Within the academic context, political theory has generally been housed only in political science departments – or, in the form of political philosophy, within philosophy departments (traditional political science departments also sometimes retain the latter nomenclature). Media theory, on the other hand, has developed within a much wider array of academic frames: communication, english, and even art departments, or media studies, liberal studies, humanities, and transdisciplinary environments. And yet, political theory and media theory alike derive from comparable attempts to move beyond disciplinary methodologies and canons, so as to engage the always political question of mediation. Whether expressed in the form of modes of governance, modes of production, perception, communication, or representation, each of these modes mediate the manner in which people are enabled to, or disabled from, interfacing with the world.
This seminar concerns the divergent geneses of the fields of political theory and media theory, as well as the tensions that have occasionally emerged between the two as a result, particularly in recent years. While media theorists read political theorists, political theorists rarely read media theorists. The outcome of this asymmetrical relationship is that the mediating conditions of possibility for contemporary modes of governance and modes of production remain little-understood by political theorists. Conversely, those media theorists who are not interested in political theory not only ignore the political conditions of possibility that privilege some modes of perception and communication over others, but also circumvent potential resonances between the two fields.
The seminar seeks to address this impasse, identifying particular threads of political theory that engage media theory and particular threads of media theory that engage political theory. At the same time, it seeks to survey the prevailing approaches to interdisciplinarity, indisciplinarity, and transdisciplinarity, addressing the question of how critical engagement alongside, within, and between them might be more effectively transversalized. The seminar’s objective will not be the celebration of one point of departure in opposition to another point of arrival, but the engagement with moments of resonance between multiple, differently-situated, yet overlapping fields of research & practice.