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Online via Zoom


Theoretical Explorations Module XVIII

Rohit Goel

14 October - 8 November 2023

Saturdays and Wednesdays

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

Are ‘the untouchable’ and ‘the touchable’ mutually exclusive?


Does touching the untouchable make the untouchable touchable?


Does ‘untouching’ the touchable render the touchable untouchable?


Who or what touches or doesn’t touch?


Who or what is touched or untouched?


Can we touch others without being touched?


Can others touch us and remain untouched?


The course will pursue this dizzying vortex of questions around ‘untouchability’, both analytically and historically, towards ethical, political, and aesthetic ends.


We’ll begin with an analysis of ‘untouchable’ as belonging to that species of language Freud called ‘primal words’, signifiers that carry a double, antithetical meaning (for instance, ‘to cleave’ means at once ‘to separate’ and ‘to join’). In signifying someone or something as untouchable, we’ll see that what conveys is not simply a compromise, an addition of opposites – ‘untouchable’ + ‘touchable’ – but a surprise, eventful ‘flesh’ that is neither untouchable nor touchable. To ‘flesh out’ this remainder, the very ground of universal subjectivity, we’ll benefit from a ‘dialectical materialist’ approach, a method that has guided a constellation of revolutionary thinkers across distant times and spaces: Plato (Parmenides), Hegel, Marx, Freud and Lacan via the Slovenian School (Mladen Dolar and Slavoj Žižek), Ambedkar and Badiou by way of India’s ‘untouchable research programme’ (Soumyabrata Choudhury and his comrades). 


All the while, the course will foreground the ethical, political, and aesthetic stakes of our dialectical materialist analysis of untouchable. We’ll use our approach to critique liberalism’s stunted drive to ‘touch, lick, and finger everything’, as well as a Bataille-inspired contemporary arts trend towards ‘abject’ and ‘formless’ visuality, a misplaced effort to render everyone and everything untouchable. These critiques will allow us to see how ‘dialectical materialism’ grounds truly emancipatory ethics, politics, and art.

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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