Students Court Famed Scholar
The New School’s branch of the Platypus Affiliated Society is working to bring political philosopher and cultural critic Slavoj Žižek to speak at a panel held at The New School next fall.
Slavoj Žižek, called “the Elvis of cultural theory,” may speak at The New School next year. The Platypus Affiliated Society, a leftist political organization, and The New School for Social Research’s Psychoanalytic Workshop, a philosophical and psychoanalytical student group, are organizing a panel exploring psychoanalytic desire. Together they are petitioning the University Student Senate for funds to bring the famed philosopher to The New School, but face challenges because of the senate’s funding policies.
A USS policy states that funds can only be granted to events that occur in the same semester they are requested in. However, the funding for Žižek’s honorarium has been delayed because the workshop is scheduled to take place in the fall of 2011.
This policy poses a problem for student-coordinated events that require months of organization. “They actually said that they never had a student group propose something so far in advance,” said Chris Mansour, head of The New School’s chapter of Platypus. “Hopefully the USS will be interested in trying to change the policy so student groups will have more mobility to plan long-term.”
In response to Mansour’s proposal, the USS has said that they will consider making an exception to the policy. In addition, The Platypus Society feels optimistic that Žižek will still attend the event, even if the USS cannot provide funding immediately. “One [of the panelists] is a personal friend with Žižek,” Mansour said. “This is a special opportunity. Because it is more of an intimate engagement, it is very plausible that Žižek will come speak.”
Dubbed “the Elvis Presley of cultural theory” by The New York Times, Žižek has become an international celebrity for examining the variance at the core of life in a post-Communist, late capitalist world with thrilling theatrics and an intellectual arsenal that contains the likes of Karl Marx, Alfred Hitchcock and Saint Paul. However, Mansour and his collaborator, Todd Kesselman, an organizer of the Psychoanalytic Workshop, hope that his notorious showmanship will be contained by the specificity of their panel.
“Oftentimes when one goes to hear Žižek he puts on a show,” Kesselman said.
The panel was inspired by a scholarly dialogue that began with philosopher Adrian Johnston’s written response to Martin Hagglund’s concept of desire in his book “Radical Atheism.” With the addition of Žižek, the three will discuss the desire as it exists both psychoanalytically and politically.
Mansour and Kesselman hope that the addition of Žižek will highlight the political implications of the panel’s psychoanalytic debate. “We are hoping that Žižek will look into the subjective factors, both individual and collective, that play into political aspirations,” Mansour said. Mansour hopes that this event will explore “how desire can be a political event.”
“This event is highly contextualized and will give us an opportunity to shift from a very specific conversation of psychoanalysis and bring in a critic of psychoanalysis as a political tool,” Kesselman said.