ICS Seminar Series - Thinking in Common

Date: Thursday 15 June 2017
Time: 11.30am–1pm
Venue: EB.G.35, Western Sydney University, Parramatta South campus

Philippa Collin, Tim Rowse, Paul James, Gay Hawkins

(Institute for Culture and Society)

Thinking in Common Panel: Assembling Politics


The Thinking in Common Panel for Semester 1 2017 will explore the theme of 'Assembling Politics'. 'Politics' or 'the political' are terms we use often in critical social analysis but what do they mean? Can we assume that politics are as self-evident as they seem? In the light of a proliferating array of new political terminologies from 'more than human politics', to 'post representative politics', to 'issue politics', to 'experimental politics' how can we understand the ways in which politics are being reconfigured and reimagined? And what are the implications of these reconfigurations for political theory, for mainstream political institutions, for democratic processes and for building better worlds? 

Four ICS members will explore these issues from the perspective of their research – we look forward to your contributions to this conversation … there should be plenty of politics!

Pip Collin

Young people's politics are most commonly conceptualised and researched in relation to their 'participation' – or disengagement. This is problematic in many ways, but in this discussion I will explore how a focus on young people's participation masks a broader set of relations and forms of political agency entangled in the 'politics' of youth.

Tim Rowse

I will describe the recent public debate about recognising Indigenous Australians in the Constitution. I suggest that a constitution is a shared political tool, a 'common' objectification of political thought and community values. However, there is a gap between the technicalities of our constitution and our myths about it as an expression of collective will. In making this point I will explain some of Australia's constitutional and colonial history, so the talk may be of special interest to students and staff who have come to Australia from other countries.

Paul James

As the framing conditions of our world get more and more abstract - notwithstanding all the recursive processes of (romantically or instrumentally) reclaiming authenticity, emotion and forms of embodied connection with nature and others - the usual foundational questions concerning politics no longer work. Even the concept of 'assemblage' causes problems, feeding into the relativisation of meaning and embodied connection. For example, constitutional recognition becomes empty symbolism, and the liberal notion of freedom, like the socialist notion of liberation, becomes complicit with the neoliberal grounding of life in empty prosperity. This brief talk responds to that emptying out of politics.

Gay Hawkins

I agree with Latour that critique has largely run out of steam. This provokes the question of what alternative methods and assumptions shape political analysis in STS? In taking up this question I challenge the common accusation that this field is apolitical. Two key examples will be used: the STS commitment to empirically tracing exactly how political situations or matters of concern emerge and the recognition of the multiplicity of human and nonhuman things that participate in this.