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Online via Zoom

Hostage: Capitalism, Democracy, Ethics 

Theoretical Explorations Module XIX

Rohit Goel

19 January - 12 February 2024

Fridays and Mondays

8 Sessions

INR 7,500 Participation

INR 10,000 Participation + Writing

6:30 PM IST - 8:30 PM IST 

Worldwide Registration Open

Download Course Poster


About the Course

We typically think of hostages as things or people (turned into things) used by one side for the purpose of extracting something from another. Hostage situations are clearly exploitative and must be prevented. That’s why states refuse to meet the demands of hostage-takers, for fear of incentivizing and thus generalizing the practice. Instead of negotiating, states tend to wait out or fight to rescue hostages and, if that fails, hostages are typically honored for having sacrificed for society, forestalling an economy of desire through which people would be able to get whatever they want by taking hostages. In this course, we’ll complicate our aversion to hostage cases; beginning with a close reading of Paul Claudel’s ‘modern tragedy’, The Hostage, we’ll see how our world order – a nexus of free market capitalism, parliamentary democracy, and humanitarian ethics – is structured through the very hostage framework we oppose on a case-by-case basis.


Specifically, we’ll analyze how capital holds us hostage to the perpetual accumulation of profit despite repetitive booms and busts (Marx, Jacques Le Goff, Kojin Karatani, Mladen Dolar); the state holds us hostage to peace as wars and inequality intensify (Kafka, Claude Lefort, Joan Copjec, Eric Santner); and, we’ll learn how a humanitarian ethic premised on rights and identity multiplications holds us hostage to recognizing, accepting everything that appears to us without any criteria of judgment (Levinas, Robert Meister). 


Fortunately, we’ll conclude the class with a close reading of Jacques Lacan’s Marxian-Freudian thought and psychoanalytic practice, a real treatment, cure of the hostage we keep making ourselves in contemporary society.

About the Professor

Rohit Goel is Director/Professor of the Bombay Institute for Critical Analysis and Research (BICAR). He is the editor of Future Perfect: Catastrophe and Redemption in the Contemporary (Kaph 2023) and the co-editor of Lacan contra Foucault: Subjectivity, Sex, Politics (Bloomsbury 2019). Rohit has taught courses in critical theory, historiography, and politics at the University of Chicago, Sciences Po Paris, the American University of Beirut, and Jnanapravaha Mumbai. He received the Fulbright IIE and Center for Arabic Study Abroad (CASA) fellowships to pursue years of Arabic language study in Syria and was awarded the Fulbright DDRA and Andrew C. Mellon Fellowship for PhD dissertation research in primary sources in Lebanon. He completed his BA from Harvard College and, as Harvard University’s Paul Williams Fellow to Emmanuel College, was granted an MPhil in Social and Political Sciences from the University of Cambridge


Students will receive a Certificate of Completion upon successful attendance of a course or a Certificate of Completion and Letter of Evaluation if they successfully attend and complete the final assignment. Those who complete three courses (attendance and writing) in the Theoretical Explorations track over two calendar years are eligible for a BICAR Diploma in Theoretical Explorations.

Refund Policy

We will refund your mode of payment — minus a 25% processing fee — if you choose not to take this course after the first session. Or, you can ‘roll over’ your balance to another or future BICAR course without a fee deduction.


To register, we can facilitate two modes of payment — either a direct bank transfer to our Indian account or we also have a PayPal link:


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