Study with the Terrorists

Origin. Fathom the concept. Origin. (Pause). O-ri-gin.
What forms does the concept of origin take as it progresses and changes? How does its changing character affect the constitution of life? What are the historical and (bio)political conditions of the transformation of origin? What are the sites of precariousness and potentiality to which this progression gives rise?... blah blah blah.
Those readers who are Down Under are probably kicking themselves every day at the fact that they miss out on the chance to sit at the feet of Europe's great thinkers, like Deleuze and Baudrillard. But fret no more. Sydney University are holding a conference called Physiognomy of Origins: Multiplicities, (oooh!) Bodies (ooh-err!) and Radical Politics (right on!).
This conference brings together two key figures in the contemporary reconsideration of the concept of origin. Radical theorist and activist, Antonio Negri has introduced a materialist perspective on the concept of origin through his investigations of constituent power and multitudes. Italian feminist philosopher, Adriana Cavarero has been engaged in reconceiving origin through the thought of sexual difference, an ethics of embodiment and more recently, the politics of vocal expression.
There's a kind of genius at work, I have to concede, in defining yourself as being engaged in the "politics of vocal expression".

But what's that whining I hear? You're not an academic, just a disgruntled placard-waver who inexplicably shakes with rage whenever the name John Howard is mentioned? Don't worry, this conference is not about exclusion:

The event is also open to non-academic participants whose practice (creative and/or political) relates to the broad themes of the conference.
If you've got a body, or at least a physiognomy, you're in.

And excitement is guaranteed. Negri, co-author of Empire, 2000's must-read (or must-have - let's be honest, not even the acolytes bother reading this stuff all the way through) for faux-highbrow hard-leftists, is no armchair theorist. He's a man of action, a man from the hard world of Italian politics and, er... terrorism.

Says Roger Kimball:

Antonio Negri was an architect of the infamous Red Brigades, a Marxist-Leninist terrorist group. In 1979, he was arrested and charged with "armed insurrection against the state" and seventeen murders, including the murder of the Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro, who was kidnapped in 1978 and shot dead fifty-five days later, his body dumped in a car. Negri did not actually pull the trigger. But, as David Pryce-Jones noted in an excellent article about Empire in the September 17 number of National Review, "The Italian authorities had no doubt that Negri was ultimately responsible. Just before Moro was shot dead, someone telephoned his distraught wife to taunt her, and that person was identified at the time as Negri." He fled to Paris, where he struck up friendships with Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, and other specimens of enlightenment. He eventually returned to Italy and negotiated a sharply reduced sentence for "membership in an armed band."

There is nothing in Empire to suggest that Negri has had second thoughts about his activities in the Red Brigades. On the contrary, whenever violent insurrection is mentioned, it is praised. In an op-ed piece published in The New York Times in July, Hardt and Negri congratulated the violent protesters in Genoa who took to the streets this summer when world financial leaders met there.

Sydney University is to be congratulated for moving beyond people who murder language to bring us people who also murder... well, liberty, at least. Everything else is an unproven allegation, says my lawyer.

Origin. Fathom the concept.

(Via Jim Franklin's Wackiest Academic Web Sites

More: Johann Hari interviewed Negri for The Independent last year. Negri kept pretty schtum about whatever he may or may not have done in the 70's. There's a 1979 discussion about Negri's possible links with murdering terrorists in the New York Review, and in the letters pages. The David Pryce-Jones article that Kimball mentioned is here. See also the Marxist journal What Next on this.

Cross-posted at Blithering Bunny.

Update: One of The Sydney Morning Herald's sane columnists, Miranda Devine, has caught up with this story. And there's more, courtesy of a "disgruntled academic":

Meanwhile, a disgruntled arts insider has provided me with the faculty's list of required "graduate attributes" and offered translations.

Graduates must: "Work effectively in teams and other collaborative contexts." Translation: code for accepting the prevailing view.

Graduates must: "Be informed and open-minded about social, cultural and linguistic diversity in Australia and the world." Translation: code for must be pro-multiculturalism.

Graduates must: "Create new modes of understanding." Translation: code for the postmodernist method of arguing incoherently and without evidence.

Graduates must: "Be aware that knowledge is not value-free." Translation: see above.

A version of this update also cross-posted at Blithering Bunny.

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