On March 26-28, 2020, Indiana University’s fourth annual Critical Ethnic Studies symposium will bring together two fields of insurgent study: the undercommons, as theorized by poet and scholar Fred Moten and anthropologist Stefano Harney, and destituent power, by Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben.
This para-institutional forum grows up from the roots of the Black radical tradition and Italian autonomia, to collect and share what we’ve learned from the practices and forms of life that are already breaking free of politics.
Critical Ethnic Studies at IU is an emergent interdisciplinary program housed in the Departments of English and American Studies, and we are connecting the undercommons to destituent power, because each concept is drawn from moments when everyday life disrupts modern society. They challenge us—in different but resonant ways—to see aspects of the worlds we want in how we already live.
Through fugitive movement, contemplation, Black study, inoperativity, resonances between the last decade’s revolts, and other grounded reimaginations, we find what it means to let go of inherited political orders and to extend beyond them, toward the indissolubly common life that can be located in destitution and in refuge.
At the conference, please expect to hear and share research on commons and commoning; techniques for social transformation that could end state violence and sovereignty; ungovernable gestures; meditations on the ethics necessary for a relationship with the self that never assumed the figure of a subject; dialogue on how to avoid the dark future of history; and studies of the social, economic, and technological capacities that may make life on Earth not just better but simply possible.
Ultimately, we hope this symposium will offer attendees and presenters the occasion to gather and ask the questions they have not yet answered but most want to. We cordially invite everyone—regardless of field of study, discipline or artistic concentration—to attend.
We will announce the final schedule of events soon. If you have any questions or would like to register, please contact us.
If you’re looking for a place to begin your study of the undercommons and destituent power, we’ve collected the core texts inspiring this conference here.