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“Keywords for Today” and “Political Concepts”: A Dialogue on the Terms We Use

General Programming

dateNovember 15, 2018 timeThursday, 2:30pm EST location The Heyman Center, Second Floor Common Room, Columbia University
  • Political Concepts
  • Bruce Robbins
  • Free and open to the public
  • No registration necessary
  • First come, first seated

Keywords for Today: A 21st Century Vocabulary, due out this fall, is the result of years of work by a collective of scholars ( from the UK, the US, and elsewhere. Working on the basis of Raymond Williams' 1976 classic Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society, the new volume extends and updates 40 of the original entries and adds 85 more short essays on the twists and turns, emphases and omissions, contests and usages: love along with network, truth along with youth, democracy along with violence. This afternoon event features the volume's two head editors, Colin MacCabe and Holly Yanacek, as well as two members of the editorial collective, Jonathan Arac and Arjuna Parakrama.

Commentators will include several New York scholars: political theorist Susan Buck-Morss, anthropologist Miriam Ticktin, and literary scholar Emily Apter, co-editor of the monumental Dictionary of Untranslatables. The event also brings the Keywords Project into dialogue with representatives of a kindred and ongoing project housed in part at Columbia: Political Concepts: A Critical Lexicon ( The flavor of its work can be tasted by some of the concepts posted thus far: agency and animals, archive and authority, blood and bubbles. Political Concepts speakers will include Etienne Balibar, Akeel Bilgrami, Stathis Gourgouris, and Ann Stoler.

The format of the event asks speakers from each project to direct comments to the project of the others. All are welcome as far as space permits.


2:30 Introduction: Bruce Robbins, Columbia U

2:45-4:00 PM: The Keywords Project
Moderator: Miriam Ticktin, Anthropology, The New School
Colin MacCabe, U of Pittsburgh
Holly Yanacek, James Madison U
Arjuna Parakrama, U of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka

Response: [from the Political Concepts team] Emily Apter, NYU

4:00 to 4:15 Coffee Break

4:15-5:30 PM: The Political Concepts Project
Moderator: Stathis Gourgouris, Columbia U
Ann Stoler, The New School
Akeel Bilgrami, Columbia U
Etienne Balibar, Columbia U and the U of Paris

Response: [from the Keywords team]: Jonathan Arac, U of Pittsburgh

5:30 -6:30 PM: Final Roundtable
Susan Buck-Morss, CUNY
Stathis Gourgouris, Columbia U
Arjuna Parakrama, U of Colombo, Sri Lanka
Emily Apter, NYU
Holly Yanacek, James Madison U
Jonathan Arac, U of Pittsburgh
Colin MacCabe, U of Pittsburgh

Image Credit: Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms, New York, 1929