Professor Isaac Ariail Reed, University of Virginia: Modernity as the Splitting of the Sign

Wednesday, February 28, 2024 - 5:30pm to Thursday, February 29, 2024 - 2:00pm
HQ 136 - Lecture / HQ 107 - Workshop

Modernity as the Splitting of the Sign (2/28 Talk)

What was the modern, qua social experience? Large words, heavy signifiers, offer themselves: disenchantment, differentiation, colonization, racialization, capitalism. In this presentation, I explore modernity as the splitting of the sign, such that significance and sense are extracted from, expected from, made to turn upon, and valued in parts of signification turned into sign-systems of their own: bodies, artefacts, and words uttered or written. The splitting of the sign organizes hierarchy and generates capacity; yet it also serves as source of normativity, and thus underwrites the critical stance. Though social and political theory are not, themselves, immune from the splitting of the sign, the process is disclosed in this talk via interpretations of fiction, including the first American science fiction novel Symzonia (1820).

Lecture: Wednesday, 28 February 2024 - 5:30 to 7pm in HQ 136

On the Use of the Concept of Terror in the Writings of Paul Gilroy and Hannah Arendt (2/29 Workshop)

Part of a larger project on the phenomenology of hierarchy, this paper focuses on the significance of the concept of terror for 20th century social and political theory. In choosing to use the concept of terror in key passages in The Origins of Totalitarianism and The Black Atlantic, Hannah Arendt and Paul Gilroy (1) suggested an account of modern politics irreducible to the political science of power, and (2) provided a new understanding of the formation of subjectivity. In so doing, they articulate the relevance of the Atlantic world’s catastrophes for contemporary social and political theory.  

Seminar: Thursday, 29 February 2024, 12 to 1:30pm in HQ 107

With support from The Edward J. and Dorothy Clarke Kempf Fund at Yale University.