Speakers & Abstracts









Ronald Beiner (Keynote), University of Toronto, Canada


What Hannah Arendt Has Contributed to a Philosophy of Judgment

Hannah Arendt liked to present herself in the image of a thinker who had jettisoned the grand metaphysical ambitions of the Western philosophical tradition. In this, Arendt anticipated later “anti-foundationalist” themes in what came to be called post-modernist theory. Arendt even went so far as to resist the notion that she was a philosopher at all. In my view this self-understanding was way off the mark. Juxtaposing her idea of “judging” in the posthumously-published Lectures on Kant’s Political Philosophy with a classic conception of judgment from the Western philosophy canon – namely Aristotle’s key notion of “phronesis,” practical wisdom – demonstrates that Arendt easily matches the metaphysical ambitions of the philosophy tradition. For a thinker like Arendt, chucking off philosophy turns out to be easier said than done. In fact, properly appreciating the judging idea in the Kant Lectures conducts us into the very centre of Arendt’s political philosophy.



Zeynep Gambetti, Boğaziçi University, Turkey


Arendtian reflections on necessity (or the lack thereof) in late capitalism

It is my contention that Arendt’s theory of plurality carries the seeds of a critique of capitalism that speaks to Marx’s critical theory. Too often, Arendt scholarship has devalued labor and work in favour of speech and deed in the public sphere, but speech is not only addressed to others, it is also about the world, the "inter-esse," whose durability and materiality are a concern for Arendt. Just as Marx was problematizing bourgeois society and its objects of knowledge, so too Arendt problematizes the dual threats of totalitarianism and consumer society and the objects of knowledge that correspond to them. Despite addressing Marx as an adversary, Arendt takes up several Marxian themes and concepts in order to incorporate them into her own problematic. What I propose is to treat Arendt’s key concepts as solutions to theoretical and practical problems her conceptual field poses, irrespective of whether she was conscious of this or not.


To this end, I read Arendt in the company of improbable dialogue partners, viz., Marx, Deleuze, and Foucault and, for the purposes of this paper, use the aporetic status of the concept of necessity as entry point. At first sight, Arendt seems to wrestle with the possibility of evacuating necessity (and with it, needs and material interests) from politics. But my contention is that her endeavor to arrive at a novel theory of the political does not involve a straightforward demotion of either biological or economic necessity. While she was working on her “Marx book” in 1950-53, Arendt spent a considerable amount of time conceptualizing the ancient Greek notion of necessity, anagkaia. She offers a hasty genealogy of the notion, identifying transformations that took place in its status from antiquity to late modernity. Implied is the idea that need and necessity are not ahistorical existential categories, but must rather be conceived as relational nodes in shifting assemblages. According to Arendt, the socialist as well as utilitarian motive of liberating mankind from the fetters of necessity has paradoxically resulted in deterritorializing need and necessity. Consumer society dissolves the very necessity of necessity. The problem consists in this that without necessity or constraint, the totalitarian maxim “everything is possible” comes back to haunt us through other means. Given such a conceptual field, action and plurality must be rethought in terms of their “materiality”, that is, in terms of how they serve to reterritorialize constraint. This, I believe, is not a solely scholastic exercise, but speaks to the difficulties we face in our increasingly fascistic neoliberal conditions.

Michael Weinman, Indiana University, USA, and Bard College Berlin, Germany


Arendt's Aporetic Augustine: "Weimar Syndrome" and Value Pluralism

Seyla Benhabib has recently discussed “Weimar Syndrome,” by which she means how we are “haunted by Weber’s questions” concerning “how to defend, intellectually and institutionally, modern constitutional republics and liberal societies in an age of value pluralism.” Taking off from Arendt’s private reflection (in a letter to Gertud Jaspers) that Eric Voegelin “is off the track but the first to ask the fundamental (prinzipielle) questions since Weber” my presentation examines why, for Arendt, Voegelin is so important, even though he is wrong-headed about so many things. This is so, I suggest, for the same reasons that Arendt's corpus literally begins and ends with Augustine; a fact which remains a consternation to many of her readers.



Maria Robaszkiewicz, Paderborn University, Germany


Sharing the World. Some Reasons for Excluding Exclusionary Feminisms

In this paper, I argue for appreciation of the fact that feminism, as a political movement, is inherently heterogenous, at times even inconsistent or conflicted. Feminism is characterized by plurality of perspectives, and is hence open to exchange, dispute, and dissent, which prevents it from becoming an ideology. However, I suggest that this openness is in jeopardy and needs to be negotiated every time practices of limiting feminist belonging are at play. My claim is that the advocates of such practices put their own place in feminism into question, and my case are trans-exclusionary feminisms (TERF/TWERF). In spite of the history of feminist reception of Hannah Arendt having been troubled, in accord with feminist Arendt scholarship of the last decades, I choose her phenomenological account of action as a frame of my argumentation. I especially refer to her notion of plurality in its ontological and political sense in The Human Condition, as well as her discussion of ideology in The Origins of Totalitarianism, and the conditions of expulsion from the common world she addresses in Eichmann in Jerusalem.

Gulshan Khan, University of Nottingham, UK


The political emerging out of the social: re-imagining Arendt’s problematic conceptual distinctions

Despite her originality Arendt’s conceptual distinctions are mired in the attitudes of her time. The disavowal of mass culture with its fear of mob rule and in particular the lack of engagement with the violence and structural racism at the core of the American republic. In this paper, I initially contextualise Arendt’s work as a Jewish German émigré in America to argue that her dismissal of social psychology shaped her rigid and intellectualised conceptual distinctions between the private, social and the political. I examine Arendt’s notion of ‘disinterestedness’/‘impartiality’ in relation to the visible, non-visible and invisible silent and silenced bodies in the polis and the formation of opinions. I make the case that the psychological processes of identification and idealisation (central to the human ability to think critically and make moral judgements) were key to citizens acting in concert in both the Greek polis and the mobilisation of people under totalitarianism. I conclude with the suggestion that the richness of psychoanalysis provides for better understanding of the process of identification and acting in concert to facilitate a re-imagining of the political as emerging from the social rather than being a separate realm.

Hanifi Barış, University of Aberdeen, UK


Democracies of the Future: Indigenous Contributions to Democracy & Decolonising Hannah Arendt's Council System

The paper presents a comparison of the Mayan, P’urhépechan and Kurdish direct democratic experiments in Mexico and Kurdistan. Focusing on the origins, political concepts, and institutions of these alternatives to representative democracy, the paper argues that I/indigenous contributions to (council)democracy have been ignored in Western(ised) political theory, and that the three cases help decolonise the Arendtian council system and offer blueprints for democracies of the future.




Dana Mills


Performing equality-- the freedom to move  

Whereas speech is inextricably linked to political action in Arendt's formulation, the body is read (at times via Marx) as part of the work/ labour spheres. However, when one reads Arendt against herself and reads dance or movement as a language, dance or performance can be read as a form of political action. Moreover, in situations in which human rights are severely infringed upon, and equality of speaking subjects denied, embodied performance can be a way to affirm equality. The paper will examine dance and embodied performance in situations of extreme inequality and reflect upon the stakes of reading dance as an embodied language through an Arendtian prism. 


Hanna Meretoja, The University of Turku, Finland


Non-Subsumptive Conception of Storytelling

This paper explores Hannah Arendt’s conception of storytelling and her seminal ideas that formed the starting-point for developing a radically temporal conception of narrative identity. I argue that Arendt links the ethical potential of storytelling to the following three functions of narrative: 1) giving an account of someone’s agency in terms of a temporal process of being in the world, 2) shaping intersubjective spaces or “the common world”, and 3) understanding who someone is. I will relate Arendt’s views to some of the theoretical assumptions at play when scholars argue for or against narrative – assumptions linked to drastically different conceptions of understanding and knowledge, which can be best understood in terms of the difference between subsumptive and non-subsumptive conceptions of narrative understanding. The paper shows how Arendt is a key theorist of a non-subsumptive conception of storytelling, that is, of narrative as conveying the temporal process of individuals acting in the world together with others.

Nicole Dewandre, University of Cambridge, UK


The wonder of natality and plurality

From a policy-making perspective, the most important part of Arendt’s work today is her critique of modernity. Indeed, reading her made me understand that politics is sick of being stuck in modernity. This entails, notably, but not only, the loss of the role of public speech in revealing identities. Natality and plurality are two concepts Arendt offered us that -in my view- unlock the capacity of politics to reconnect with meaning. But for doing so, we need to leave behind modern entrenched assumptions, and this is not without risks nor difficulties. Yet, not doing it does not offer a better outlook.




Hans Teerds, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich, Switzerland


The Architecture of Appearance

In Hannah Arendt’s notion of public space appearance is key. Public space to her at once a space where people appear to one another, as well as a space where human beings appear in the world. This appearance ‘assures … the reality of the world.’1 Arendt ascribes this assurance on the one hand to the ‘many’, seeing ‘a variety of aspects without changing [its] identity’,2 as well as to a bodily experience, wherein all senses are addressed at once.3 These two perspectives inform the architectural reading that I aim to develop in this paper. This reading will explore the spatial characteristics as well as the materiality of the ‘space of appearance’, and will help to not only deepen the understanding of Arendt’s notion, but also to reflect upon developments in contemporary urban public spaces.


Liesbeth Schoonheim, University of Berlin, Germany


Arendt in the Anthropocene: Some Notes on Care for the World and Despair at its Future

How can we deal with the environmental catastrophe that is currently unfolding without succumbing to despair? This paper turns to Arendt to propose a form of care that attends to the shared conditions of human and non-human existence and that is not restricted to personal relations (contra ethics of care). Furthermore, while care is typically thought of as a repetitive activity, it can also consist in public actions that disrupt the semi-automatic processes that endanger these conditions. As such, care at once aims to restore the conditions under which we live, and carries the promise of a new beginning.




Juliet Hooker (Keynote), Brown University, USA


Heroic Action, Mourning, and Democratic World-Building 

In her controversial “Reflections on Little Rock” essay criticizing African-American activism against racial segregation, Arendt condemned Black parents and the NAACP for sending children to the front lines of school integration battles. Her argument, in part, was that children were being asked to be heroes and in so doing adults were abdicating responsibility for changing the world they had created. Contemporaries such as Ralph Ellison, as well as subsequent scholars, have argued that Arendt failed to recognize the sacrifices African-Americans were making on behalf of the polity, and misrepresented their heroism as social climbing. But who was in fact abdicating responsibility for repairing the world? In this talk, I think with and against Arendt, to consider the implications for their fellow citizens of the sacrifices African-Americans have historically borne for the sake of trying to fully realize U.S. democracy, and ask whether this represents a parasitic form of world-building.  



Robert Eaglestone, Royal Holloway, London, UK


Hannah Arendt and Memory

While Arendt doesn’t refer explicitly to the cluster of concepts around memory very often, it emerges as a crucial ‘unthought’ idea throughout in her work, from her dissertation to her last, unfinished, book. This paper draws out and questions the role of memory in Arendt’s work, and goes on to show how – even as ‘unthought’ - it leads to new ways to think about issues in literary theory, history and ethics.


Andrea Timár, Eötvös Loránd University, Hungary


“Post-pandemic Arendt”: The Politics of Contagion in Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice

My paper examines how Thomas Mann's Death in Venice, staging both emotional and literal „contagion”, comments upon contemporary political theories influenced by Arendt. It particularly focuses on the ways in which the novella displays and offers a third alternative to the interplay between a positive sense of democratic contagion, and the negative sense of infection inspired by Arendt. While Bonnie Honig counter-intuitively argues that her democratic sense of contagion is akin to Hannah Arendt’s model of collective action, Judith Butler, Adriana Cavarero or Juliet Hooker, influenced by Arendt’s understanding of “totalitarian infection”, propose that the chain of contagion need to be disrupted from within through embodied plurality, polyphony, and solidarity. Death in Venice both displays these alternatives and presents a third one. Its disruptive, ironic use of free indirect speech is a double-voiced discourse that has the effect of a vaccine: it offers immunity by exposing one to the infection.




Björn Quiring, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland


"The Worst Is Not as Long as We Can Say 'This Is the Worst'": The Uses of Shakespearean Tragedy in Hannah Arendt's and Karl Kraus' Representations of Nazi Germany

Hannah Arendt occasionally weaves quotes from Shakespeare and other classical authors into her texts, often using his tragedies as heuristic devices that help to frame and understand political crises. But such citations are largely absent from her book on totalitarianism. This can partly be explained by Arendt’s conviction that totalitarianism is an unprecedented phenomenon of the 20th century and that the capacity of pre-modern literature to illuminate it is therefore very limited. Yet a subtle and indirect Shakespearean influence on her thoughts about "national socialism" is nevertheless discernible: the satirical studies of early Nazi Germany by the Viennese writer Karl Kraus had an impact on Arendt’s work, and they make abundant use of citations from "Macbeth" and "King Lear", in accordance with Kraus’ assumption that "Shakespeare predicted everything." Kraus’ insistence on the theatrical character of the "Third Reich" is echoed in Arendt’s diagnosis that totalitarian governments create a "fictitious world".


Rosalia Peluso, University of Naples, Italy


Arendt and Dante

The Action chapter of Hannah Arendt’s The Human Condition opens with a quotation from Dante’s Monarchia. Why does Arendt choose this exergue? Why does she open the discussion of the “political activity par excellence” and fulcrum of her reactivation of active life with a reference to an author who asserts the primacy of the speculative over the practical? The paper delves into Arendt’s reflection and articulates its discourse in three parts: 1. the marginal position of Dante in Arendt’s work and the enigma of Dante’s quotation; 2. Dante as the philosopher of active life; 3. the intensification of the agent’s being and its revelatory function.


Helen Lynch, University of Aberdeen, UK


‘Once, Twice, Three Times A Lady’: citizenship, identity and gender in Milton’s Arendtian public sphere

This paper builds on my previous work, which proposed Arendt rather than Habermas as a lens through which to view seventeenth-century English politics and poetry, focussing on orality amid an explosion of print culture, and Milton's insistence on the classical equation of 'poetry and all good oratory', on speech as action, and on speaking out of the self in public as constituting true identity and appearance. Given Milton's recurrent tendency to characterise his writing and fiction-generating self as 'feminine', in face of the emphasis on masculinity/virtù in the republican rhetorical tradition, how does he use Saints Augustine and Paul to move beyond such binaries?  Assisted by some actual, seventeenth-century women, does Milton, rather than Arendt, in fact push at the boundaries of how a post-classical public realm might preserve the sanctity of the divide between oikia and polis and yet afford entry to previously non-citizen groups, not least women?



Alicja Pietras, University of Silesia in Katowice, Poland


The Hope Against Totalitarianism. Some Remarks on History and Human Agency

Referring to Hannah Arendt's 'The Origins of Totalitarianism' (1951), Timothy Snyder's 'On Tyranny' (2017), and Rebecca Solnit's 'Hope in the Dark' (2004), I aim to explore the interplay between the philosophy of history, individual attitudes, and the emergence of totalitarian regimes.

Twentieth-century history shows a correlation between totalitarian regimes and two modes of thinking: the ideology of the law of history and the ideology of the law of nature (Arendt), or the politics of inevitability and the politics of eternity (Snyder). These discourses negate human agency and extinguish the personal attitude of hope, defined by Solnit as the ability to act for what one considers right.

My talk emphasizes the importance of recognizing and fostering human agency – as the only real form of freedom – in the face of totalitarianism. It highlights the role of hope, both individually and collectively, in challenging oppressive systems and shaping a more just future.


Jon Nixon, Middlesex University, UK


Hannah Arendt and Vasily Grossman: A Shared Legacy

Hannah Arendt, political thinker, and Vasily Grossman, journalist and novelist, were born within a year of one another (1906 and 1905 respectively). Both experienced totalitarianism, both sought to document and analyse it, both died with their most significant work unfinished, both were of Jewish heritage. Both focused in their critical portrayals and analyses of totalitarianism on what Arendt termed an ‘atomized society’ and Grossman ‘a state without freedom’. The ‘totalitarian question’, for Arendt and Grossman, was how to make sense of totalitarianism in their own time. For those of us in the first quarter of the 21st Century the question is how to make sense of its residual and emergent traces in the here and now.


Katarzyna Eliasz, Jagiellonian University, Krakow, Poland


Ambiguities of Arendt’s anti-totalitarian politics

Arendt famously reinterpreted the Kantian account of spontaneity and adopted it for the purposes of her own anti-totalitarian vision of politics. While for Kant spontaneity allows to break with natural determinism, Arendt employs it in order to undermine determinism imposed by the totalitarian ideology. Yet, founding politics upon the conception of spontaneous freedom as starting new and unexpected events appears to entail two pitfalls. First, it may be seen as leading to a revolutionary stance on politics. Second, a closer analysis reveals that her reinterpretation of spontaneity for the purposes of politics appears to prevent her from properly framing adversarial political relations. While the first objection is unsubstantiated, the second poses a challenge to Arendt’s vision of politics which is particularly relevant in the context of modern threats to the political realm.



Sharon Achinstein (Keynote), Johns Hopkins University, USA


John Milton and Hannah Arendt: Lying and the Absence of Thought

For Arendt, thinking is a form of action, essential for the vita activa. The absence of thinking is a focus in The Life of the Mind, Eichmann in Jerusalem, and "Truth and Politics." Milton's prose writings and his great poem, Paradise Lost ask a question about what is thinking. Both figures link thinking with moral considerations, as a language of "conscience" (Milton), responsibility, and duty: engagement with a plurality. In this talk I will find a dialogue between Arendt and Milton's in their common republican concern for the life of the citizen, their cherishing of the notion of the public use of reason, demanding a different sort of "truth" than philosophical or religious truth. Arendt's is related to other people; Milton's in a divinely ordered universe. Milton, that advocate of a "discountenanced truth," understands that in the “wars of truth” combat is necessary, hectoring-- not just warring but correcting, exposing falsehood. This problem as Milton sees it, is thinking as argument versus performance: these are incompatible frameworks for justice. His was a time of revolution, as Arendt would put it, a hiatus between a “no longer and a not yet,” (On Revolution, 197). Further implications will be drawn out concerning our own contemporary form of unthinking, Artificial Intelligence (and ChatGPT).




Frisbee Sheffield, University of Cambridge, UK


Dialogue and Moral Considerations

In “Thinking and Moral Considerations”, Arendt explores whether there is a relationship between thinking, conceived as internal dialogue, and moral considerations. Two propositions from Plato’s Gorgias are used to explore this claim, and the paper gives careful attention to the Platonic subtext of Arendt's argument to support her thesis.


Marieke Borren, Open Universiteit, The Netherlands


Arendt and Critical Phenomenologies of Embodied Resistance: Between the Politics of Precariousness and We-Can

This paper develops a critical phenomenology of embodiment in radical democratic struggles, which focuses on inhabitation of and movement through public spaces. It juxtaposes the precarious body which is key to many critical theories, with an alternative phenomenological understanding which locates the political relevance of the body in spontaneous movement (Arendt) and competence (Merleau-Ponty). It is argued that attending to either precariousness or the mobile-capable body discloses different aspects of radical democratic struggles. Precariousness seems to take the unequal distribution of social-material conditions of inhabitation and of movement more serious, yet also tends to obscure the shared lived experience of practices of freedom among groups of citizens who mobilize to counter inhibitions of free movement in public spaces, often motivated by receiving a disproportionate share of precariousness in the first place. 



Anne Caldwell, University of Aberdeen, UK

Robert Cohen, King’s College London, UK


On Identity and Nationalism: Arendt, Jewishness, and Zionism 

Both in the US and the UK, there is an ongoing debate within Jewish communities on what it means to be Jewish and on Zionism. Rather than a re-evaluation of her work, this paper hopes to offer a reflection on these contemporary debates through Arendt's own conflicting feelings on identity and nationalism. 

Alana Vincent, Umeå University, Sweden


When the Political Becomes Personal: The Arendt-Scholem Correspondence after Eichmann
Of all the critiques of Eichmann in Jerusalem, the one which appears to have struck Arendt with the most force was that levelled by her long-term correspondent, Gershom Scholem. Following their initial exchange of letters, Arendt broke off the correspondence; no further communication passed between them until her death eleven years later. This paper reads their final letters against the backdrop of both their previous correspondence and the development of key themes in Arendt’s writing to offer an account of the role of the Eichmann controversy in the breakdown of their friendship, and the implications of the breach for understanding Arendt’s thought.



Christopher McCorkindale, University of Strathclyde, UK


Hannah Arendt and the law: the right to

It is a common question in Arendt scholarship to ask of her work, 'what is politics'. However, it a much less explored question - and this, for the scattered but nevertheless fascinating references throughout her work, is a significant omission - is 'what is law'. In this presentation I will argue that, for Arendt, law is what makes possible the existence of a public realm where the virtues of 'publicity' are made manifest and action - that defining character of the human condition - can endure. To explain the point I will focus here on the often overlooked insight that for Arendt the paradigmatic right is not - and might even contradict - the liberal paradigm, the right to free expression. Rather, it is the 'right to unmanipulated factual information' that, for Arendt' is the basis of 'all freedom of opinion' and therefore of the public realm itself.


Jenny Pearce, London School of Economics, UK


The Speechlessness of Violence and Arendt’s Freedom as Public Participation

Hannah Arendt played an important role in my attempts to understand the potential for a politics without violence (Pearce, 2020). Arendt took a clearly distinct ontology of violence from that of key twentieth century political thinkers, such as Max Weber, for whom it was a given. Arendt’s ontology takes ‘nature’ not a ‘state of nature’ as a starting point, emphasising human action and human being. Acting together produces the environment we are born into. The emphasis on ‘acting together’ and on words and persuasion are critical to Arendt’s understanding of politics. Violence, on the other hand, ‘is incapable of speech’, she writes in The Human Condition (158, 1998:19). Arendt’s ‘political’ world is social, plural and intercommunicative, within which power is the opposite of violence. This presentation will explore the extent to which Arendt distinction between power and violence contributes to the potential for a participatory politics as the arena of public freedom rather than mere liberation for the pleasures of a private life. The problem, it will be argued, is that by understanding violence as an instrument belonging to the realm of means that needs to justify its ends, Arendt does not explain the persistence and mutations of violence(s) which still limits the possibility of freedom as public participation for all citizens. Only social action on violence will enable such participation.



Gulshan Khan, University of Nottingham, UK

Ronald Beiner (Keynote), University of Toronto, Canada

Alicja Pietras, University of Silesia in Katowice, Poland

Michael Weinman, Indiana University, USA, and Bard College Berlin, Germany


Kathryn Sophia Belle, La Belle Vie Academy, USA  


The Continued Relevance of Hannah Arendt and the Negro Question 

The lecture will revisit a few major themes from my book, Hannah Arendt and the Negro Question (Indiana University Press, 2014) and their continued relevance/persistence almost a decade later.