Lecture Thirteen 28th of July – Abstracts

Dr Jolynna Sinanan and Dr Justin Clemens both return to the Garage for July! With the topic ‘The Human Condition: Discuss’.

We’ll be beginning around 4PM on Sunday the 28th and will be providing the usual beer, soup and donations jar.

Abstracts below:

Human Beings Cannot Bear Very Much Reality*

by Dr Jolynna Sinanan
This line from T.S. Eliot’s “Burnt Norton” is the springboard for my discussion on how our perception of the world is constantly swinging between ideals and actuals.
We have the idealised ‘I’ in our head and the actual ‘I’ in the mirror, and we try to narrow the gap between the two.
Reconciling the space between ideals and actuals is the central condition of being human, in how we view ourselves, our relationships and wider society.
 *This abstract is deliberately short on account of not encouraging the potential audience to imagine an ideal state of the content of this lecture and so running the risk of being disappointed at the actual state of the lecture. Human condition.


by Dr Justin Clemens

In ancient Athenian law, a citizen’s testimony could not be admitted if extracted by torture; on the other hand, a slave’s speech could ONLY be accepted if extracted through torture. What does this mean? Aside from anything else, that nothing a slave says or thinks can count in any way for the polity under the normal circumstances of domination. But it turns out that humans often seem to like to put themselves in such situations, even to go about creating such situations for themselves. Peter Sloterdijk has noted that humans are in fact the only animals that constitutionally put themselves in cages, a feature Sigmund Freud called ‘the economic problem of masochism.’ Not only do humans not tolerate reality, then, but they genuinely do what they can to make things worse. ‘Basanos’ was the Greek for ‘touchstone’ and later ‘torture’: is this then one of the swipe-cards for the human condition?

Have a look at our our lectures page for Jo and Justin’s previous talks.


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Mailing List: Democracy returns to the Garage!

In the first ever democratic response to our public, we have finally decided to set up a mailing list. If you wish to be added, please email us at garageblackboardlectures[at]gmail[dot]com.

See you in a week fews!

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Lecture Twelve 26th of May – Abstracts

Our second round of lectures for May are from Jonathan McCoy and Dr Tamara Prosic.

As usual, Sunday 4pm, there will be English Ale and delicious soup.

Please also note that given our busy month of May lecture-wise, the garage will be resting in June, to return in July with the Jo and Justin.

Abstracts below.

Cultural Hegemony, Religion and Russian revolution or Did religion have anything to do with the success of the Russian revolution?

by Dr Tamara Prosic

In many Marxist circles, for one or another reason, 1917 Russian revolution is regarded as some kind of an anomalous phenomenon. It came too early, Russia was not ready for socialist revolution, the Bolsheviks high-jacked and perverted the ideals of revolution, etc. etc. the accusations are numerous and various. But, whichever way we view it, the Russian revolution was the only successful revolution in the tumultuous period towards the end and immediately after WWI. People tend to forget that there were also very strong revolutionary movements in Finland, Germany, Hungary and Italy, but none of them succeeded.

Thinking about these failed revolutions during the long years in prison and in particularly trying to understand why these revolutions, which according to Marxist historical materialism were bound to happen, did not materialise, Antonio Gramsci attributed their failures to the cultural hegemony of the ruling class which through multiple formal and informal civil society institutions promoted its own values as the values of the whole society. For Gramsci as well, Russian revolution was in a certain sense anomalous. In comparison to their Western counterparts the Bolsheviks had an easier job. In his view they only had to topple the state in order to introduce dictatorship of the proletariat because in Russia with its underdeveloped capitalist mode of production the bourgeois cultural hegemony was also almost non-existent. But it could be said that there is something anomalous about Gramsci’s conclusion because it assumes that Russia was void of any cultural values and that Bolsheviks did not encounter any cultural hegemony. But that was not true; Russia had a culture and certainly had a cultural hegemony, although of a different kind to the one of the West. If we follow Marxist periodisation of history then that culture was on the junction between feudalism and capitalism, if we follow the intellectual history then we might call it pre-modern since it was still deeply marked by religion, more precisely by Orthodox Christianity. Revolutions, on the other hand, are not won unless the ideals promoted by the avant-garde correspond with the ideals of the majority of the population, so, in the case of Russian revolution the question is not really whether the Bolsheviks had only the state to topple, but whether the Orthodox values which coloured the worldview of the majority of the people and in particular of those who carried the revolution on their shoulders, the workers and peasants, in some way supported socialist ideals.

The lecture will look at some aspects of Orthodox Christianity and discuss the ways they supported the revolution.

Common Knowledge: Democracy in the Garage

by Jonathan McCoy

Guest lecturers at gbbl have spoken positively about the series’ ‘democratisation of knowledge’.  What might this mean?  Drawing on the work of Jacques Rancière and Alain Badiou, this lecture will consider a number of articulations between the figures of knowledge and democracy in contemporary ‘academic’ discourse:  the axiom of the equality of intelligences, of freedom of thought, of opinion, the concept of the ‘knowledge economy’, and so on.  Discussion of the possible implications of these ideas for gbbl will follow.

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Lecture Eleven: 4pm 12 May 2013

The Fall of the Political Subject into the Ambivalent Arms of Law, or why guilt is not enough!

 Dr Juliet Rogers, University of Melbourne.


There is an excitement about falling that betrays itself in images and experiences of the flesh, from Richard Drew’s capture of the Falling Man during September 11, 2001, to climate change activists’ depictions of the psychosis of not believeing we will hit the ground, and the suspended nature of the work of William Kentridge. Art and falling go hand in hand, and I suggest, that so too does politics. We can see the current politics of the liberal democratic, in which sovereign aggression is excused by sovereign care. Where law both pushes the subject into the abyss in the interests of its protection, and where flesh is cut, tortured and even killed as a mode of justice. A contemporary democratic politics that embodies such paradox offers a thin space between the air and the ground, and demands the fantasy of endless capture, for some, and the foreclosure on the possibility that flesh may fall and not be caught.

In this paper I will consider how we view the fall, literally, how the affect of watching, and imagining that we may not be caught binds us in a political relation that may produce a difficulty in the imagining of political dissent. I take on some Agembenian themes in this work, but pursue the question of how we manage a political relationship through psychoanalysis, using particularly Jacques Lacan’s account of the passage a l’act.


Dr Juliet Rogers is Faculty Member at the School of Political Sciences, Criminology at the University of Melbourne, and currently an Australian Research Council DECRA Fellow undertaking a psychoanalytic examination of the ‘Quality of Remorse’ after periods of political and military conflict. She was formerly a community worker and then a psychotherapist. She turned from this life to work in academia and she has recently been a Visiting Fellow at the European University Institute, Florence, at Yale Law School, Connecticut and at the University of Cape Town Law School, South Africa. Her work is always a melding between psychoanalysis and law, that is, it is always a concern with the limit. She recently published Law’s Cut on the Body of Human Rights: Female Circumcision, Torture and Sacred Flesh which will be out in July with Routledge, and she is currently working on a monograph on Remorse.

Juliet will be joined by Nicholas Croggon for discussion. Nicholas is co-editor of the contemporary art journal Discipline, and of the online art history journal emaj. In his spare time, he works full time as a solicitor at the Environment Defenders Office, a community legal centre that specialises in public interest environment law.


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Upcoming Lecture 11: 12 May 2013

Thanks to Adam and Jess for their lectures in April!

Juliet Rodgers will be giving the next lecture with Nicholas Croggan on 12 May 2013.

An abstract will be uploaded soon.


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Lecture 10 Abstracts

Humanising Militarism: On the Tactical Polyvalence of Human Rights Discourses.
Jessica Whyte 

In the lead-up to the Chicago NATO summit in May, Amnesty International found itself embroiled in a controversy that burst and ricocheted across social media like a cluster bomb. As NATO leaders and anti-war protestors prepared to converge on the city, its bus shelters displayed striking posters of Afghan women shielding young children in the draping fabric of their burqas. The headline, ‘Human Rights for Women and Girls in Afghanistan’ was the standard fare one would expect from a human rights organisation like Amnesty International. The controversy arose from the bold message addressed to those who have been occupying Afghanistan for more than a decade: “NATO: Keep the Progress Going!” While groups like Amnesty formulated a new politics of human rights that trades on a moral transcendence of politics, this new politics has since become a central to the framework of global governance. This paper considers this transformation in light of what Michel Foucault termed the “tactical polyvalence of discourses.” Foucault famously warned that we should not imagine the world as divided into dominant and dominated discourses, but instead recognize the extent to which discourses are enmeshed in multiple and diverse strategies of power. This paper traces the migration of human rights discourses  from their original role in contesting state power to a central place in the legitimating strategies of state militarism, and critically examines the new humanitarian militarism that results from it. 


‘… purely and simply abandoned’
Adam Bartlett
In 1992 Alain Badiou wrote a book for high school students: Ethics: On the Understanding of Evil. In this little book Badiou says ‘the whole ethical predication based upon recognition of the other should be purely and simply abandoned. For the real question – and it is an extraordinarily difficult one – is much more that of recognising the same.’  This paper will take a look at this ‘abandonment’ and that ‘real question’ and link it to other aspects of Badiou’s ‘exceptional’ anti–humanism and anti–humanitarianism and to his recent essays on the Riot. 

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Upcoming: Lectures 10 on ‘Human Rights’

We are excited to announce that our tenth lecture will be by Jess Whyte and Adam Bartlett on the topic of Human Rights.

It will be held on 28 April 2013 at 4pm in the garage.

As always, there will be soup, keg and lively discussion. We look forward to seeing you there!

Abstracts will be up shortly…




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