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Feminism & Critical Theory Conference – 20-21 June, 2015 @ University of Sussex

May 27, 2015

The information on this page is subject to change; please watch this space for updates – Last Updated: 27 May 2015

The conference will take place on 20-21 June 2015 at the University of Sussex campus at Falmer. The exact venue will be confirmed nearer the time.

There is information on how to travel to the campus here. These pages also include information about hotel accommodation in Brighton.

The conference fee is £1 and is payable on the day. To register please click here.

For all queries please contact

Keynote Speakers:

Stella Sandford (Kingston University)

Lorna Finlayson (University of Cambridge)


Conference Programme

Day 1 / 20th June




Lorna Finlayson – TBC



1:30pm – 3pm Panel 1

Illiana Cuellar – Freedom and Resistance: the Critical Theory of Angela Davis

Berivan Sarikaya – Kurdish Women Political Prisoners


3:30pm – 5pm Panel 2

Ross Speer – Marxism and Feminism: Comparing Lise Vogel’s and Michèle Barrett’s social reproduction theories

Zoe Sutherland & Marina Vishmidt – TBC


5.30pm – 7.15pm Panel 3

Elizabeth Mosley – Abortion in Post-Apartheid South Africa: Exploring Gender, Racial, and Economic Inequities

Emma Milne – Women and the consequences of their “inappropriate” sexuality

Beba Cebralic“Beyond sisterhood there is still racism, colonialism, and imperialism”: the intersectionality between Islam, Feminism, and Colonial Discourse

Day 2 / 21st June

12pm-1.45pm Panel 1

Emily Couzens – Men as Material Conditions: Exploring the Marxian Influence on Anti-Porn Feminism

Rosalind Worsdale – Is consenting to sexual objectification a category mistake?

Areti Giannopoulou – The Ethic of Care and the Dialectic of Enlightenment

1:45pm-3pm Lunch

3pm-4.45pm Panel 2

Kate Seymour – On tea ladies, hecklers, and the power of appearing

Clare Woodford – Docile Subjects: Subjectification and Representation

Andi Sidwell – The Politics of Gender Variance: A queer materialist critique of identity



Stella Sandford – When Feminist Philosophy Met Critical Theory: Gillian Howie’s “Historical Materialism”


Ruth Kinna, “Slavery And The Anarchist Rejection Of Democracy”

April 11, 2015

Audio of Ruth Kinna’s talk. Part of the Centre for Social and Political Thought Research Seminars series. Recorded April 10th, 2015 at the University of Sussex.

Call for Reviews: Pathologies of Recognition

February 18, 2015

The Studies in Social and Political Thought journal is now calling for book reviews for our upcoming special issue containing a series of papers from a ‘Pathologies of Recognition’ research group, headed by Arto Laitinen. We are looking for reviews that go beyond simply providing a summary of the contents of the books, and offer a critical perspective and make an original contribution to the contemporary debates on the theme of recognition.

We are particularly interested in the following books but we are open to suggestions:

  • Judith Butler & Athena Athanasiou, Dispossession: The Performative in the Political (Polity, 2013). [under review].
  • Jonas Jakobsen & Odin Lysaker, Recognition and Freedom Axel Honneth’s Political Thought (Brill, 2015).
  • Rahel Jaeggi, Alienation (Columbia University Press, 2014). [under review]
  • Rahel Jaeggi, Kritik von Lebensformen (Suhrkamp Verlag, 2013). [under review]
  • Cillian McBride, Recognition (Polity, 2013). [under review]
  • Danielle Petherbridge, The Critical Theory of Axel Honneth (Lexington Books, 2015). [under review]
  • Christopher Zurn, Axel Honneth (Polity, 2015). [under review]
  • Heikki Ikäheimo, Anerkennung (De Gruyter, 2014).
  • Arto Laitinen & Anne Birgitta Pessi (eds.) Solidarity: Theory and Practice (Lexington, 2015). [under review]
  • Arto Laitinen et al (eds.) Inwardness and orientation (SoPhi: Jyväskylä, 2014).
  • Federica Gregoratto & Filippo Ranchio (eds.) Contesti del riconoscimento [Contexts of Recognition] (Mimesis, 2014).
  • Danielle Petherbridge (ed.) Axel Honneth: Critical Essays With a Reply by Axel Honneth (Brill, 2011). [under review]
  • Heikki Ikäheimo & Arto Laitinen, Recognition and Social Ontology (Brill, 2011).
  • Volker Heins, Beyond Friend and Foe (Brill, 2011).
  • Jean-Philippe Deranty, Beyond Communication. A Critical Study of Axel Honneth’s Social Philosophy (Brill, 2009).
  • Jean-Philippe Deranty, et al (eds.) Recognition, Work, Politics: New Directions in French Critical Theory (Brill, 2007).

If you are interested in submitting a review, please send us an email at with the title of the book you want to review, a short bio containing your qualifications and current position, and we will inform you within a week as to whether your submission will be accepted. Please, bear in mind that we may not be able to provide you with review copies of the books.

Submissions should range from 2000 to 3000 words in length and written in the Harvard referencing style. The deadline is 15 March 2015.

The book reviews section of Studies in Social and Political Thought has two editors, Valentinos Kontoyiannis and Joel Winder. For additional information about the journal and the reviews section please contact us at

CFP: SPT Conference 2015, Feminism & Critical Theory (Extended Deadline, 15 April 2015)

February 12, 2015

Call for Papers





In the face of enforced austerity, rampant and increasing inequality, systemic crises of political, economic and environmental organisation, and violence and injustice on a global scale, there has been a resurgence of interest in both feminism and critical theory, as ways of understanding and criticising the world as it is. That such disasters disproportionately affect women is not, of course, new, nor are they differentiated solely through gender – race, sexuality, dis/ability, class and nationality also come into play. Yet many have detected an increase in violence, both (and often simultaneously) material and symbolic, directed against women and gender non-conformists across the world. Examples range from the ‘pornification’ of an increasingly misogynist popular culture (and equally misogynist ‘moral panics’ about the threat posed to society by deviant sexualities), to brutal cuts to already embattled women’s services, to continued institutional discrimination and institutionalised abuse (Yarl’s Wood is just one site).


This has been met with resistance in a variety of forms, on the ground in social movements and protests, and in many recent theoretical developments both scholarly and popular, including: the republication of many classic Marxist and socialist feminist texts of the 1970s and 80s; important contemporary debates, situated within both analytic and continental philosophy, on how to challenge the patriarchal nature of philosophy as a discipline and as disciplinary ideology; the emergence of innovative new journals such as the materialist feminist LIES; and scholarly reappraisals of radical twentieth-century figures like Shulamith Firestone, Claudia Jones and Rosa Luxemburg.


This year’s Social and Political Thought conference will investigate the relationship between feminism and other critical social theories in light of these developments. We begin by recognising that the different schools (and historical ‘waves’) of feminist thought are themselves often divergent and opposed. Furthermore, we recognise that there is a certain level of ambivalence attached to the term ‘critical theory’. In the narrow sense, it can refer to theory influenced by the Frankfurt School and the work of Adorno, Horkheimer, and Marcuse (and, on some interpretations, Habermas and Honneth). In the broad sense, on the other hand, it can refer to a group of interrelated, sometimes competing, social theories directed against the status quo, of which feminist thought is one strand. We view this ambivalence and its relationship to feminist theory and practice as potentially productive, and encourage submissions that deal with all kinds of feminism and their relationship to critical theory in both the narrow and broad senses of the term, including feminism as critical theory.

Possible approaches include but are not limited to:


Marxist feminism or feminist thought engaging with Marxism; feminism, materiality, and ‘new materialisms’; feminist social movements and the politics of popular protest; feminism, police, and prisons; feminism and problems of universality; feminism and psychoanalysis; feminism and autonomism; anarchist feminism; post-crisis masculinities and feminism; postcolonialism and feminism; black British feminism; sexual, racial and social contracts; feminism and the politics and theory of intersectionality; feminism and nationalism; feminism and orientalism in the war on terror; ‘third wave’ feminism; feminism and new forms of slavery; feminism in the global South; feminism and poststructuralism;  feminism and communisation theory; feminism and LGBTQI struggles; feminism and sex-work; feminism and social reproduction; feminism and revolution.


Keynote Speakers:


Stella Sandford (Kingston University)

Lorna Finlayson (University of Cambridge)


We encourage submissions for both individual and full-panel presentations. Abstracts of no more than 300 words should be sent to by April 15 2015. In order to facilitate a double-blind review process, please send two separate attachments, one containing a short biographical note, and another containing your abstract with no identifying information.

Call for Papers

November 27, 2014

Now with its 23rd Volume already published, Studies in Social and Political Thought is a student run journal based in the University of Sussex’s Centre for Social and Political Thought. The journal has a dual purpose: first, fostering developments in the inter-disciplinary areas of social and political thought and, second, serving as a publishing platform for junior academics.

Past issues have featured articles by well-respected figures such as William Outhwaite and Stefan Muller-Doohm as well as the first publications of a number of promising junior academics. Although student run, we try to ensure highest standards and best quality publishing. We have attracted a prestigious panel of leading scholars in social and political thought for our international advisory board, including: Martin Jay of UC Berkeley, Robert Pippin of the University of Chicago, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak of Columbia University, Seyla Banhabib of Yale University, Simon Jarvis of the University of Cambridge, William Outhwaite of the University of Newcastle, Homi Bhabha of Harvard University, Adriana Cavarero of the University of Verona, Alessandro Ferrara of the University of Rome, Axel Honneth of the University of Frankfurt and Fredric Jameson of Duke University.

Having focused on selected papers of the Studies in Social and Political Thought Conference of 2013 on the subject ‘Debt and Obligation’ , we are looking forward to submissions for the upcoming 24th issue of the journal. The field and variety of topics should be within the inter-disciplinary areas of social and political thought.

For more information please visit our website:

Deadline for submissions is the 31st of December 2014.

Submissions need to be send to:

Victor Frankenstein’s Banquet

November 3, 2014

Elliot Rose:

I wrote this a little while ago, on attitudes towards GM technology, and how conventional opposition is more usually based on sensationalist ideology rather than engagement with the difficult complexities involved. Some time after Greenpeace signed their name to an open letter to Jean-Claude Juncker, arguing against having an EC chief scientific advisor. Rather than have the selection process open to scrutiny (so that those with corporate affiliations – and therefore conflicts of interest – would find it harder to be appointed) and have their  advice publically published (for similar reasons) the letter – signed by 9 organisations (including, for some reason, the “Cancer Prevention and Education Society”) – argued against the very position of a scientific advisor. Their sop to the necessity of evidence-led, scientific advice was that advice could come from “a variety of independent, multi-disciplinary sources….” In short: lobbying. I’m perhaps being cynical, but it’s the multinational corporations who really have the power when it comes to lobbying, not groups like Greenpeace, since they have more money to throw at the issue (and a charity should really spend its money on the cause it was founded to deal with, not meetings with bureaucrats).

Originally posted on Unfortunate Conflict of Evidence:

Perhaps I’ve just misunderstood Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: the point I took away has always been that it is essentially Victor’s own fault that his creation becomes monstrous. His disgust, rejection and eventual fear initially creates and then subsequently sustains the creature’s sense of alienation, which in turn creates its hostile reaction both to him and to the world in general. Surely it’s therefore slightly odd, and yet rather apposite, that genetically modified organisms are so often referred to as “Frankenstein foods”. The phrase is thrown around a lot, and is clearly chosen because it sounds scary and creates the appropriate rhetorical effect that the speaker wishes to evoke.

But it is appropriate because the instinctive and emotive reaction by some to the prospect of genetically modified food and organisms is inherently counterproductive and only invites problems later on. Many people seem to loathe the idea of GMOs and resist them at every turn…

View original 1,449 more words

SSPT Profiles – Elliot Rose

October 24, 2014

Over the coming weeks we will be publishing a series of profiles of the fine graduate students whose hard work makes the journal possible. The idea is to give an insight into the research being conducted by all of us, in what is hopefully a more interesting and revealing format than those short university bios that everyone has and nobody reads. Sort of like an answer to that question, ‘so, what is your research on’, if you were asked in the pub and happened to have a laptop to hand.

My name is Elliot and as (outgoing) web editor and one of the people pushing to get people to add to this blog it seems only right I stick my head above the parapet and do so myself.

My research concerns the idea of human nature, and in particular the various ways in which people have articulated this idea in relation to the social context. Human nature, the notion of what human beings (“naturally”) are, continues to be a contentious concept, not least because it has so often been used to ground normative claims about society – “that’s just human nature” is a common rhetorical trope. Human nature is often seen as monolithic and inflexible, a hard determination of what we are, and on these grounds used as a oratorical court of appeal. Conversely many make the claim that not only are such notions inextricably influenced (almost “tainted” or “infected”) by socially inculcated norms and values, but that this social milieu, coupled with a supposed human plasticity, effectively overrides any innate dispositions, and “human nature” is thus whatever society makes it in a given time and context. There is consequently a widespread tendency to ignore the issue of human nature, or repudiate it as ideologically suspect, just as much as there is a tendency to blindly appeal to it in suspect ways.

This can be problematic because many philosophers, sociologists and political theorists do in fact make assumptions about what people are – they generally presume something about human capacities, proclivities and responsivity, and how these fit into their higher-order work on society. In short, they start with a broadly acceptable philosophical anthropology, in many cases tacitly and without acknowledgement. However coherent the resulting social or political theory may be in itself, these tacitly held conceptions of human nature may not reflect reality at lower strata. It might be that human beings are not sufficiently rational to be Homo economicus (and all the evidence suggests they are not); or that their need for a sense of themselves within a community comes not from their relations to their product, but from an animal desire for affection and friendship.

My work has therefore been directed at human nature theories: how human nature is construed by theorists, where they look for it, and how they integrate their view of it with their view of society. I am primarily interested in the stratification of approaches. Some look for deep roots, a metaphysical or biological rule that governs the formation of human nature – an algorithm of human existence. Others attempt to explain human life in terms of “holistic” analyses of politics (although here I’m using “politics” as a shorthand for an array of economic, social, cultural and political approaches, depending on the theorists’ interests), only dipping into the lower strata when they need to posit a response on behalf of individual agents. In between these is a panoply of strata, incorporating neural systems, individual psychology and desire, interpersonal behaviour, group psychology, and the movements of socio-cultural formations/entities.

Once we acknowledge this stratification of approaches to human nature we can begin to see that it is it not the monolithic, inflexible caricature, nor is it the infinitely flexible tabula rasa, but is in fact an active and contested field of enquiry in its own right. Furthermore I would argue that not only does the binary division not exist, but many who would deny the existence of human nature routinely employ their own conception of it in their work (indeed it could be argued that their work is one way to approach human nature, given the social and political nature of the human animal). These two positions – roughly analogous to the nature vs. nurture division – in fact represent divergent approaches to the strata that make up human existence, rather than an actually existing binary opposition between competing, mutually-exclusive causal influences.

Gary Larson - Far side

Gary Larson – Far side

Significantly, the denial or deferment of a discussion of human nature also leaves social and political theorists bereft, not only of empirical checks or verifications of the underpinning anthropology of their discipline/theory, but also of potentially useful materiel for their own efforts. This is the argument I want to put forward in the later stages of my thesis. Human nature can be viewed as raw material, which is tempered and shaped by politics, and a better understanding of it can inform decisions relating to our attainment of political ends. (Marx and Freud can both be seen as examples of this position, and their thinking, perhaps ironically, forms much of the theoretical background of positions that ignore or are hostile to the very notion of human nature.) As an example, if we understand the underlying cognitive processes behind in-group/out-group identification, then we might shed light on both the pervasiveness/persistence of ideological self-identification and the potential means to direct it away from harmful (exclusionary) political formations.

This is the position I’m currently in. I think the importance of the study of human nature is highlighted by political scientist Gary Olson, who argues is Empathy Imperiled that the empathetic capacity of human beings is being reduced to the bare minimum by our culture, and what is left is carefully managed to create corporate “brand awareness” and patriotic fervour, whilst being directed away from actual ethical issues. Reclaiming empathy is, on this view, a political project ultimately aimed at reclaiming something important about human nature itself. But empathy is in turn part of this process: it is a tool for recognising the plight of the other and, through this recognition, the realities of our political landscape. This is why I think talking about human nature is important, but first it looks like we need to rethink how we formulate our own theories and ideas about what it is, and what we are (and can or could be).


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