University of London) and Dr Craig Lundy (Nottingham Trent University). It is part of the Sociological Review Seminar Series and it is generously funded by The Sociological Review Foundation.

Scene from the After Progress: Modernity in Ruins | June 5th 2019