Italian Thought Today: Biopolitics, Nihilism, Empire

University of Kent, 5th - 6th April 2008 International conference financed by the British Academy, The Kent Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, and the School of European Culture and Languages

Conference Organiser: Dr Lorenzo Chiesa (

Against the background of a recent and widespread resurgence of Italian contemporary thought, and Italian leftist political theory in particular, the aim of this conference is twofold. First, the conference intends to explore the notions of biopolitics, Empire, and nihilism as elaborated in the recent works of some of the most important Italian living philosophers. Secondly, and more importantly, this conference aims to assess the impact of these notions on academic fields as diverse as political theory, economics, cognitive science, sociology, and literature.

"Italian Thought Today" therefore aspires to promote an interdisciplinary dialogue across the humanities and social sciences that should at the same time also problematise the philosophical notions mentioned above in light of their application to a non-philosophical domain. Is Negri's idea that the globalisation of world markets has led to a progressive decline in the sovereignty of nation-states useful to explain the Realpolitik of today's diplomacy? How can Vattimo's emancipatory concept of "active" nihilism be challenged by the "passive" nihilism that seems to pervade much of contemporary Italian popular culture? Shouldn't Agamben analyses of the politics of life be expanded in order to include detailed economical considerations?

Although the notions investigated in this conference have lately been the object of much attention, the novelty of this conference lies in its intention to contextualise them beyond the boundaries of philosophical discourse. This conference will bring together some of the protagonists of today's Italian philosophical scene, a number of well-established critics of their work, as well as a number of leading scholars from across the humanities and social sciences who, in their recent research, have been confronting themselves with the concepts of biopolitics, Empire, and nihilism.

Confirmed speakers:

Professor Gianni Vattimo (Professor of Theoretical Philosophy, University of Turin, Italy): [title t.b.a.]
Professor Roberto Esposito (Professor of Theoretical Philosophy, Istituto Scienze Umane, Naples, Italy): Totalitarianism and Biopolitics
Dr Sergio Benvenuto (Psychoanalyst and Senior Researcher, Institute for Cognitive Sciences and Technologies, Italian Council for Scientific Research, Rome, Italy): Return to the Real: Philosophy in the Epoch of Bio-Technologies and Bio-Politics
Professor Andrea Fumagalli (Associate Professor of Economics, University of Pavia, Italy): Ten Theses on Bioeconomy and Cognitive Capitalism
Professor Timothy Campbell (Associate Professor, Italian Studies, Cornell University, USA): From the Impolitical to the Impersonal: Roberto Esposito's Politics of Life
Professor Timothy Murphy (Associate Professor, English, University of Oklahoma, USA): Pedagogy of the Moltitude: Negri on Stage
Dr Jelica Sumic Riha (Senior Researcher, Institute of Philosophy, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia): Giorgio Agamben's Politics of the Remnant
Dr Matteo Mandarini (Lecturer in Management in the Cultural Industries, Queen Mary University, University of London): Not Fear But Hope in the Apocalyspse
Dr Alberto Toscano (Lecturer in Sociology, Goldsmiths College, University of London): Abstract Life: The Biopolitical Logic of Capitalism and Empire
Dr Ozren Pupovac (Researcher in Sociology, Open University / Jan van Eyck Academie, Maastricht, The Netherlands): Machiavelli, Negri, Althusser: Encounters and Detours
Dr Shane Weller (Reader in Comparative Literature, University of Kent): The Art and Ethics of Distortion: Heidegger, Derrida, Vattimo
Dr Lorenzo Chiesa (Lecturer in Critical Theory, University of Kent): Homo Sacer: A Franciscan Ontology

Conference registration form here.
Conference website here.