THE RETURN OF HEGEL – International conference, 14-16.10.2020

A conference inaugurating the new academic year

History, universality and dimensions of weakness

Hegel’s thought and heritage have usually been understood as an attempt to build a system, a theory, but also a practice of philosophy at once developing and proving the intellectual ability to conceptualize the historical process and explaining its course, not as its mere description, but as a conceptual framework of notions.

Hegel’s philosophy was thus condemned as totalitarian and accused of failure in captivating the freedom and contingency supposedly constitutive for human life and history. The turn of XX and XXI centuries was dominated by a deep critique of ‘grand narratives’, major historiographic projects and theories, connected with this Hegelian inspiration.  Paradoxically, the idea of ‘end of history’ – often attributed to Hegel – was also announced in this postmodern time of doubt and deconstruction.

However, at the beginning of the XXI century, the macro-history reappeared again, and in its global dimension. In various streams of theory the need for a systematic and indeed systemic analysis is emphasized, and the demands to rethink reason, history and dialectics – abound. Hegelian approach, with its multidimensional, general, contextual and dynamic perspective on the historical process is again in the center of researchers’ attention. Its contemporary rearticulations – in the context of the subject (see the work of Catherine Malabou, Judith Butler and ‘Slovenian School’); colonial history (see: Achille Mbembe and Susan Buck-Morss), capitalism (see the work of Slavoj Žižek) and society (all of the above mentioned and Marek Siemek) are abounding, both as continuation and renegotiation of the Hegelian paradigm.

The main readings of Hegel’s philosophy until now followed the heroic perception of history, currently undermined by feminist, psychoanalytical, postcolonial and queer scholarship, which influences the main philosophical currents in their need to follow the everyday, non-heroic experience, including that of weakness, failure and persistence. We would also like to invite the less heroic reading of the Hegelian theory, one which perceives the weak and enslaved, the oppressed and the unhappy as those, whose persistence, resistance and even willfulness constitute effective steps towards emancipation. We would like to embrace these important transitions in our revisiting. Nevertheless we assume, that if there exists an ability to build philosophy, sociology, cultural theory or psychology, not to speak of far more specific theories, such as that of the habitus, performativity, language or gender, to only give some examples, it is because of the audacity, and perhaps also failures and insufficiencies of Hegel’s theoretical effort.

Understanding the perplexity of Hegel’s own contradictions and embracing the vital interest in theories of history, universality, political ecology, decolonization and social justice, just to name a few key problems highlighted in contemporary philosophy and social theory, we would like to discuss Hegel with a clear intention of critical historical practice, which combines the particular needs and context with an interest in the past as effort to build the future. In the context of the return of philosophy of history the need to revisit universality seems crucial. The concept of ‘common future’ seems to be unavailable without a universalist claim. But also in other theoretical fields – be it the postcolonial studies or feminism, where the limitations of solely particular perspective have been criticized as leaning towards neoliberal atomization; legal and heritage studies, such claim to universality seems central today.  Egalitarian practice and critical theory, which currently struggle in the impasse between the perfect adjustment to the European status quo of late modern capitalism and the minoritarian disagreement, perhaps need to at least confront the Hegelian notions once again. Such a search for universality needs to embrace the dialectics of experience, without the conformist focus on the logic of (neoliberal) success.

If there is one thing we might all have in common in our intention to revisit Hegel’s thought and heritage on this round anniversary of his 250 birthday, it is the need for the audacity of his theoretical work, its much needed public and critical dimension, its courage to undermine or break the safe patterns of intellectual practice. This is why we would like to invite very different thinkers and various, sometimes even contradicting styles of approaching Hegel and the contemporary. Please, join us to think and discuss Hegel’s philosophy and its impacts on today’s theory, society and understanding of history.

in English only

participation is free. The Conference will be held online: via Zoom meetings and streamed, for passwords and further information, write to:

program, abstracts

The Conference is organized by: The Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, Polish Academy of Science, Warsaw; the GSSR PAN and the Goethe-Institut in Warsaw, Poland.
Organizing Committee: dr Christoph Bartmann (Director of the Goethe-Institut in Warsaw), prof. Andrzej Leder (Polish Academy of Science, Warsaw), dr Ewa Majewska.

The Speakers:
prof. Achille Mbembe, Wits University, Johannesburg, RSA
prof. Oxana Timofeeva, European University in Petersburg, Russia
dr Ewa Majewska (Warsaw)
dr Joanna Bednarek (Poznań)
dr Andrzej Leder (Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw)
prof. Małgorzata Kowalska (University of Białystok)
dr Joe Grim Feinberg ( Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic)
M.A. Bartosz Wójcik (Institute of Political Studies, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw)
dr Maciej Sosnowski (Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw)
prof. Agata Bielik-Robson (University of Nottingham/ IFiS PAN)
prof. Andrzej Nowak (Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan)
dr Ankica Cakardic (University of Zagreb, Kroatia)
dr Mikołaj Ratajczak (Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw)
dr Jan Swianiewicz (Warsaw)
dr Marcin Pańków (University of Białystok)
dr Marta Olesik (Institute of Political Studies, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw)
prof. Tomasz Kitlinski (Maria Curie-Skłodowska University, Lublin)

Please, feel invited to contribute to our post-conference publication – Praktyka Teoretyczna Journal welcomes abstracts and articles in English and in Polish:

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