Seminar in Experimental Critical Theory

UCHRI | Initiatives

About Seminar in Experimental Critical Theory

The Seminar in Experimental Critical Theory (SECT) is an intensive ten-day summer program offered by UCHRI. SECT convenes distinguished instructors with a group of 40-60 faculty, graduate students, independent scholars, and public intellectuals from both the US and the international community. Neither an introductory survey nor an advanced research seminar, SECT functions as a “laboratory” where participants at all levels of experience can study with scholars at the leading edge of creative theoretical thought. The hallmark of SECT is its attention to both “pure” and “applied” modes of contemporary critical theory.

SECT’s topic – and often its location – changes each year.  Founded in 2004, the first five seminars were held at UC Irvine, the home campus of UCHRI, on topics ranging from psychoanalysis and politics to creative societies and culture industries. In 2009, UCHRI formed its first international partnership, taking SECT to China through a collaboration with the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences to explore design in China. In 2011, UCHRI partnered with the University of Hawai’i for ten days in Honolulu on the intersection of Asian, technoscience and area studies. In 2012, hosted by American University of Beirut, SECT was held in Lebanon on spaces of resistance, and the 2014 SECT, “Archives of the Non-Racial,” was held in Johannesburg, South Africa in partnership with the Johannesburg Workshop in Theory and Criticism.

Two key features separate SECT from the run-of-the-mill academic gathering. First, SECT is ten days of intensive engagement, combining formal talks and panels, lightning presentations, breakout groups, social gatherings, guest speakers, site tours, and more. And second, SECT participants are a curated group:  a core handful of invited faculty plus several dozen faculty, graduate students, artists, activists, public intellectuals and others from around the world, selected with an eye toward intriguing juxtapositions, collaborations, and conversations that challenge assumptions, push boundaries, and take both the “critical” and the “experimental” seriously.

No wonder past participants have described the SECT experience as “fantastic,” “enchanting,” and “transformative.”

Partners

JWTC
WiSER

Neither an introductory survey nor an advanced research seminar, SECT functions as a “laboratory” where participants at all levels of experience can study with scholars at the leading edge of creative theoretical thought. The hallmark of SECT is its attention to both “pure” and “applied” modes of contemporary critical theory.

Year in Review

In 2014, the Johannesburg Workshop in Theory and Criticism (JWTC) and SECT joined forces in organizing a two-week Workshop on Archives of the Non-Racial. The Workshop represents in a leading way the innovative modes of working in the human sciences and took place in South Africa from June 29 to July 11, 2014. The Workshop started off in Johannesburg, South Africa, and then traveled through Swaziland to Durban, to the Steve Biko Center in the Eastern Cape, and ended in Cape Town. Instructors included major figures in the global tradition of race critical studies as well as key figures in the critical race tradition in South Africa.

In continuing the experimental tradition of research and intervention in the humanities and social theory for which JWTC and SECT are known, the Archives of the Non-Racial Workshop assessed the possibilities and limits of the “non-racial” in terms of the politics of the modern world and its core values: democracy, freedom, dignity, equality, the human, universality, justice. To assess what they tell us about the project of human emancipation in our times, Workshop participants examined current struggles/alliances/coalitions/solidarities/forms of mobilization/registers of intervention, drawing relations and comparisons between various times and places. The Workshop also engaged South African histories and landscapes of the centuries-long struggles against racism, from the Freedom Charter, Treason and Rivonia Trials to Constitution Hill, from Black Consciousness and labor struggles to political resistance, anti-apartheid to post-apartheid. In each site, and where possible at all in dialogue with local communities, participants crafted critical dialogues with other traditions of racial configuration, non-racialism, and antiracism elsewhere.

In continuing the experimental tradition of research and intervention in the humanities and social theory for which JWTC and SECT are known, the Archives of the Non-Racial Workshop assessed the possibilities and limits of the “non-racial” in terms of the politics of the modern world and its core values: democracy, freedom, dignity, equality, the human, universality, justice.

Events

Shown here are the projects associated with this initiative (if necessary, use the left and right arrows to scroll). Click on an individual project to learn more.