MA/PhD Session Schedule

April 3 - 5 (Valletta, Malta)
June 22 - July 25 (Saas-Fee, Switzerland)
October 1 - 16 (Valletta, Malta)

Seminar 1

Seminar 2


Christopher Fynsk (online), Avital Ronell (online), and Nemanja Mitrović (in-person)

"This Strange Institution": Graduate Study at EGS/PACT
We borrow a portion of an interview title from Jacques Derrida (“This Strange Institution Called Literature”) to name an effort to address the special conditions of study in the PACT Division of the European Graduate School.  This course can be considered an “introduction to graduate study,” but we want to underscore that we seek to focus on the meaning and practice of such study in a program that explores unconditionally what cross-disciplinary thought, informed by philosophy and art, can bring to urgent issues of our time. The in-person course is organized by Dr. Nemanja Mitrovic in Malta, with the online participation of Professors Christopher Fynsk (April 3 and 5) and Avital Ronell (April 4).  Some students will know Prof. Ronell’s famous description of what PhD thesis writing requires; she will bring her unique understanding of a “research-led” life to this seminar.  Professor Fynsk will take up the inspiring contributions of authors such as Derrida, Lyotard, and Granel regarding the task of thought as he addresses the special ambitions of the EGS/PACT, which undertakes a form of “teaching-led research.”

This seminar will have two sessions per day.

Session 1: 2:30 – 4:30 pm Paris time/8:30 am – 10:30 am New York time.

Session 2: 5:30 – 7:30 pm Paris time/11:30 am – 1:30 pm New York time.


Seminar 1

Seminar 2


Alenka Zupančič

The Silence of Desire

Slavoj Žižek & Frank Ruda

On Stuckness & Why True Atheism Needs Political Theology

Desire and its concept have a very interesting fate in psychoanalysis. Understood as an emblematic figure of desire, hysteria belongs to the birth of psychoanalysis, one could say it is one of its conditions. Lacan also made it the inevitable first step in any analytic process – the beginning of analysis entails the “hysterization of discourse.” Desire also appears as a central concept in the seminar on the ethics of psychoanalysis, after which it somehow seems to lose its central place. Not only did other concepts such as drive and enjoyment, jouissance, become more prominent, but there were also important critical evaluations of the logic and paradoxes of desire that revealed its possible limits, including its political limits. After last year’s seminar was dedicated to the concept and phenomenon of disavowal, which includes the disavowal of desire, it is time to re-examine the question of desire in its radical and often controversial dimension. And to perhaps revive not only its ethical but also its political dimension. The seminar will address various facets of desire, including some of the most radical and powerful ones, as we can observe, for example, in Afro-pessimism. It will raise anew the question of the emancipatory power of desire and insist on desire as an objective indication of a fundamental “imbalance of being.” It will also not shy away from opening up and dwelling on the figure of the hysteric. Theoretical analyses and works will be combined with examples from contemporary emancipatory struggles, as well as from art and literature.

The first half of this course, led by Frank Ruda, will raise the question what we do in moments when history, historical development, historical change seems to have been put on hold. How do we philosophically and politically, for example, to conceive of historical standstill, of historical stuckness? The first half of this course will critically examine different ways of thinking standstill and stuckness and identify what it is produced and caused by. It will then seek to systematically think through its political consequences: what if to get things moving (again) sometimes we do not need more movement but a stuckness of a different kind?

The second half of this course will be led by Slavoj Žižek and address the following issue:

The basic premise of atheists today is that materialism is a view which can be consistently exposed and defended in itself, in a positive line of argumentation without references to is opposite (religious beliefs). But what if the exact opposite is true? What if, if we want to be true atheists, we have to begin with a religious edifice and undermine it from within, redeeming its emancipatory core? To say that God is deceiving, evil, stupid, undead, or that its supreme act is to stage its own death, is much more radical than to directly claim that there is no god: if we just posit that god doesn’t exist, we open up the way towards toward its de facto survival as an idea(l) that should regulate our lives


Masterclass with Sergei Loznitsa and Rati Oneli


Stefano Harney, Fumi Okiji, and Fred Moten(online guest)

Subjunctive Sociology

Avital Ronell

Autobiographical Crash Sites: The Drama of Internal Alterity and Political Compromise

This seminar will look at the subjunctive component in black life, the as if, in its social, ritual and aesthetic manifestations. We will build on the work of Fumi on ìtàn-òrò-oríkì, and more broadly on African/black life ‘a logical exorbitance that fails to trigger a crisis.’  We will also draw from Dubois concept of sociology, Laura Harris’s notion of the subjunctive, and Cedric Robinson’s ontological totality.  We will ask with Fumi: why can thought as it has been historically constituted not think ‘the lack of insistence, the spread of possibility that is black social life?’  What is it about administered thought that can only seek to redeem African/black reason?  And ‘is it not this ability to walk in multiple worlds that unites black study?’

We shall examine a wide range of texts that confront a history of self in a compromised world where the very premises of selfhood must be constantly discarded and reinvented, part of a shattering linked to difficult growth spurts, politically stunted. Readings span from Rousseau and Goethe to James Baldwin, Walter Benjamin, Hannah Arendt, Kafka, Chantal Akerman, Werner Herzog and Sandy Stone, whose pathbreaking Post-Transsexual Manifesto provides some of the theoretical groundwork for establishing a hermeneutics of Bildung and transition, a recast of autobiographical theories and crucial psychoanalytic checkpoints. The failure of self-appropriation is a theme driven by Nietzsche in a number of morphs dependent on the often repressed inclusion of “the woman in Nietzsche.” Participants will be encouraged to work on their own projects that use this course as a jumping-off point for theoretical engagements with the frustrated development of self and history in an era of incessant traumatization.


Break Days


Maurizio Ferraris & Petar Bojanić

War and Peace: From Institution of War to Webfare

Catherine Malabou

Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, part 2

The last battle fought in the United States (during its Civil War) is that of Palmito Ranch in May 1865. The last battle fought in Europe is that of Berlin in May 1945. We used to think that total war was a specialty of the last century and that wars of attrition occurred only in marginal areas. However, the current war has the characteristics of a total war, and it is taking place near the heart of Europe. Philosophers have often contrastingly assessed reasons for this war (for example, Bojanić and Ferraris have different views on this matter). While it is painfully clear that war cannot be erased from the world stage, the reasons that cause it to erupt can be reduced. In this seminar, we will examine conceptual frameworks and protocols related to the institution of war. Namely, ethics and reasons for war, usage of force, justification, and the end of violence. We will also attempt to understand the development of technology (often perceived as something that enhances new forms of war and efficient killing) as an opportunity for ending enmities. In order to show this, we will use the concept of Webfare, which ensures an equitable distribution of the enormous wealth humanity produces on the Web, leaving aside the paranoia of surveillance capitalism and creating a foundation more worthy of the name homo sapiens.

Continuing our reading from last year, we will study the sections Reason, Spirit, Religion and Absolute Knowing.


Break Days


Lars Iyer

From Chaos to Order and Back Again: What is Creative in Creative Writing?

Achille Mbembe

The Last Utopia

What is the relationship between chaos and order in artistic creation? In what way can creative writing be said to be creative, and what are the stakes of such creativity? This course concerns fundamental ideas in creative writing, and is intended for both practitioners and theorists interested in exploring what creative writing might be from a philosophical and theological perspective. No background in either philosophy or theology is assumed; although we will be dealing with difficult ideas, the emphasis is on the creative use that can be made of them.

This seminar will engage with what the late Bruno Latour called ‘the politics of landing on Earth’. It will seek to animate the category of the Earth from a Southern global perspective, privileging in the process what nowadays is known as animism.


Christopher Fynsk – Sabbatical Existence (workshop)


Nemanja Mitrović – Derrida with(out) Literature (workshop)


Departure Day

Seminar 1: 2:30 – 4:30 pm Paris time/8:30 am – 10:30 am New York time.

Seminar 2: 5:30 – 7:30 pm Paris time/11:30 am – 1:30 pm New York time.

Workshops: session 1 from 3 – 4:30 pm/Paris time and session 2 from 5:30 pm until 7 pm Paris time.


Seminar 1

Seminar 2


Orientation Session


Peter Klepec

On the Mood of the Nightmare in Disoriented (Badiou) and Interesting (Žižek) Times

Isabelle Alfandary

The problem of Seduction: a Critical Rereading of Psychoanalysis

The seminar will address the question of the mood that accompanies the diagnosis of our times as disoriented (Badiou) and interesting (Žižek). After an introduction to the basic concepts of the authors on which we will base our analysis (Badiou: event, truth, subject; Žižek: real, enjoyment, fantasy), we will highlight the arguments why the nightmare is the mood that accompanies the modern times of constant crises, stagnation, fatigue, war and catastrophe. The mood should not be understood as something subjective or psychological, but rather philosophically and critically as an effect of the ruling ideology. The concept of mood will be further explained by delineating it to Heidegger’s notion of mood and attunement (Stimmung, Befindlichkeit) and by relating it to Lacan’s analysis of anxiety and fantasy. In what follows, we will elaborate the narrower and broader concept of nightmare, distinguish it from terror and horror, and relate it to Freud’s concept of the uncanny and to Ernest Jones’ interpretation of it (On the Nightmare, 1951). Theoretical analyses will be combined with examples from contemporary philosophy and ideology as well as from art and literature.

For psychoanalysis, seduction is not a notion like any other. The discovery of the unconscious was inseparable from Freud’s listening to women, some of whom had been the victims of sexual attacks. However, in a famous letter to his colleague and friend Wilhelm Fliess, Freud renounced his original theory of seduction in 1897. Why this relinquishment, this incredulity or even resistance to seduction? The hypothesis explored in this seminar is that seduction, thus repressed, has continued to produce indirect but decisive effects in psychoanalysis which deserve to be addressed. What Jean Baudrillard has called “the repression of seduction” in psychoanalysis is any- thing but indifferent to its clinical and theoretical developments. Psychoanalysts such as Sandor Ferenczi and Jean Laplanche have themselves revisited in their works the question of seduction, not without incurring the harshest criticism from some of their colleagues. This seminar will attempt to retrace the genealogy of this “repression” and the scandal of seduction, and to reread some of the key notions of Freudian metapsychology such as trauma, psychic reality, fantasy and transference in the light of Freud’s inaugural reversal concerning seduction.




Elie During

From Dionysiac Structuralism to the ‘Grand Narrative’: An Introduction to Michel Serres

Denise Ferreira da Silva

On Interiority

Michel Serres is often considered a ‘maverick’ of contemporary French philosophy. His idiosyncratic style can be challenging. His navigation across disciplines comes with a distrust of theoretical ‘meta-language’, but his texts are filled with references to geometry, thermodynamics, information theory, mythology, and religion. Their encyclopaedic scope is at once liberating and somewhat vertiginous.

Spanning across 70 or so books (from the late sixties to his death in 2019), it is fair to say that Serres’ work has been comparatively undervalued. But the situation is rapidly evolving, and his philosophical legacy is now being revisited from different perspectives: philosophy, history of science and technology, literature, media theory, educational theory, and environmental studies. The course will focus on its nodal significance with respect to several contemporary debates:

Information. The logic of communication networks and distributed information is at the heart of Serres’ ground-breaking work on Leibniz. It was further elaborated in the early Hermes Structuralism is reinterpreted along Dionysiac lines, with an emphasis on chaos, turbulence and noise.

Posthumanism. Anthropogenesis – the hominization process – is described in thoroughly relationist terms, drawing from the concept of the ‘parasite’. Inquiries into the origins of geometry and religion open-up new perspectives on the ongoing invention of ‘immortality’ (or universality).

Global ecology. Naturalized (or generalized) semiotics provides the groundwork for a non-anthropocentric approach to the Anthropocene/Post-Anthropocene debates. Serres frames them within a ‘Grand narrative’ of cosmic proportions, ranging across timescales – a narrative told by the Universe itself…

New materialism. Several aspects of Serresian philosophy resonate with contemporary object-oriented thought: the criticism of language-centred hermeneutics, or the theory of ‘quasi-objects’ (adopted and further elaborated by Bruno Latour).

Probing these issues requires that we elucidate the concept of non-linear time. Serres likes to describe it in terms of a percolation process: “Time is a tatter and it is sporadic. It solidifies like a crystal or vanishes like a vapor…”. Percolation is not a metaphor; it is a model meant to introduce a formal understanding of creative becoming. The implications are far-reaching. One of them is the possibility of achieving a ‘non-violent’ conception of history, beyond the dialectics of power and alienation.

If every concept, like any other modern tool for thinking, cannot but presuppose interiority as its domain of operation, how can the latter be brought under interrogation – how can interiority itself become available to its own (our mental) tools? In this seminar we consider whether the tools of raciality (that is, racial difference and cultural difference), which is the symbolic arsenal that plays in both the ethic-economic and an ethic-juridic corner of the liberal political architecture, can guide an analysis of interiority able to expose how it has operated in the accumulation of capital in the past two hundred years or so. The core formulation of interiority engaged here is the one  presented in Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason and Critique of Practical Reason, namely the formal thing or “unity of apperception.”  Both books will be read with theoretical contributions that frame raciality as a political concept, such as (Gayatri C. Spivak’s, David C. Lloyd’s, Sylvia Wynter’s, Judith Butler’s, Frantz Fanon’s, C.L.R James’s, Édouard Glissant’s, among others. Through these interventions we will read re-presentations of the Kantian Formal thing, the thing of interiority (the subject, subjectivity or the first-person singular) —, such as Husserl’s, Heidegger’s, Lacan’s, Foucault, Deleuze & Guattari’s) — that render it a crucial aspect of the liberal political entity.


Departure Day

Seminar 1: 2:30 – 4:30 pm Paris time/8:30 am – 10:30 am New York time.

Seminar 2: 5:30 – 7:30 pm Paris time/11:30 am – 1:30 pm New York time.