2019-2020 Academic Catalog 
    Dec 02, 2022  
2019-2020 Academic Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

GEOG 329 - Critical Theory: Space, Society and Change

Nearly 75 years ago Max Horkheimer, echoing Marx, defined critical theory as distinguished by its attempt to critique and change society. It is therefore not simply a tool for understanding, but also a method for overcoming injustice, domination and oppression. Over the past 50 years, geographers have found inspiration in this transformative mode of theorizing in research fields as diverse as housing, resource management, race relations and climatology. But in what state do we find critical theory today? For some geographers, critical theory has transformed into a pluralist venture that is symbolized by a politics of disagreement and a modest normativity. However, others fervently disagree with this project, arguing that we now face unprecedented challenges that cannot be dealt with by this brand of modest theory or, paradoxically, those more assertive types of theory which preceded it. Simply, it is thought that previous critical theory is unable to produce change in an era of reflexive cynicism, sophism and post-political politics. The seminar follows these debates by tracing the ways in which geographers have historically engaged with critical theory and evaluating where this engagement stands today. In order to achieve the latter, the seminar will examine a range of contemporary critical social theory, including an exploration of Slavoj Zizek’s claim that we need a new theory of everything(!), Alain Badiou’s interpretation of politics as event and Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe’s arguments about critical theory’s kernel concern. Open to doctoral students only.

Anticipated Terms Offered: Offered every year