Patricia Hill Collins

Distinguished University Professor of Sociology at the University of Maryland, College Park

Professor Collins is a social theorist whose research and scholarship have examined issues of race, gender, social class, sexuality and/or nation. Her first book, Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment (Routledge), published in 1990, with a revised tenth year anniversary edition published in 2000, won the Jessie Bernard Award of the American Sociological Association (ASA) for significant scholarship in gender, and the C. Wright Mills Award of the Society for the Study of Social Problems.

Her second book, Race, Class, and Gender: An Anthology, 9th ed. (2016), edited with Margaret Andersen, is widely used in undergraduate classrooms in over 200 colleges and universities. Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and the New Racism (Routledge, 2004) received ASA’s 2007 Distinguished Publication Award.

Her other books include Fighting Words: Black Women and the Search for Justice (University of Minnesota Press, 1998); From Black Power to Hip Hop: Racism, Nationalism, and Feminism (Temple University Press 2005); Another Kind of Public Education: Race, Schools, the Media and Democratic Possibilities (Beacon Press, 2009); the Handbook of Race and Ethnic Studies, edited with John Solomos (Sage, 2010); and On Intellectual Activism (Temple University Press, 2012).

In 2008, she became the 100th President of the American Sociological Association, the first African American woman elected to this position in the organization’s 104-year history.

Long Memory: Black Feminism as Emancipatory Knowledge

Abstract: U.S. Black feminism is often viewed as one form of feminism among many. This framing assumes that Black feminism can be evaluated by its proximity to predetermined feminist norms or, alternately, explained by how it fits into a pantheon of multicultural feminisms, e.g., Latina feminism, black British feminism or Maori feminism. My presentation begins in another place. I suggest that the “Black” in Black feminism is not an adjective that can be attached to a preexisting feminism, or positioned as one of many equivalent feminisms. Rather, U.S. Black feminism is one of many political, social, intellectual and cultural projects that emerged in response to the historical organization of racial domination. Intersecting power relations of race, class, gender, sexuality, age and ethnicity all matter theoretically, yet historically, race and racism have been especially salient for Black feminism. In essence, “Black” is not an adjective but a noun.

My presentation explores how U.S. Black feminism draws upon the long memory of African American women’s political, social, intellectual and cultural responses to an existential threat to Black lives. Whether one got to live or die, and the terms under which one would live one’s life have not been assured. During slavery and its aftermath, anti-Black racism has been one core feature of U.S. society, ensuring different forms of structural captivity. For African Americans responding to these social relations, freedom assumed literal and metaphoric meanings that shaped politics and culture. Moreover, because racial domination in the U.S. has taken gender-specific forms, African American women confronted different existential challenges with life and death than those facing men. In this context, Black feminism reflects varying gender-specific responses by African American women to foster both their own survival as well as that of their loved ones.

Jodi Dean

Professor of Political Science at Hobart and William Smith Colleges

Jodi Dean is the Donald R. Harter ’39 Professor of Humanities and Social Sciences at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York. She is the author of twelve books, including Democracy and Other Neoliberal Fantasies (Duke University Press 2009) Blog Theory (Polity 2010), The Communist Horizon (Verso 2012), and Crowds and Party (Verso 2016).

Faces As Commons

If a central contribution of Marx’s analysis of capitalism was his identification of the ways capitalism produces its own gravediggers, what elements of the present pointing beyond it does communicative capitalism identify? One answer appears in the commoning of faces, a practice that emerges out of the communicative practices of mass social and personal media. To explore this commoning, I develop the idea of “secondary visuality” as a feature of communicative capitalism. Reflecting on the repetition of images and circulation of photos as communicative practices, I present secondary visuality as an effect of communication that blends together speech, writing, and image into something irreducible to its components, something new. With secondary visuality, faces lose their individuating quality and become generic. Faces in common push back against the individualism of contemporary capitalism, suggesting a way that it is producing new possibilities for collectivity.

Jeremy Gilbert

Professor of Cultural and Political Theory at the University of East London

Professor Jeremy Gilbert is a writer, researcher and activist whose work has appeared in various British, continental, American and Australian publications and has been translated into French, Spanish and German. His most recent book is, Common Ground: Democracy and Collectivity in an Age of Individualism (Pluto 2013) and he has written widely on cultural theory, politics and music. His 2008 book Anticapitalism and Culture: Radical Theory and Popular Politics is available for free legal download at Anticapitalism and Culture: Radical Theory and Popular Politics.

Lots of information, free work, a blog, links to social media, and other material can be found at http://www.jeremygilbert.org.

Jeremy was a founder organiser of both Signs of the Times and the London Social Forum, a convenor of the Radical Theory Forum at the European Social Forum, Paris in 2003 and London in 2004, and has been involved with many political and cultural projects inside and outside the academy.

He has written with varying degrees of regularity for Open Democracy, Comment is Free Soundings and Red Pepper.

Hegemony in the Age of Platform Capitalism

Although neoliberal ideas had been circulating since the 1930s, actually existing neoliberalism only emerged in the context of the crisis of ‘Fordism’ at the end of the 1960s. Neoliberalism as an actual practice of government and a hegemonic project has been bound up indissolubly with processes such as globalisation, digitisation and financialisation, and above all with the emergence of ‘post-Fordism’. In recent years the post-Fordist model of ‘flexible accumulation’ has been displaced by a new leading model of capitalist accumulation, organised around massive digital platforms which tend towards conditions of monopoly, through their facilitation of the large-cale aggregation of data, populations and markets. Under these conditions, the mechanisms by which passive or active consent for the hegemonic position enjoyed by governing elite is secured are changing rapidly: in particular such elites are no longer able to appeal to their status as competent technocrats, guaranteeing perpetually rising living standards for majority populations, and find it increasingly difficult to neutralise resistance to growing inequality and social degradation. That resistance can take progressive forms, but all too often takes the form of reactionary hostility to a perceived elite culture of cosmopolitanism and social liberalism.

As a result the legitimacy of neoliberalism has never been under greater strain following the decade-long failure to resolve the financial crisis of 2008. The elites of Silicon Valley appear increasingly willing to assert their political and cultural independence from the culture and expectations of the traditionally authoritative institutions of finance capital, whilst taking up a new role as global philanthropic technocrat, and their relationship to neoliberalism as a political project remains complex and ambiguous . At the same time various reactionary forces seem able to benefit from the breakdown of authority being suffered by a political class that had historically tied itself to the interests and outlooks of finance. A particular challenge posed to progressive forces under these circumstances is that of defending and extending political positions which value cosmopolitanism, resist racism and extend the democratic demands of feminism, without allying themselves to that decaying political class, which increasingly tries to appeal to liberal feminism as a key source of legitimacy. A further question is how progressive forces can use platform technologies to achieve democratic ends, and what threat might be posed to them by the monopoly control of major platforms in the medium term.

Wendy Larner

Provost, Victoria University Wellington

Professor Wendy Larner is Provost at Victoria University of Wellington and President-elect of the Royal Society Te Apārangi. She completed a BSocSci at Waikato (1983), MA (First Class Hons) at Canterbury (1989), and her PhD as a Canadian Commonwealth Scholar at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada (1997). She has held academic positions at the University of Waikato (NZ), University of Auckland (NZ), and University of Bristol (UK). She has also been a Fulbright Fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (US), Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Queen Mary University, London (UK), and a Guest Professor at the University of Frankfurt (Germany).

Her research is in the interdisciplinary fields of globalisation, governance and gender. She has published over 80 refereed articles and book chapters, nine monographs, edited collections and special issues, and delivered over 100 invited lectures/keynote addresses across four continents. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society Te Apārangi, a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences (UK), and a Fellow of the New Zealand Geographical Society.

Turning the University Inside Out?

New ways of working are arising from the conjuncture between changes in women’s working lives and their political commitments. Women and feminism are now well and truly inside public institutions and mainstream organisations, even if unequal power relations and the under-representation of women remains, and changes in organisational practice and culture are not always explicitly named as feminism. This talk reflects on the shifts that have occurred in universities as more women have taken up opportunities for tertiary education and moved into academic careers. I will show that women have acted as ‘change agents’ in universities, linking our growing presence to new knowledge practices, the growth of participatory leadership styles, and the mainstreaming of equality and diversity strategies. While recognising the intractability of gendered inequalities, I suggest universities are being reconfigured in this new chapter in the history of women, feminism and gendered labour.