This talk explores the intersection between narratives of catastrophe and contemporary political life by taking the current pandemic, a natural-historical catastrophe, as its occasion and point of departure. From the avian flu to the swine fever, the diseases caused by viral mutations have all been accompanied by a particular way of narrating crises and catastrophes. As the current pandemic unfolds, it is important to conceptualize the ongoing crisis through earthly theoretical and political categories that adequately grasp the social and political stakes involved. This is important not only for a political comprehension of, or at least coming to terms with, what is currently unfolding, but to grasp the ways in which the current pandemic is advancing through an already catastrophic situation that presents openings and occasions for political change.
Antonio Vázquez-Arroyo’s areas of teaching and research interest are interdisciplinary and engage with contemporary political questions, but always in engagement with the history of political thought broadly understood. He has written on major thinkers and themes including Theodor W. Adorno, Jürgen Habermas, Simone Weil, Sheldon S. Wolin, democracy, liberalism and neoliberalism, political responsibility, universal history, and intersections between catastrophes, violence, and political life, and U.S. imperialism. His recent work is located at the intersections of the tradition of critical theory and the dialectical legacy, from G. W. F. Hegel to Fredric Jameson.
His book Political Responsibility: Responding to Predicaments of Power (Columbia University Press, 2016) consists of a political and conceptual critique of the ethical turn in the humanities and social science, and a defense of a robustly political understanding of responsibility. He is finishing a book-length manuscript that presents a sustained engagement with the dialectical legacy of Hegelian-Marxism and its two most prominent heirs, Theodor W. Adorno and Fredric Jameson, to think not only about the political and critical import of dialectical thinking today and think about the relationship between theory and critical theory, but to explore its relevance in conceptualizing universal history. He continues to work on other projects that include an exploration of different modalities of catastrophe and how these intersect with contemporary political life, and a novel interpretation of transatlantic political thought that offers a critique of so-called “decolonial thought” and formulates dialectical interpretation of the historicity of political thought and concepts like colonialism, utopia, and enlightenment.