*The Aesthetics of Radical Democracy*

*MLA International Symposium: Translating the Humanities*

*Düsseldorf, Germany*

*June 23-25, 2016*

*Organizers: **Urs Büttner (Leibniz Universität Hannover, Germany) and
David Kim (University of California Los Angeles, USA)*

In the past few decades, Europe has grown both together and apart. On the
one hand, this means that more decisions are being made in Brussels and
Strasbourg, and that governmental power is increasingly conferred to the
European Commission. On the other hand, these developments in political
Europeanization involve technocratization, bureaucratization, the loss of
democratic legitimation, and the growing influence of capitalism. It is not
only national populists who make these accusations, but also leftist
intellectuals have demanded more radical senses of democracy in response to
these processes.

What does “radical democracy” mean then? Conceptualized in opposition to
the “official,” representative politics, the concept suggests that the
“demos,” the people, rules itself in an original sense of the political.
Since the will of the people has to be visible in this self-presentation,
such a sensibility is indispensably bound to an aesthetic form of
expression. Loosely associated with “the new philosophy of the political,”
Badiou, Lefort, Laclau, and Rancière, among others, offer slightly
different conceptions of this theoretical relationship while focusing on
performative expressions in protest movements, action art, and theatrical
performances. Examples include artistic projects as diverse as the “Occupy”
protests, the burial action of Mediterranean refugees in Berlin organized
by the *Zentrum für politische Schönheit*, Schlingensief’s action “Ausländer
raus. Bitte liebt Österreich!”, and the theatrical works of Pollesch and

The aim of this panel, titled “The Aesthetics of Radical Democracy,” is to
examine how the arts intervene in the “depolitization” of “official”
politics in Europe. The panelists will analyze how the concept of “radical
democracy” has emerged in relation to this aesthetic intervention. From both
sides of the Atlantic and across disciplinary boundaries, they will examine
how democracy is (re)presented in art, literature, film, new media, and
music, and why the European context serves as an instructive platform for
this comparative or translational study. They will question how aesthetic
expressions of the demos are inscribed in humanistic languages across
cultural, national, linguistic, and ideological borders.

We seek papers that explore cultural practices that lead to radically
democratic associations or imagine new social relations. In critique of
liberal capitalism within the current European context, we hope to
illuminate how the arts remake politicized arenas. These examinations raise
questions as to what imaginary communitarian principles are at the heart of
European public spheres, and when identity-based categories link up with
certain notions of democracy. They speak to certain forms of “radical
democracy” within national, cultural, historical or linguistic contexts,
and to their receptions or perceptions by communities on both sides of the
Atlantic. Our goal is to investigate how “radical democracy” at the
crossroads of aesthetics and politics generate newly urgent discussions
about political agency, social change, and aesthetic sensibility.

We invite proposals from all disciplines in the humanities. Papers can be
presented either in German or in English. Please send a paper abstract (no
more than 300 words) and a brief, one-page-long c.v. to
[log in to unmask] and [log in to unmask] by August
3, 2015. Notification of acceptance to the panel will be sent out a week

David D. Kim
Assistant Professor of German
Department of Germanic Languages
University of California Los Angeles
212 Royce Hall, Box 951539
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1539
Tel (310) 825-3604
Fax (310) 825-9754
Email [log in to unmask]
Twitter @ddkim323

The German Studies Call for Papers List
Editor: Stefani Engelstein
Assistant Editor:  Olaf Schmidt
Sponsored by the University of Missouri
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