Organiser Dr Oliver Davis, from the School of Modern Languages and Cultures at the University of Warwick, reports.
“Freedom and the Subject of Theory, which took place in March at the Palazzo Pesaro-Papafava (University of Warwick in Venice) had a double thematic focus: first, the situation of ‘theory’ today – literary, political, psychoanalytic, aesthetic and philosophical – and the way it relates to freedom. Second, the subject who theorises, with particular attention to the freedom of its constitution and development.
"Twenty-four speakers from departments of French Studies, English, Philosophy and Sociology at prominent institutions in France, Canada, the UK and the United States addressed the conference theme over eight panels of papers.
"There were papers focused on the work of Adorno, Beauvoir, Berns and Rouvroy, Derrida, Fanon, Graeber, Honneth, Lacan, Malabou, Nancy, Sartre, Sloterdijk and Stiegler, among other thinkers.
"The symposium was focused especially on Professor Christina Howells’s contribution to understanding theory and sought to explore her influential work in this, her last year of full-time teaching. Speakers ranged from internationally leading scholars to doctoral students and postdoctoral researchers; the majority of those present had at one time worked for, or been taught, or supervised by Christina. A number of her current doctoral students were also present and gave impressive papers.
"Highlights included papers by Christina Howells, ‘Derrida: The death penalty and its exceptions’, Professor Jeremy Ahearne (Warwick), ‘Axel Honneth and the Subject of Recognition in International Relations’, Dr Martin Crowley (Cambridge), ‘Freedom at the Speed of the Algorithm’, Professor Colin Davis (RHUL), ‘Interpretation and the Freedom of the Subject’, Dr Ian James (Cambridge), ‘The Experience of Freedom Revisited’, Dr Marc Lafrance (Concordia), ‘Au-delà de l’angle mort: Fragile Bodies, Vulnerable Identities and Mortal Subjectivities’, Dr Gerald Moore (Durham), ‘Freedom, Brain Fries and Media Lies’, Professor Serge Trottein (ENS/CNRS), ‘Franking – and the Subject of Theory’ and Professor Robert J.C. Young (NYU), ‘Fanon and the Pathology of Freedom’.
"Generous financial support is gratefully acknowledged from Wadham College, Oxford and The Society for French Studies, The School of Modern Languages and Cultures at Warwick, The Humanities Research Centre at Warwick and The Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages and Literatures, Oxford. A collective publication of essays arising from these papers is currently in preparation.”