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Research Group for Radical Philosophy and Literature

Fanaticism, Extremism, Radicalism

The aim of this conference is to explore intersecting as well as diverging areas of today’s philosophical and political opposition to the liberal hegemony.

Even though the concepts of ”fanaticism,” ”extremism,” and ”radicalism” have different connotations and are often used to designate diverse phenomena, they all basically refer to the same impulse, namely the desire to radically alter the current social conditions.

The aim of this conference is to explore intersecting as well as diverging areas of today’s philosophical and political opposition to the liberal hegemony.

In Norway, the tragic shooting spree on Utøya on July 22, 2011 induced a period of moderation in which any call to political activism, not to say revolutionary thinking, was felt to be untimely. Might one not claim, however, that the opposite reaction would be more appropriate?

Only a truly radical philosophy is capable of thinking beyond the “false binaries” on which terrorism thrives and thus articulate the “real,” antagonistic conflict lines of our present situation. During the last couple of years a series of revolutions has taken place, most notably in the Arab world; social protest movements such as Occupy Wall Street have gathered forces across national borders to promote a radical political agenda; and “the idea of communism” has been re-launched as the only political idea worthy of a philosopher (Badiou).

In the same period, Norway has witnessed a rekindling of the old debate over antidemocratic tendencies on the political left, e.g. with the polemical anthology Venstreekstremisme (Leftist Extremism, ed. B. Hagtvet et al., 2013). What is the implicit and explicit ideological agenda for this debate?

Is there a totalitarian temptation also in what is commonly referred to as “radical philosophy”? Where is true, emancipatory radicalism taking place today? Which lessons are to be learnt from the recent wave of extreme right-wing violence that has affected parts of the Western world, including Norway? How can these tendencies be analyzed in ways that render palpable the distinction between real political events and obsessional ideological acting-out? Are we in need of new concepts to describe these differences? If so, how are they to be construed?

In order to stimulate a broad interdisciplinary debate on different aspects and avatars of fanaticism, extremism, and radicalism, the conference welcomes empirical and theoretical discussions as well as historical and literary case studies. The main language of the conference is English.

Invited speakers:

  • Alberto Toscano (Goldsmiths, University of London) is the author of, among other books, Fanaticism: The Uses of an Idea (Verso, 2010). He has translated several of Alain Badiou’s works into English and is also on the editorial board of the interdisciplinary journal Historical Materialism.

  • Svein Haugsgjerd (University of Nordland) is Senior Consultant at the Aker University Hospital and a clinical psychoanalyst, besides being the author of several interdisciplinary books on psychiatry, politics, and aesthetics.

  • Stine Helena Bang Svendsen (NTNU, University of Trondheim) is a researcher specializing on sexuality, ”race,” and immigration, including the effects of July 22.