Nov 4-6, 2021
IWBS CONFERENCE: Hoffnung/Hope
- Dept. I
- Several Speakers
- Carolin Duttlinger
- Daniel Weidner
- Ilit Ferber
- Gabriele Guerra
- Jörg Kreienbrock
- Nassima Sahraoui
- Pola Groß
- Falko Schmieder
- Maria Teresa Costa
- Toni Hildebrandt
- Ursula Marx
- Martin Mettin
Hope: Rethinking with Benjamin
2021 Conference of the International Walter Benjamin Society
November 4-6, 2021
Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin
in cooperation with the Akademie der Künste, Berlin
and the Leibniz-Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung, Berlin
According to Walter Benjamin, there is no moment which cannot be revolutionary, i.e. which could not be understood as “a chance for a completely new solution to a completely new problem.” Here, we can take Revolution as not only a rupture in the continuity between past and present, but also as an arising possibility for a (different) future. Revolution, for Benjamin, presents radical new challenges, and yet, it is also permanent, omnipresent, and miniscule in aspiration and effect. Revolution does not only manifest itself in a radical break, as any solution or response—and truly any moment—can take on a revolutionary character.
This wording challenges our familiar image of Benjamin as a melancholic and skeptical thinker; it shows him as a pragmatic and practical writer, constantly on the lookout for new ways and means of intervention. His radicality, then, is less the product of an apocalyptic vision of the future, but can rather be attributed to a clear-sighted engagement with the here and now. Benjamin’s source of hope is not grounded in an unspecified time to come, but in a critical energy aimed at the “completely new problem.”
When viewed from this perspective, Benjamin’s works allow us to think about hope—even and especially today, in the face of challenges that were impossible to foresee. The concept of hope raises several questions: What is hope, and where is it situated? With whom or what is it associated? How can we think of hope, and when thinking it with Benjamin, what can we hope to achieve? To what extent does Benjamin’s notion of hope diverge from both the models of gradual development and from those of radical rupture or caesura? What are the political, epistemological, or moral implications of moments of crisis which cannot be understood in the context of the grand narratives of progress or revolution? And finally, how can Benjamin’s “rescuing impulse” open up new modes of thinking and acting? What new ways of thinking about time—about pasts, presents, and futures—does the “rescuing impulse” introduce? However, Benjamin’s notion of “the new”—of new challenges and solutions—does not only refer to the present, the future, or an extratemporal utopia. It also manifests itself as the revolutionary power of the current moment to unlock “a quite distinct chamber of the past, one which, up to this point, has been closed and locked.” Such a process recalls Benjamin’s historical work, where he hopes to “fan the spark of hope contained within the past.” By reflecting on these and other related thoughts in Benjamin’s writing, this conference will read his texts anew—true to Benjamin’s own dictum that opening up the (present) moment towards its inherent possibilities.
Keynotes: Andrew Benjamin (University of Technology, Sydney), Eva Geulen (ZfL, Berlin)
- Maria Teresa Costa
- Pola Groß (Leibniz-Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung, Berlin)
- Ursula Marx (Akademie der Künste, Berlin)
- Daniel Weidner (Universität Halle)
Contact and Registration
For any further questions please contact Maria Teresa Costa (firstname.lastname@example.org).
To register, please email email@example.com. Only those registered will receive the Zoom invite.