The Beirut Institute for Critical Analysis and Research (BICAR) will host its first summer school in Lebanon this June. The summer school is open to international and local students. It is intended as a pedagogical intervention at a catastrophic moment in Lebanon’s history. With economic collapse, severe shortages of fuel, electricity, and medicine, and over 80% of the Lebanese population living below the poverty line, the current capitalist crisis demands the development of adequate tools for understanding our historical present in ways that can also affect conditions of transformation. We at BICAR think that Lebanon is the future past of the failures of global neoliberalism, a place that can instruct us on the dismal future to come if the social, political, and economic contradictions of the present are left to their own historical trajectory. In order to concretely grasp the conditions of the present, we propose a patient return to the past and will be offering an intensive course program on classical and contemporary critical social theory and aesthetics. The school will consist of an introductory keynote lecture followed by four core courses offered over eight sessions.
On the concept of prehistory, if it is one?
By Dr. Frank Ruda
Capitalism seems to have changed everything. It established a fundamentally new form of organising social relations and from its conception nothing – and perhaps not even nothing – remained the same. These are assumptions that have been often attributed to Marx (and Marxists), even by Marxists. Yet Marx explicitly identified capitalist political economy as a prehistoric formation. This puts pressure on the concept of prehistory, if it is one. This talk will attempt to deal with this pressure by returning to Marx.
The Idea of Critical Theory
By Dr. Ray Brassier
This course will track the development of the idea of critical theory from its original radical inception, focusing on its two fundamental components: the Marxian analysis of the commodity and the Freudian analysis of repression. We will conclude by considering the ‘critical pessimism’ to which critical theory’s founding figures, Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, allegedly succumbed in their final years.
By Dr. Sami Khatib
This seminar explores negativity as concept, figure and affect. In Western thought, ‘negative’ thinking can be traced back to pessimism, skepticism, nihilism and dystopianism. For Hegel, however, negativity is the restless movement and dialectical driving force of cultural formation and education (Bildung). The seminar asks how global sites of class struggle and coloniality can be theorized as sites of negativity.
By Dr. Angela Harutyunyan, with Natasha Gasparian
While Marx and Engels never systematically wrote on aesthetics, throughout the twentieth century multiple attempts were made to construct systematic aesthetics based upon their writings. This course investigates such attempts both within Soviet Marxism and Western Marxism in the 1930s and 1960s as mirroring one another, albeit from different political systems and in historical circumstances.
Anxiety and Authority: The Critical Use of Psychoanalysis
By Dr. Nadia Bou Ali, with Mohamad Tal
Modernity is an age of neurosis, in which anxiety emerges as an affect linked to the demand for collective political solutions. If our present historical moment is characterized as an ‘age of anxiety’ overridden with depression, suicide, and paralysis, can we rethink anxiety without resorting to quick tranquilizing resolutions of the sort proposed by authoritarian figures like Trump, Orban, Bolsonaro, and Modi? The appeal of such figures invites us to reconsider the basis of what authority is and ought to be using psychoanalysis to diagnose its nature in relation to anxiety.
Application and Deadline:
CV/Resumé + 500 words statement of interest + 150 words statement
$500 funded students; $300 non-funded students; free to local students.
Payment for funded and non-local students to be made upon successful application.
Established in 2015, the Beirut Institute for Critical Analysis and Research (BICAR) aims to promote critical thought and analysis with a special focus on studying manifestations of modernity in Lebanon and the Middle East. As a public research and educational institute, BICAR seeks to cultivate a space for rigorous research, debate, and dialogue. It intends to foster cultures of critique capable of understanding Lebanese modernity in relation to processes of modernization that are part of a global dynamic. BICAR has two fundamental commitments: to disseminate pedagogical and research oriented projects in Arabic and English to a wide audience in Beirut, Lebanon, and beyond; and to foster the relationship between intellectual inquiry, social reality, and social change. BICAR’s founding members are Dr. Nadia Bou Ali, Dr. Ray Brassier, Mr. Rohit Goel, Dr. Angela Harutyunyan, Dr. Sami Khatib, and Dr. Ghalya Saadawi.
BICAR has formed a Curatorial Development Exhibition Program with Warehouse421 in Abu Dhabi. Too often, curators are caught in an indeterminate zone between artists and the institutions in which they show their work, whether in galleries, museums, biennials, or in non-profit spaces. Neither grounded in contemporary philosophy, nor art practice, nor art critical writing, curators are often pushed into the deep-end in order to learn to swim.
Our annual program redresses this crisis in curating, putting out an open call to curators to propose a group exhibition in Warehouse421’s vast gallery space. The call includes a structured thematic through which curators and curatorial collectives must think conceptually and visually in their applications.
The chosen curator/collective will receive a grant and participate in a weekly colloquium with senior artists, philosophers, and writers on the theme, while pursuing independent study with BICAR and Warehouse421 faculty and staff. The program runs from August to February (opening) each year and its goal is to work with curators to argue their exhibition through meaningful artist selection, crisp and cohesive wall and catalogue text, justified installation design, as well as a developed publication that builds upon the show.
Curators who are not selected for the exhibition and anyone from the humanities and social sciences interested in the topic may apply for participation in the colloquium.
Our current Curatorial Development Exhibition Program (2020-2021) is 'Praxis: Art and Thought in the Global Contemporary'.