Postgraduate Workshop on Politics of Aesthetics


23 – 24 September 2008
University of Lapland

The connections between politics and aesthetics are intimate but under-explored in the Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts. This two day workshop will help students to rethink the relations between politics and aesthetics by stepping outside the disciplinary boundaries in which they are conventionally taught, and develop a more interdisciplinary approach to the subject.

Political practice is dependent on fundamentally aesthetic powers of perception, sensibility, and expression. Any political judgement we make about the world is determined (1) by what we can see and what we can say about that which we see, (2) by our ability to claim the expertise to be able to see well and speak with authority about what we see, and (3) by how our claims to expertise are challenged by others who see and say differently to ourselves. The arts are at their most politically powerful not when they reproduce existing ways of seeing the world, but when they challenge us to see it differently, enabling what Michael J. Shapiro names a ‘re-partitioning of the global sensible.’ Indeed every political struggle depends on the political power of aesthetic practices to disrupt the partitioning of existing spheres of experience and sensibility. Thus have aesthetic revolutions in the field of representation generated successive revolutionary forms of politics throughout the modern era.

In spite of this, conventional theorists and practitioners of politics continue to warn of the dangers inherent in fostering deliberate connections between politics and aesthetics. Politics, it is said, must remain a domain of rational experience and engagement, distinct from the experience and practice of aesthetic modes of judgement and artistic creation. This is one reason why the disciplinary organisation of universities remains relatively hostile to forms of theoretical and practical engagement which seek to forge connections between aesthetic and political practices. This workshop seeks to overcome these obstacles by bringing together students, researchers and practitioners from the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, to think critically about the nature of the relationship between politics and aesthetics, most especially the potential therein for the politics of aesthetics in the 21st century. The focus is on the political dimensions of aesthetic experience, the arts and culture, with particular attention paid to visual culture.

Questions to be posed and probed will include (but are not limited to):
• Why has the relation between politics and aesthetics been neglected historically?
• What does it mean to claim that politics is an aesthetic practice?
• How do political and aesthetic practices differ?
• In what ways, historically and contemporarily, do we see aesthetic modes of practices shaping the everyday terrains of global politics?
• Is an “aesthetic politics” also necessarily a radical politics?
• How do different regimes of power utilise aesthetic practices and forms?
• How do artists conceive their political responsibilities? What dangers, if any, are inherent in forging connections between aesthetics and politics?
The course will be organised as a workshop in which students, researchers and practitioners may present their research in a supportive environment. There will be three keynote addresses provided by Prof. Colin Forster (Univ. of Pecs), Prof. Kia Lindroos (Univ. of Jyväskylä), and Prof. Michael J. Shapiro (Univ. of Hawaii) each of whom are internationally distinguished scholars in these fields.

The course is open to all postgraduate students in the Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts. Also advanced MA students working on related themes can apply.

How to apply?
Send an application by e-mail including a short abstract of the paper you would like to present by 31st August 2008 to Professor Julian Reid at

The final papers (10-30 pages) are to be delivered one week in advance of the course.

The course is free of charge. Travel and accommodation expenses are to be covered by participants themselves.

5 Study Points

– Lectures and workshop
– Seminar paper and presentation
– A reading list (will be provided later)

Preliminary Program

Tuesday, 23rd of September (Eelin sali / Lecture Hall 19 / Faculty of Social Sciences)

9:15- 9:30 Introduction: The course, lecturers and organizers
9:30-10:15 Keynote I: ‘Poesis and the City: ‘Ethnic’ Loci of Enunciation’
Prof. Michael J. Shapiro (University of Hawaii)
10:15-10:30 Discussion
10:30-10:45 Break
10:45-12:15 Workshop (session I)
12:15-13:00 Lunch
13:00-13:45 Keynote II:
Prof. Colin Forster (University of Pecs)
13:45-14:00 Discussion
14:00-14:15 Break
14:15-15:45 Workshop (session II)
15:45-16:00 Coffee break
16:00-17:00 Workshop (session II continues)
18:00- Evening program

Wednesday, 24th of September (Mauri-sali / Lecture hall F1027 / Faculty of Arts)

9:30-10:15 Keynote III:
Prof. Kia Lindroos (University of Jyväskylä)
10:15-10:30 Discussion
10:30-10:45 Break
10:45-12:15 Workshop (session III)
12:15-13:00 Lunch
13:00-13:45 Keynote IV:
Professor Julian Reid (University of Lapland)
13:45-14:00 Discussion
14:00-14:15 Break
14:15-16:00 Workhop (session IV)
16:00-16:15 Coffee and Closure

University of Lapland, Faculty of Social Science, Department of Social Studies / International Relations and Political Science

In co-ordination with
– The POLITU Graduate School in Political Sciences
– University of Lapland Graduate School (Professor Suvi Ronkainen)
– University of Lapland, Faculty of Arts

Course directors
*Professor Julian Reid (University of Lapland)
*University Lecturer Aini Linjakumpu (University of Lapland)

Please direct any questions concerning the content of the course to Professor Julian Reid at

Practical information

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