The Convergence of Social Struggles 150 150 Susann Schmeisser

The Convergence of Social Struggles

with Amna Akbar, Silke van Dyk, Manon Garcia and Romin Khan

“In order to preserve or even expand the welfare state, migration must be stopped.” Claims like these accompanied the turn of former leftists to the racist and even völkisch far-right camp in the last decade. Underlying such considerations is a view of society in which the misery of some can only be eliminated, or even alleviated, by exacerbating the misery of others. The counter-thesis is that democratic co-determination—especially in the economic sphere—can only be expanded if co-determination means explicitly standing up for migration and against racism in an internationalist way. This thesis is based on an image of society in which forms of oppression, exploitation and domination are interconnected, so that the struggle against one of these forms must strive to overcome all forms of oppression, exploitation, and domination. Between both theses lies a third option: the search for a central origin of the relations of exploitation, oppression and domination in society. Only those who stab into the heart of the beast—so they claim—can prevent the heads of the Hydra from multiplying endlessly. The concern here is not only that emancipatory movements will become increasingly distracted by the struggle against myriad social injustices. The concern is also that emancipation is degenerating into a variant of radical liberalism, in which all forms of life have the same right to exist as long as they do not break out of the framework that neoliberal diversity management dictates. With our guests, we want to talk about the pros and cons for one or the other option considering practical social conflicts: What actual experiences indicate that social struggles have a common direction? And what dynamics prevent such a convergence?

Benjamin Lectures 2022 with Nancy Fraser 724 1024 Susann Schmeisser

Benjamin Lectures 2022 with Nancy Fraser

Three Faces of Capitalist Labor: Uncovering the Hidden Ties among Gender, Race and Class

Nancy Fraser’s 2022 Benjamin lectures are inspired by a striking claim made by W.E.B. Du Bois in his 1935 masterpiece, Black Reconstruction. Characterizing abolition as a labor movement, Du Bois held that US history would have been fundamentally altered had the anti-slavery forces been united with movements of free white wage workers. For Du Bois, the failure of these “two labor movements” to recognize one another squandered the chance to build a labor democracy and set the United States on the road to plutocracy. Fraser’s lectures extend Du Bois’s idea to the present and to the rest of the world. Given the persistence of dependent and expropriated labor, she asks: Can the anti-racist and anti-imperialist struggles of our era be usefully viewed as unrecognized labor struggles? And if so, why stop there? Can we view feminist movements, too, as unacknowledged struggles over work in systems built on a gendered separation of paid “productive labor” from unpaid carework? Elaborating these hypotheses, Fraser argues that capitalist societies rely on three analytically distinct but mutually imbricated forms of labor: exploited, expropriated, and domesticated. She further argues that the historically shifting relations among these three faces of labor constitute the hidden ties among gender, race, and class. Disclosing those hidden ties, finally, Fraser considers the relations among, not two, but three labor movements and evaluates the prospects for uniting them.

What Approach to Social Totality Does a Critical Theory Need Today? 724 1024 Susann Schmeisser

What Approach to Social Totality Does a Critical Theory Need Today?

Is there still a need for a comprehensive social theory today that clarifies the interrelation and interaction of the various social spheres? In her influential 1994 essay “Gender as Seriality,” Iris Marion Young is skeptical. Much effort, she argues, has gone into theories that serve no particular purpose other than “to understand, to reveal the way things are.” Now, however, she continues, it is time to proceed more pragmatically, that is: “driven by some problem that has ultimate practical importance and […] not concerned to give an account of a whole”. There is nothing wrong with addressing such practical problems—in Young’s case, it is a question of determining the commonality in the experiences of sexist discrimination under the condition of radically different social situations in which such experiences occur. However, the question Young poses, a question of eminent practical importance for feminism, seems to point back to the horizon of a social theory since it is a question about the coherence of social phenomena after all. For this is precisely what a social theory has to do: it has to show the connections that exist between social sub-fields and thus between the experiences made there.

Often enough, social theoretical designs have tried to accomplish this task by postulating clear hierarchies of social phenomena and derivations between them. This strategy made social theory unattractive to many of the new social movements. Today, however, the question is what connects the inheritors of these movements or at least allows us to deal with the conflicts between them on a theoretical level. If the multiple concrete experiences of exploitation, discrimination, exclusion and so on are not to be reduced to an abstract as well as politically ineffective denominator such as “suffering” or “injustice”, must not then the hour of theories, which promise to reconstruct the coherence of social relations, strike again?

We discussed with Lillian Cicerchia, Victor Kempf, Kristina Lepold, Kolja Möller, Dirk Quadflieg, Hartmut Rosa, Martin Saar and Titus Stahl.

Episode 3 of the Critical Theory In Context Podcast offers insights into the discussions of the workshop with an introduction by Rahel Jaeggi. Christian Schmidt talks with Dirk Quadflieg, Kolja Möller and Titus Stahl.



14:00-14:30 Einführung
14:30-15:30 Kolja Möller: Worauf beruht die Kritik der kritischen Systemtheorie?
15:30-16:30 Lillian Cicerchia: Gibt es ein Primat der Ökonomie und was bedeutet ein solches Primat?
17:00-18:00 Victor Kempf: Ist der kommunikative Rationalitätsstandard als Kritikstandard zu halten?
18:00-19:00 Titus Stahl: Ist Herrschaft der Zentralbegriff einer aktuellen Gesellschaftstheorie?


14:00-15:00 Martin Saar: Wie gelingt der Sprung von der allgemeinen Analyse der Machtverhältnisse zur konkreten Gesellschaftsanalyse?
15:00-16:00 Hartmut Rosa: Wie hängen Deutungsnotwendigkeit und Steigerungsimperativ zusammen?
16:30-17:30 Dirk Quadflieg: Was heißt gesellschaftliche Totalität?
17:30-18:30 Abschlussdiskussion

Make Mars Beautiful: The Aesthetics of Sino-forming in the Chinese Century 1024 575 Tom Carlson

Make Mars Beautiful: The Aesthetics of Sino-forming in the Chinese Century

Wednesday, December 1, 2021 at 1:00 p.m.

Robertson Gymnasium 1000A 

China plans to send its first manned mission to Mars by 2033, and eventually establish a permanent colony on the planet. Many outside China see this ambitious turn towards space colonization as an attempt to establish global leadership in science and technology. But what is the cultural significance of Mars and Martian colonization for the Chinese? To form a better appreciation for Chinese conceptualizations of the relationship between nature and humanity that will shape the country’s interplanetary future, George Zhu urges us to begin with one of China’s most well known artistic treasures, the Meat Shaped Stone. Making connections across centuries of art, environmental management, and imperial ambition, Zhu outlines a possible future for Mars–and the Earth–in what portends to be the Chinese century.

Humanities and Social Change Scholar-in-Residence for December 2021, George Zhu received his master’s in English literature from the University of California Irvine. He is the co-founder of Double Bind Media, a production company specializing in experimental documentary film and other visual media based in Los Angeles and the Netherlands. Currently, he resides in the Netherlands where he develops and produces a range of multidisciplinary new media work. He is also a writer interested in contemporary Chinese culture, environmentalism, endangered species, climate change, and science studies.

This event is co-sponsored by UCSB’s Capps Center for the Study of Ethics, Religion, and Public Life, Department of East Asian Languages and Cultural Studies, and Environmental Studies Program.

Rosewood: Endangered species conservation and the rise of global China 1024 681 Tom Carlson

Rosewood: Endangered species conservation and the rise of global China

Thursday, December 2, 2021 at 3:30 p.m.

Robertson Gymnasium 1000A

Rosewood is the world’s most trafficked endangered species by value, accounting for larger outlays than ivory, rhino horn, and big cats put together. Nearly all rosewood logs are sent to China, fueling a $26 billion market for classically styled furniture. Vast expeditions across Asia and Africa search for the majestic timber, and legions of Chinese ships sail for Madagascar, where rosewood is purchased straight from the forest. The international response has been to interdict the trade, but this misunderstands both the intent and effect of China’s appetite for rosewood, causing social and ecological damage in the process. Drawing on fieldwork in China and Madagascar, Annah Zhu upends the pieties of Western-led conservation, offering a glimpse of what environmentalism and biodiversity protection might look like in a world no longer ruled by the West.

Humanities and Social Change Scholar-in-Residence for December 2021, Annah Zhu is an Assistant Professor of environmental globalization at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. She received her PhD in society and environment from the University of California, Berkeley and her Masters in environmental management from Duke University. She is a veteran of the United Nations’ Environment Program in Geneva, and a former Peace Corps volunteer in Madagascar. Her work has been published in Science, Geoforum, Political Geography, Environment International, and American Ethnologist.

This event is co-sponsored by UCSB’s Capps Center for the Study of Ethics, Religion, and Public Life, Department of East Asian Languages and Cultural Studies, and Environmental Studies Program.

The Yellow River: A Natural and Unnatural History 1024 530 Barbara Del Mercato

The Yellow River: A Natural and Unnatural History

with Ruth Mostern, Pittsburgh University

The Yellow River: A Natural and Unnatural History, Online lecture

More information here

Global Forum on Democratizing Work: Three panels on Democratize, Decarbonize and Decommodify 724 1024 Susann Schmeisser

Global Forum on Democratizing Work: Three panels on Democratize, Decarbonize and Decommodify

From October 5 to 7, 2021, as part of the Global Forum of the international initiative #democratizingwork we discussed the topics of “democratization”, “decommodification” and “decarbonization” of work in more detail with journalists, academics, activists and trade unionists on three different online panels.

This follows on from our In Context series of events on the democratization of work, which we started last year in November 2020 with three of the main initiators of the initiative #democratizingwork.  Last May, #democratizingwork emerged with a call signed by more than 3,000 scholars* that took the Corona pandemic as an occasion to call for a more just design of the current world of work. Under the keywords “democratization”, “decommodification” and “decarbonization” of work, the initiators argue for: 1. giving work councils the same voting rights as supervisory boards, 2. distributing and organizing work not exclusively as a commodity and via market mechanisms, but by creating a job guarantee, and 3. implementing these goals in line with a “Green Deal” that takes into account the current ecological challenges.

Online panel on October 5, 2.30pm-4.30pm: On the first day of the Global Forum, Manuela Bojadžijev, Julia Fritzsche and Hans-Christoph Schmidt am Busch discussed the question of democratization of work. This panel focused in particular on the extent to which the demand for democratization of the workplace and businesses is linked to a broader demand for democratization of the economy, and what such a demand would entail.
The panel was chaired by Lea Prix.

Online panel on October 6, 2.30pm-4.30pm: On the second day of the Global Forum, Lisa Herzog, Oliver Nachtwey and Thomas Seibert discussed the question of the decommodification of work. This panel focused in particular on the extent to which the call for the decommodification of labor goes hand in hand, on the one hand, with a practice of economics that is oriented towards needs and, on the other hand, brings into play issues of deliberation and decision-making that transcend national borders. The panel discussed these issues, particularly in the context of the supply chain phenomenon.
The panel was chaired by Rahel Jaeggi.

Online Panel on October 7, 2.30pm-4.30pm: On the third and last day of the Global Forum, Dirk Ehnts and Hans-Jürgen Urban discussed the issue of decarbonization of labor. This panel focused in particular on the question of how a sustainable transformation of the economy can be designed in a socially acceptable way without pitting the ecological crisis and the social question against each other.
The panel was chaired by Christian Schmidt.


Manuela Bojadžijev is Professor of Globalized Cultures at the Faculty of Cultural Studies at Leuphana University Lüneburg and Vice-Director of the Berlin Institute for Empirical Integration and Migration Research (BIM) at Humboldt University Berlin. She is involved in numerous research projects around the topics of work, migration and digitalization. Most recently, she published the monograph “Die windige Internationale: Rassismus und Kämpfe der Migrationfür Globalisierte Kulturen an der Fakultät für Kulturwissenschaften der Leuphana Universität Lüneburg.”.

Dirk Ehnts is a Political Scientist, Economist and Representative of Modern Monetary Theory. He is board spokesman of the Pufendorf-Gesellschaft für politische Ökonomie e. V. in Berlin, also a member of the Institute for International Political Economy (IPE) Berlin and co-author of the Green New Deal for Europe. Most recently, he published the monograph “Modern Monetary Theory and European Macroeconomics” and “Geld und Kredit: eine €-päische Perspektive”.

Julia Fritzsche is an Author and Journalist. She has received numerous awards for her work. Her most recently published book “Tiefrot und Radikal Bunt” is a plea for a new left-wing narrative that is concerned with living and working in a way that is oriented toward people’s needs rather than their usability.

Lisa Herzog is Associate Professor at the Center for Philosophy, Politics and Economics of the University of Groningen and one of the main initiators of the initiative #democratizingwork. In her book “Die Rettung der Arbeit. Ein politischer Aufruf” Herzog argues for a political shaping of the present and future world of work that understands work as an essential source of social integration.

Oliver Nachtwey is Professor of Social Structure Analysis at the University of Basel. He conducts research on the transformation of work and social modernization and their influence on social structure. For his monograph “Die Abstiegsgesellschaft. Über das Aufbegehren in der regressiven Moderne”, he has received several awards. His most recent publication, together with Ulrich Brinkmann, was “Postdemokratie und Industrial Citizenship. Erosionsprozesse von Demokratie und Mitbestimmung “.

Hans-Christoph Schmidt am Busch is Professor of Philosophy at the Technical University of Braunschweig. His research topics are in the fields of political, social and legal philosophy, as well as the philosophical foundations and history of economics. For many years, a special focus of his research has been on the topic of work and recognition. Most recently, he published the monograph “Was wollen wir, wenn wir arbeiten? Honneth, Hegel und die Grundlagen der Kritik des Neoliberalismus.”

Thomas Seibert is a Philosopher, Author and Activist and has been working for the aid and human rights organization medico international for many years. In addition to numerous other publications, his most recent monograph is “Zur Ökologie der Existenz. Freedom, Equality, Environment”.

Hans-Jürgen Urban is a member of the executive board of IG-Metall and as such responsible for social policy as well as labor organization and qualification policy, on which he has also published numerous articles. His most recent publication is the monograph “Gute Arbeit in der Transformation. Über eine eingreifende Politik im digitalen Kapitalismus“.

Anthropocene Campus Venice 1024 576 Barbara Del Mercato

Anthropocene Campus Venice

We are thrilled to take part in a large international event taking place in Venice and online on October 11-16, 2021: the Anthropocene Campus Venice (ACV), a one-week forum with a strong educational commitment, around the theme of Water Politics in the Age of the Anthropocene.

ACV is organized by Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, the Center for the Humanities and Social Change, and the Max Planck Partner Group The Water City. It is set in the framework of the Anthropocene Curriculum (AC), a long-term collaborative project initiated by Haus der Kulturen der Welt (Berlin) and Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (Berlin), supported by the Federal Foreign Office of Germany. ACV benefits from the support of Ca’ Foscari University and the Department of Philosophy and Cultural Heritage, projects ERC EarlyModernCosmology (Horizon 2020, GA 725883) and FARE EarlyGeoPraxis (Italian Ministry of University and Research, cod. R184WNSTWH)

Many events will be made available online: follow updates on the public events program the Campus website

Venice, October 11-16, 2021

Visit the Campus website
Learn more about the Anthropocene Curriculum here

See all the Campus partners here

The photo on the poster is by Anna Zemella. Graphic design: Giulia Brolese
Beyond Museums. Tools for Promoting the Natural and Cultural Water Heritage: an online training course 1000 750 Barbara Del Mercato

Beyond Museums. Tools for Promoting the Natural and Cultural Water Heritage: an online training course

The UNESCO Chair “Water, Heritage and Sustainable Development” based at the Centre for the Humanities and Social Change organises a number of training courses (in cooperation with the Global Network of Water Museums) addressed to the staff of water museums, scholars, students and professionals in the fields of water.

The 1st online training course will be held in form of webinar series and will focus on different tools, strategies and good practices aimed at promoting water heritage beyond museums.

Speakers coming from Bangladesh, Croatia, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, Portugal, Spain, UK, Uruguay will give lectures on traditional waterscapes, participatory approaches, heritage promotion, responsible tourism, leisure education and other key topics in water heritage management.

In order to register, please write an email with a CV and a brief motivation letter to Sara Luchetta ( Registration and payment are due by the 30th of September 2021.


Inland hydrographies and riverscapes
Digital itineraries
Ancestral hydrotechnologies 
Local communities and water
Water memories and intangible heritage
Urban waterscapes digital exploration
Arts for waterscapes

Participatory practices and engagement
Traditional water management
Visual anthropology for community involvement
Participatory photography and bottom-up approaches
Oral history for community involvement

Education for water culture
Community museums and water heritage
Waterways as vectors of ecomuseums
Sustainable tourism, sustainable mobilities
Spatial anthropology and the water cities

Read and download the full program here

PLATFORM: Zoom – Links will be provided to all the attendees.


WHEN:  The online course includes 12 webinars and will start on Friday the 22nd of October 2021, running every Friday until the 21st of January 2022.

Every webinar starts at 13.00 CET and ends at 15.00 CET.

Regular fee: € 250
Low Income Countries: € 50
Ca’ Foscari University community (students, PhD candidates, researchers, professors, administrative staff): € 100
WAMU-NET members: One person from each water museum/member of WAMU-NET can participate for free. Each 2nd, 3rd, 4th (and so on) person can participate with a 50% discount on the regular fee (€ 125 regular; € 25  LICs). 

A certificate of attendance will be issued at the end of the training course by the UNESCO Chair. In order to receive the certificate, participants must attend at least 9 webinars out of 12 (about 80% attendance).

A New Socialism for a New Century? 724 1024 Susann Schmeisser

A New Socialism for a New Century?

Conversations on Socialism #4

A New Socialism for a New Century?

with Christine Berry (Trustee of Rethinking Economics), Axel Honneth (Jack C. Weinstein Professor for the Humanities at Columbia University New York), Bhaskar Sunkara (editor of Jacobin Magazine), hosted by Rahel Jaeggi


There is a deep uncertainty concerning the outline of a left-wing societal alternative. Towards the end of his recent Benjamin Lectures Axel Honneth admitted: “I always viewed myself as a socialist—even though, today, I do not any longer know what a full blown socialism would look like.” At the same time, “socialism” has resurfaced as a left-wing code in the Anglo-Saxon world: young partisans want to influence the traditional Social-Democratic parties by the means of grassroots movements, pressure them to take positions further to the left, and to fight for a “socialism” which starts right here and right now. Hence, we would like to discuss what the democratization of the economy could mean today; which role market and state should play in the process; and how this new socialism relates to left-wing struggles for emancipation and against discrimination. The question is: What social visions will replace those old Social-Democratic promises and approaches, that have lost all their credibility, in the years to come?


Christiane Berry is one of the most prominent proponents of the socialist rebirth in the UK and co-author of People Get Ready!

Axel Honneth is the author of The Idea of Socialism

Bhaskar Sunkara is the founder of Jacobin magazine, which presents socialism in the US as an intellectually exciting current and author of The Socialist Manifesto

Highlights of the discussion