World-renowned public intellectual, Prof Slavoj Žižek brings his unique blend of materialist philosophy to UCD
Slovenian-born political philosopher, cultural critic and world-renowned public intellectual Prof Slavoj Žižek gave a public lecture titled ‘The Ignorance of Chicken or the Limits of the Freedom of Thought’ at UCD on Nov 29, 2005, to launch a two-day international conference on ‘Intellectuals and the Nation State’ hosted by UCD Clinton Institute for American Studies.
Professor Slavoj Zizek, with Professor Liam Kennedy,
Director, UCD Clinton Institute
Prof Žižek, who very nearly won the Presidency of his native Slovenia in the first democratic elections after the break-up of Yugoslavia in 1990, was once described by Terry Eagleton as the “most formidably brilliant” recent theorist to have emerged from Continental Europe. And according to a recent profile in ‘The New Yorker’, Slovenia has a "reputation disproportionately large for its size due to the work of Slavoj Žižek."
He is one of the most important cultural theorists working today. He has written over 50 published books, which have been translated into more than 20 languages. His work is infamously idiosyncratic. He believes that 'political issues are too serious to be left only to politicians,' and he aims to promote the role of the public intellectual.
Prof Žižek fuses Hegel and Hitchcock, Lacan and Lynch to tackle issues of politics, morality and belief. He weaves a unique blend of Lacanian psychoanalysis, Marxism, and pop culture critique – never ceasing to observe the paradoxes that underpin our perceptions of reality.
Given the growing celebrity of the Slovenian Philosopher, it was no surprise that places at the public lecture were fully reserved almost immediately after the lecture at UCD was first announced. Within the opening minutes of his lecture, his passion and energy – which have become his trademark – filled the lecture theatre. Speaking to a full house, his lecture on the ‘limits of the freedom of thought’ managed at once to inform, question and wildly entertain.
Explaining ‘belief,’ Prof Žižek referred to what Schumann called the ‘absent melody,’ a melody that is never actually played but is based on feeling or an inner voice, which gives context to the left and right melodies. Prof Žižek claims that ‘belief’ works in a similar way. With belief there is always some form of unwritten rules that provide the context for the belief. To support this claim he presented empirical evidence from both anthropology and modern history.
Prof Žižek’s intellectual energies were palpable on the night. The audience were entranced by his lecture. When he had finished he attended to every question from the audience with equal intellectual fervour and academic devotion. Discussions continued into the reception held in Prof Žižek’s honour.
Prof Žižek’s public lecture marked the opening of the ‘Intellectuals and the Nation State’ international conference hosted by UCD Clinton Institute for American Studies.
The conference considered the role and effect of intellectuals in the making and contesting of national identities and state policies. And how and why the voice of the intellectual, long considered important to the evolution of modern Western cultures, is so often tied to the development of national identity.
Speakers at the conference included Terry Eagleton (University of Manchester) - Irish intellectuals and the idea of a public sphere; Donald Pease (Darthmouth University) - The impact of a post-9/11 American Exceptionalism on frameworks of intellectual inquiry; Eric Lott (University of Virginia) - Cultural politics of ‘baby boomer’ intellectuals in the US; Declan Kiberd (University College Dublin) – Chaired closing plenary session and roundtable discussion with able support from Professor Pease and Dr Conor McCarthy (Mater Dei Institute for Education).
Prof. Liam Kennedy, Director, UCD Clinton Institute
and Prof. Eric Lott (University of Virginia)
Over the course of the two-days, intellectuals from universities around the globe hosted panel discussions on topics such as Intellectuals and US Government; Intellectuals and the University; Intellectuals and Europe; Race and Intellectual's Affiliation; Philosophy and the State; Global Intellectuals; Action and Inaction; and Race and Intellectual Constituencies.
Pictured at UCD Clinton Institute's Intellectuals and The
Nation-State Conference are Prof Luke Gibbons, University of Notre
Dame, Prof. Donald Pease, Dartmouth College, Dr. Hamilton Carroll, UCD
Clinton Institute and Prof. Eric Lott, University of virginia
Brief Biography of Prof Slavoj Žižek
Prof Žižek is currently International Director of Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities and also the Institute of Sociology, Ljubljana. He is a world-renowned public intellectual with over 50 published books (translated into 20 languages) on topics ranging from philosophy and Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis, to theology, film, opera and politics, including Lacan in Hollywood and The Fragile Absolute. He was a candidate for, and nearly won, the Presidency of his native Slovenia in the first democratic elections after the break-up of Yugoslavia in 1990. Although courted by many universities in the US, he resisted offers until the International Directorship of Birkbeck's Centre came up. Believing that 'Political issues are too serious to be left only to politicians', Žižek aims to promote the role of the public intellectual, to be intellectually active and to address the larger public.
He was awarded a BA (philosophy and sociology) in 1971, MA (philosophy) in 1975, and PhD (philosophy) in 1981 at the Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Arts, Ljubljana. He was also awarded a PhD (Arts – psychoanalysis) in 1985 at the Universite Paris-VIII.
A researcher at the Institute for sociology and philosophy, University of Ljubljana from 1979 and at the Institute for Social Sciences, Faculty for Social Sciences from 1992. Visiting professor at the Department of Psychoanalysis, Universite Paris-VIII (1982-3 and 1985-6), at the Centre for the Study of Psychoanalysis and Art, SUNY Buffalo (1991-2), at the Department of Comparative Literature, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis (1992), at the Tulane University, New Orleans (1993), at the Cardozo Law School, New York (1994) at the Columbia University, New York (1995), at the Princeton University (1996), at the New School for Social Research, New York (1997), at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (1998), and at the Georgetown University, Washington (1999).
In the last 20 years he has participated at over 350 international philosophical, psychoanalytical and cultural-criticism symposiums in USA, France, United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, Belgium, Netherland, Island, Austria, Australia, Switzerland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Spain, Brasil, Mexico, Israel, Romania, Hungary and Japan.
He is the founder and president of the Society for Theoretical Psychoanalysis, Ljubljana. He was politically active in the alternative movement in Slovenia during the 80s, and a candidate for the presidency of the Republic of Slovenia in the first multi-party elections in 1990. He was also Ambassador of Science of the Republic of Slovenia in 1991.
The Parallax View - Cambridge: MIT Press, forthcoming
The Universal Exception; New York: Continuum
Slavoj Zizek's Third Way - intro by Rex Butler and Scott Stephens, Interrogating the Real: Selected Writings; New York: Continuum
Iraq: The Borrowed Kettle; New York: Verso
Conversations with Zizek, Slavoj Zizek and Glyn Daly; London: Polity Press
Organs Without Bodies: On Deleuze and Consequences; New York, London: Routledge
Jacques Lacan: Critical Evaluations in Cultural Theory; SZ editor. London: Routledge
Revolution at the Gates: Selected Writings of Lenin from 1917; New York: Verso
The Puppet and the Dwarf: The Perverse Core of Christianity; Cambridge: MIT Press
Repeating Lenin; Zagreb: Arkzin
Did Somebody Say Totalitarianism? Five Essays in the (Mis)Use of a Notion; London; New York: Verso
The Fright of Real Tears, Kieslowski and The Future; Bloomington: Indiana University Press
On Belief; London: Routledge
Opera's Second Death with Mladen Dolar; London: Routledge
Welcome to the Desert of the Real; New York: The Wooster Press
The Fragile Absolute, Or Why the Christian Legacy is Worth Fighting For; London; New York: Verso
The Art of the Ridiculous Sublime, On David Lynch's Lost Highway; Walter Chapin Center for the Humanities: University of Washington
Contingency, Hegemony, Universality: Contemporary Dialogues on the Left, Judith Butler, Ernesto Laclau and SZ. London; New York: Verso
Enjoy Your Symptom! Jacques Lacan In Hollywood and Outsecond expanded edition; New York: Routledge
NATO As The Left Hand Of God; Zagreb: Arkzin