Provoking Attention

Provoking Attention

April 7-8, 2017
Pembroke Hall 305
172 Meeting Street

The symposium will address the broad and timely question of what it means to pay attention when we are told (and increasingly asked to witness the fact) that people suffer more and more from an impoverishment of attention, or from forms of divided attention. But what precisely are we doing when we are paying attention, and how do we describe its value? And how do these issues present variously across different cultural and social contexts? This conference will begin from the suggestion that powerful claims about attention link criticism to political and social theory and psychoanalysis. The function of criticism has long been to provoke our attention to the crucially overlooked, or to attend in new ways to what we look at all the time. And one way of defining a range of aesthetic and social theories – from recent affect theory, or the sociology of thinkers like Erving Goffman, or the psychoanalytic writing of such middle group analysts as D.W. Winnicott and Marion Milner - is by their claims for our attention. These theories address through attention the borderlines between individuals and the world. They often assume we suffer from an excessive desire for security, and seek to provoke us from it to sometimes painful new attentions, while avoiding trauma, or despair. They take us to the grounds of ethical and political engagement, through their claims about the relations, attitudes and orientations from which an ethics or politics might be built. 

Speakers include:  Adam Phillips, Psychoanalyst/Writer; Amanda Anderson, Brown University;  Leo Bersani, University of California/Berkeley; Matt Bevis, Oxford University; Joshua Chambers-Letson, Northwestern University; Veena Das, Johns Hopkins University; Sergio Delgado, Harvard University; Rita Felski, University of Virginia; Bonnie Honig*, Brown University; Heather Love, University of Pennsylvania; Toril Moi, Duke University; Jeff Nunokawa, Princeton University; Minnie Scott, Tate Gallery;  David Russell, Oxford University; Helen Small, Oxford University; Nancy Yousef, City University of New York.

Speaker titles and abstracts

Conference Schedule

Watch videos of the presentations!

*Professor Honig was unable to attend at the last moment.

Co-sponsored by the Columbia University Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities, Brown in the World/The World at Brown, and the Cogut Center for the Humanities.

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