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WS: Nicole Anderson: (Re)Framing the Postmodern Subject: Chances and Risks of Emancipating the Crowd

When Jun 30, 2016
from 09:00 to 03:30
Where Phil I, Haus B, R. 29
Contact Name
Contact Phone (+49) 0641 99 30026
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The end of the modern period was accompanied by a simultaneous delegitimization of binary oppositions. With the onset of postmodernism, belief in the illusion of wholeness was superseded by an inherent pluralism, which enabled the dismantling of overarching schemes of temporality, periodization, progress, and development. Monopolies of power began to disintegrate and the resulting increase in autonomy and freedom gave rise to a new emancipation of the crowd. The immense increase in personal freedom in the areas of science, business, and politics steadily transformed the modern processes of subject-formation with a newly-won plurality. Because of this, the postmodern burgeoning of (democratic) freedom is often associated with instability and problems of self-orientation, as the individual confronts a plethora of new opportunities.   


In this context, the transition from modernity to so-called postmodernism can be discussed in terms of a “cultural erosion crisis” (Negt 2010), as the old values and norms become difficult to maintain and increasingly lose their effectiveness (Lyotard 1979). The oft-proclaimed disintegration of traditional structures, coupled with the increasing destruction of fixed social roles, throws individuals back upon self-responsibility, while preventing them from constantly reshaping their multiform identities in the ongoing process of change (Žižek 1999). The postmodern subject is exposed to a constant process of self-creation, being repeatedly transformed by new experiences. It thus risks chronic disintegration through permanent overload in the course of its development, and begins to display symptoms of the “exhausted self” (Ehrenberg 2008).


Nonetheless, this absence of coherent possibilities for self-positioning can also be framed as an opportunity, as the contemporary subject dares to renounce humanistic dogma in favour of a fundamental process of reorientation (Braidotti 2014). Seen in this way, processes of hybridization (Reckwitz 2006) and fragmentation are not perceived as threats to postmodern subject-formation, but rather as a welcome departure from traditional values and norms. In this reading, the fluid subject opens itself to horizons of possibility, and becomes newly relational, with the subject being constructed through diversity and creating new ties of sociality: instead of an exhausted self [erschöpften Selbst], the postmodern subject becomes a creative self [schöpferischen Selbst] in the process of negotiating with inconsistencies (Haraway 1995).


Against this background, the cultural-theoretical analysis of the chances and risks of postmodern subjectivity encompasses questions ranging from everyday praxis to theories of the post-human (Anderson 2008.2015). Within this wide context, this workshop will ask if and how it is possible to conceptualize the postmodern subject, with all its intersecting risks and opportunities, within the scope of contemporary critical thought.


Prof. Nicole Anderson (Macquarie University, Sydney)

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