Intensive seminar “Recognition, inclusion and other practices of oppression”

This seminar tackles the problem of representational violence broadly understood. It finds inspiration in Jacques Derrida’s description of the violence of naming and the exclusion that any description inevitably performs. Through seeing practices of recognition, inclusion and democracy, for instance, as necessarily violent, the intention is to focus attention on the ways that even the best-intentioned acts of social and political engagement can lead to oppression and marginalization. At the same time, the goal is to seek solutions to the dilemma of how then, if this is the case, can we “speak for others” at all? If the negative impact of representation both in descriptive – not least academic – as well as practical attempts at recognition and “understanding” is indeed unavoidable, how do we deal with unwanted rhetorical appropriations and more concrete colonizing moves? How might such difficulties be mitigated by paying more attention to individual differences – for example along the lines of Gayatri Spivak’s “strategic essentialisms” or Iris Marion Young’s recommendations for “differentiated solidarity”? What would be suitable approaches for “speaking truth to power” when unitary identities are problematized in favour of more complex descriptions and the detailed accounting of differences? To what extent could such problematics be addressed simply through greater attention to epistemic knowledge and factual accuracy? And to what extent will they always defy any putatively non-violent solutions?

This two-day event will be organized around four keynotes:

Berber Bevernage, Assistant Professor in Theory of History
Department of History, Ghent University
“The Making of the Congo Question: Truth telling, scepticism and denial in King Leopold’s commission of inquiry on the rubber atrocities in the Congo Free State (1904-1905)”

Gideon Calder, Senior Lecturer in Social Sciences and Social Policy
Department of Public Health, Policy and Social Sciences, Swansea University
“Everyone, Including Children?”

Montserrat Herrero, Associate Professor for Political Philosophy
Institute for Culture and Society, University of Navarra
“Discursive Violence: Laclau’s construction of the public”

Claire Norton, Reader in History
Department of History, St Mary’s University
“Narrative Terrorists: Writing the right kind of Islam – the oppression of narratives of inclusion”


Venue: Tallinn University, room A-018 (ASTRA building, Narva road 29)

Thursday, 12th October

10:45 Welcome and coffee

11:15 Berber Bevernage: “The Making of the Congo Question: Truth-telling, scepticism and denial in King Leopold’s commission of inquiry on the rubber atrocities in the Congo Free State (1904–1905)”

13:00 Lunch

14:15 Claire Norton: “Narrative Terrorists: Writing the right kind of Islam – the oppression of narratives of inclusion”

15:45 Coffee break


Joonas Hellerma: “Recognition and Freedom”

Jaana Davidjants: “Social Media Activism: Farewell tweets from the Siege of Aleppo”

Friday, 13th October

10:45 Coffee break

11:15 Montserrat Herrero: “Discursive Violence: Laclau’s construction of the public”

13:00 Lunch

14:15 Gideon Calder: “Everyone, Including Children?”

15:45 Conversations and coffee


We welcome proposals for 20-minute presentations in English from PhD and MA students on the topic of representational violence in all its forms and as it relates to their own research – ranging from unwitting exclusionary rhetoric in basic descriptive practices through the social formulation of “we” identities, all the way to their extreme political deployments. Papers focusing on the limits and possibilities of recognition and inclusion are especially encouraged. To be considered for a presentation, please send an abstract of 100-300 words to Kalle Pihlainen by September 25th.

Seminar participants giving presentations, attending lectures and submitting a brief written commentary can collect 3 ECTS credits; students are alternatively invited to attend the event and submit a brief written commentary on the lectures and debate for 1 ECTS credit.

Registration deadline October 2, 2017!

Register here.

Regarding practicalities, please contact Doris Feldmann

This intensive seminar is organised by the Graduate School of Culture Studies and Arts, supported by the ASTRA project of Tallinn University – TU TEE (European Union, European Regional Development Fund).