DESCRIPTION: Since the revolutionary work of Immanuel Kant, Continental philosophy has been dominated by the idealist or correlationist turn wherein it is argued that mind structures and constitutes reality. In 20th century Continental philosophy, this correlationist turn has been manifested in the thesis that it is language, signs, discourses, or narratives that structure reality. This thesis has also harbored the emancipatory promise of liberating people from oppressive conditions through a critique and deconstruction of various discourses and symbolic systems that structure social relations.
Through the disclosure that forms of subjectivity and identity are not intrinsic properties of persons but are social constructions, these identities and power-relations are revealed to be contingent, and it becomes possible to build new forms of subjectivity, identity, and social relations. Such is the political import of the work of Foucault, Derrida, Lyotard, and those influenced by Lacan. The emancipatory achievements of the semiotic turn are not to be underestimated nor minimized; however, they have obscured another form of power, non-discursive power, that arises from materiality as such. Power issues not simply from signification and how we signify, but also how the world of objects about us is organized.
Through a reading of Levi Bryant’s Democracy of Objects, this seminar explores both the being of material objects and how they contribute to the organization of social relations through technologies, infrastructure, living beings, and features of geography. Over the course of the Fall seminar, students will be introduced to the ontology of objects, relations between objects, and how they influence the form that societies take. Special emphasis will be placed on interrelation between the agency of signs and the agency of material objects in structuring the social worlds in which we live. In exploring these themes, the seminar hopes to disclose new sites of political struggle as well as new opportunities for political emancipation.