Jorinde Seijdel /How To Do Things With Theory: seminar

Participants: Sofia Ocana Urwitz, Tommie Soro, Marianna Maruyama, Louis Liu Yi, Anneke Ingwersen, Anna Dasovic,Coco Duivenvoorde, Eduardo Cachucho, Katia Barrett, Julieta Aguinaco, Michelle Brown

Illegal Acts

Keywords: citizenship, state, nationality, identity, refugee, immigrant, bare life, asylum, surveillance/control, mobility, in/exclusion, equality, rights, justice, transgression, violation, crime, punishment, biopower


This seminar will focus on contemporary regimes of illegality. From cultural and political-philosophical perspectives, it will investigate how 'the quality or state of being illegal' is being constructed and legitimized today, and how it is being undermined and damaged at the same time. It will particularly question how illegality regimes affect cultural production.

Illegality regimes affect the scope of and access to our commons. In order to control us, authorities are forcing illegality regimes upon us, making us complicit in marginalizing and excluding more and more people, while at the same time assuming that everybody is potentially illegal (as expressed by increasing identity control). Participants in the seminar will try to better understand the way these regimes (understood as 'defining sets of rules and policies') operate by reading and discussing texts and watching films about the subject matter, and by doing lecture presentations and small writing assignments. They will try to break open current illegality regimes in order to be able to better position our own practices.
Principal questions:
Which discourses are sustaining current illegality regimes?
What does it mean to not be a legal citizen today?
How are illegality regimes part of cultural politics and cultural production?

Reading List:

Hannah Arendt, We Refugees (essay)
Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism
Giorgio Agamben, Beyond Human Rights (essay)
Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer. Sovereign Power & the Bare Life
Jacques Ranciere, Dissensus. On Politics and Aesthetics

Secundary literature by Juan M. Amaya Castro, Marieke Borren, Saskia Sassen, Marc Schuilenburg, Bulent Diken, Brian Holmes and others.

From DAI-week to DAI-week

Seminar Illegal Acts, May 16, 2014

In this last seminar we will go into discussion with artist Jonas Staal about his New World Academy project Collective Struggle of Refugees. Lost. In Between. Together. This project was established in collaboration with BAK, Basis voor actuele kunst in Utrecht  en organized with the refugee collective We Are Here, based in Amsterdam. Maria Hlavajova, artistic director of BAK says in the introduction of the project's reader: (...) We Are Here — (is) a group of refugees in Amsterdam who find themselves imprisoned by the interstices of the legal framework regulating immigration in the contemporary global world. Challenging this very framework, the group insists that their presence has to be dealt with publicly and openly, choosing the strategy of creating visibility of a problem that society otherwise prefers to ignore. Having created alliances with artists and appealed to the remnants of freedom customarily associated with what we call the “art world,” We Are Here has a number of practical propositions to reflect on the well-known political adage of “What is to be done?” It is this propositional ethos we would like to embrace in order to prompt what has always been the key ingredient art has had on offer for society: imagination. Imagination, however, not just for its own sake, but also for thinking through the world otherwise than how we got to know it. The discussion with Staal will focus on new models of political representation, on the 'art of protest', and on the artists interrogation of the relationship between art, democracy, ideology, politics, and propaganda. As preparation we will read the New World Academy Reader # 2 with texts, among others, by Staal, We Are Here, Yoonis Osman Nuur, Ahmet Öğüt and Audrey Chan. 

Seminar Illegal Acts April 11, 2014

In this seminar we will go back to the thinking of Jacques Rancière on art, aesthetics and politics. How does this philosopher consider the intrinsic link between aesthetics and politics? What do they both have in common? What might a 'politics of art' be? How is art as politics a manifestation of 'dissensus'? And how could Rancière's thinking help us to better resist contemporary regimes of illegality? We will read from Dissensus. On Politics and Aesthetics chapter 9, 10 and 13. Background reading: Art of the Possible. Fulvia Carnevale and John Kelsey in conversation with Jacques Rancière. (Artforum, March 2007). In the afternoon guest lecturer Oliver Davis will enrich our conception of Rancière with his lecture Cultivating the Intractable: Rancière's Egalitarian (Anti-) Method in Aesthetics and Politics.

Seminar Illegal Acts March 14, 2014

In this months seminar we will read and discuss parts of Giorgio Agamben's Homo Sacer. Sovereign Power and Bare Life. To get a deeper understanding of how Agamben considers the relationship of the sovereignty of the state to the bare fact of being alive, we will especially focus on Part Three: "The Camp As Biopolitical Paradigm of the Modern", which includes "Biopolitics and the Rights of Man" (chapter 3). Background reading: "An Interview with Giorgio Agamben" by Ulrich Rauff ( originally published by the Süddeutsche Zeitung on 6 April 2004) and and the text Agamben’s Theory of Biopower and Immigrants/Refugees/Asylum Seekers. Discourses of Citizenship and the Implications by Michalinos Zembylas.

Seminar Illegal Acts February 14, 2014


In this month's seminar we will focus on Jaques Rancière's engagement with some aspects of the political theory of Hannah Arendt. We will explore Rancière's theory of dissensus in opposition to Arendt's thinking on democracy, the political and human rights. Subsequently, we will examine Rancière's philosophy in relation to notions of illegality and in relation to art. We will read two chapters of Rancière's seminal book Dissensus. On Politics and Aesthetics: Chapter 2, "Does Democracy Mean Something?", and chapter 3, "Who is the Subject of the Rights of Man?". In support of the discussion we will also read Andrew Schaap's essay, "Enacting the Right to Have Rights: Jacques Rancière's Critique of Hannah Arendt". In conclusion, we will watch the short film They Do Not Exist (Laysa lahum wujud), directed by Mustafa Abu Ali (1974).

Illegal Acts, seminar 3
January 9, 2014

To go on with the issue of illegality and human rights within the thinking of Hannah Arendt, we will read and talk about chapter 9 of her book "The Origins of Totalitarianism": In The Decline of the Nation-State and the the End of the Rights of Man, Arendt discusses how the situation of "stateless people" following the first world war illuminated the failures of the nation-state model. As secondary literature we read the text Hannah Arendt and the "right to have rights" by Bridget Cotter (2005). To see how art can deal with the main questions of this seminar, we will watch the film "Auslander Raus. Schlingensief's Container", on an illustrious art project by German artist Christoph Schlingensief. In preparation for this screening we read: Recycling the Image of the Public Sphere in Art, by Kirsten Weiss (2001).

Illegal Acts, seminar 2 

November 28, 2013

In the second seminar we will read and discuss two seminal essays on refugees and illegality: We Refugees (1943) by political theorist Hannah Arendt and Beyond Human Rights (1994) by Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben. The last text building on the earlier one, questions are being asked about the condition of the refugee, stateless persons, citizenship and the nation-state. The notions of civil rights and of human rights are investigated in relation to each other and within historical, political and philosophical contexts. We will also involve a clarifying essay by Dutch philosopher Marieke Borren, Towards an Arendtian Politics of In/Visibility: On Stateless Refugees and Undocumented Aliens (2008), which establishes a connection with current Dutch and European political policies on these issues, and watch a historical television interview with Arendt by Gunter Gaus. (Zur Person, 1964)