"What is the role of critical thinking in society? What is the role of critical theorising? How can we criticise in ways that are well-founded and stand a chance of actually changing something for the better? Societies around the world, and humanity at large, today face unprecedented challenges, and academics and intellectuals are called for to provide insights and perspectives that can help."
Critique-A Network in social, political and legal thought was inaugurated in November 2019 and brings together academics and students at UNSW working in critical theorising or applications of humanities, social sciences, law or any other discipline. It organises workshops, seminars, talks, visiting lectures and other activities. During the COVID-19 social distancing measures, the network’s activities will be all online and, as soon as the situation allows, it will return to organising events again on campus.
If you have ideas of activities that the Critique Network could host or advertise on this website, please get in touch with one of the convenors:
The network will be hosting an online reading group and seminar on social, political and economic responses to COVID-19, convened by Jessica Whyte. See ‘Activities’ below.
Call for Expressions of Interest
‘Sirens + Silences’: Thirteenth Annual Doctoral Forum on Legal Theory (26 and 27 November 2020)
Co-hosted by IILAH, Melbourne Law School & UNSW Critique Network, UNSW Sydney
EOIs due 1 September 2020
For more information, see ‘Events’ below.
The network is hosting a new online reading group and seminar series that aims to cultivate critical and constructive engagement with social, political and economic responses to COVID-19. While many refer to our contemporary situation as ‘unprecedented’, there are nonetheless precedents for many of the public responses that are currently being trialled or advocated—from developing 'herd immunity', to 'social distancing', to border closures, to extended social welfare. The premise animating this series is that engaging critically and constructively with these precedents, and the philosophical assumptions underpinning them, may enable us to do more than anxiously await a return to a “normal” whose inequalities and insufficiencies are all-too evident.
In preparation for each session, we will read a public intervention about COVID-19 (this could be a written text or a set of policies, a video or an audio text) alongside a text that helps illuminate it by either situating it intellectually or problematising it in some way. From neoliberal advocacy for price rises to allow the market to overcome food shortages, to demands to prioritise the economy over the lives of the most vulnerable, to the history of social insurance and its relation to crises, we aim to think together and equip ourselves with resources to bring about more just and equal societies. Each session will start with some brief reflections from an academic and will be followed with a wider reading group discussion that will be premised on our all having read (and engaged with) the assigned texts in advance. All sessions will be conducted over Zoom, and readings will be emailed out in advance of each session. Please email Jess Whyte to express an interest in participating.
Quarantine: Histories & Critiques
Quarantine barricade around houses in Hawthorne Street, Woolloongabba, Brisbane, Queensland, 1900
Friday, 24 April, 3-4.30pm. (online)
“What type of imagining of ‘Australia’ was enabled, even required, by the idea and practices of quarantine? How was a language of biomedicine – epidemic, contagion, immunity, hygiene – tied up with a language of defence of nation – resistance, protection, invasion, immigration?” Alison Bashford, Imperial Hygiene: A Critical History of Colonialism, Nationalism and Public Health. For our first seminar, we'll be reading texts by UNSW Research Professor in History Alison Bashford on the history of quarantine and its entanglement with the production of national borders and practices of immigration control—and on whether we need to move beyond “quarantine critique”. Please contact Jessica Whyte to access the texts, a video link and a video interview with Professor Bashford.
Alison Bashford is Research Professor in History and Director of the New Earth Histories Research Program. Her work connects the history of science, global history and environmental history into new assessments of the modern world, from the 18th to the 20th centuries. She has recently focused on the geopolitics of world population, presented in two books: The New Worlds of Thomas Robert Malthus: Re-reading the Principle of Population, with Joyce E. Chaplin (Princeton University Press, 2016) and Global Population: History, Geopolitics and Life on Earth (Columbia University Press, 2014). Before taking up her Research Chair at UNSW, Alison Bashford was the Vere Harmsworth Professor of Imperial and Naval History at the University of Cambridge, Fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge, and Trustee of Royal Museums, Greenwich, UK. In 2009-10, she was the Whitlam and Fraser Chair of Australian Studies at Harvard University’s Department of the History of Science. She has researched and taught at the University of Sydney and the Australian National University. Alison Bashford is a Fellow of the British Academy and of the Australian Academy of Humanities. In May 2018, she presented the Wiles Lectures at Queen's University, Belfast.
This is a series convened by Dr Ben Golder and open to PhD students affiliated with the Critique Network and working (broadly) in the field of critical theory. The group met latterly in person and now meets (for the foreseeable future) via Zoom to discuss and workshop the development of particular academic skills. Sessions are not dedicated to PhD-related skills development but rather to a broader set of academic skills – everything from writing a conference paper to fielding difficult questions in your conference panel through to how to do peer review and give constructive feedback. The idea behind the series is to reflect as a group about the best ways to do the kinds of quotidian academic tasks nobody ever seems to have taught us how to do. If you're interested in joining the group, please email Angela Smith.
The Critical Theory Reading Group will be reading Marx's Capital (Vol 1) over 12 meetings in 2020. *We have already had a few meetings, but latecomers are welcome to join. The meetings are Thursdays at 8pm via Microsoft Teams, with the next meeting happening on 16 April.*
About the Critical Theory Reading Group
This interdisciplinary reading group is a place for postgraduate students from diverse schools to discuss theoretical topics within our own projects and broader intellectual interests. We read works on postcolonialism, neoliberalism, posthumanism, new materialism, critical race theory, gender studies and other related areas. In addition to discussing published texts, we also use the group as a venue for members to present their own works in progress. We meet fortnightly, with an approximate alternation between published work and our own work in progress depending on people’s interests. The reading list is decided collectively, though some authors of interest have been Michel Foucault, Giorgio Agamben, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, and Donna Haraway. There is no expectation to attend sessions that are not of interest.
For general inquiries about the Critical Theory Reading Group, please contact Angela Smith (Law & Justice) or Sonia Qadir (Law & Justice) or Max Bledstein.
Readings and details of the meetings are also shared via the UNSW Critical Theory Community Facebook group.
If you are convening or are aware of other teaching at UNSW relevant to the network’s activities or themes, please contact one of the convenors.