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CfH Lectures


In this lecture Patrick Hanafin examine a critical praxis of politics which goes beyond the boundaries of institutionalized cosmopolitan legal norms. In this politics the self declares itself not as the subject matter of rights, but as an active participant in political affairs. Such an approach allows us to reconceptualize the institutionalized default-setting of contemporary rights discourse and to develop a more complex situationally embedded subject of rights. He engages in an analysis of some examples of such an agonistic (cosmo)politics, one an instance of disobedience which exposed the limits of institutionalized models of right, and the second, an instance of political action which demonstrated a thinking of rights beyond the boundaries of legal declarations. These examples constitute what Etienne Balibar has called “a cosmopolitics to come”. The central question of the lecture is how critique relates to political action and sets out to demonstrate how critique is not cut off from the urgency of the political but is embedded in actual political praxis. This model of agonistic cosmopolitics is on the side of perpetual action to maintain and create new worlds in relation with other individuals. What makes such a praxis distinct from a liberal cosmopolitan praxis is that it is achieved from below as a collective practice of worldmaking. Such collective practices take place locally and relationally rather than occur as the result of the institutional imposition of rights on a global or indeed national scale. What is at stake here for a radical politics is not a withdrawal or a retreat but a thinking within and with law and politics. One can be both a critical thinker who believes in the possibility of law‘s ability to transform without contradiction or without allowing one strand of one‘s thinking to take over the other. Such a praxis involves a refusal to accept certain modes of thinking which block critical or imaginative thought. It is a mode of doing, an approach, not a breaking away from the reality of political struggle.

This lecture was given within the framework of the 2011 School of Critical Theory organized by the Centre for the Humanities in Utrecht. The programme was titled ‘G-local Cosmopolitanism: The Social Responsibility of the Artists, the Academics, and the Media’, and offered trans-national and interdisciplinary approaches drawn from the humanities, social sciences, law, philosophy and international relations. Its focus on the development of cross-national European perspectives in these areas, allows for the innovative use of key notions of cosmopolitanism across different national, cultural and disciplinary traditions. The school consisted of three clusters, which focused on Cosmopolitanism and the social responsibility of the Artists, Cosmopolitanism and the social responsibility of the Academics, and Cosmopolitanism and the social responsibility of the Media.