BICAR Summer School 2022


The Beirut Institute for Critical Analysis and Research (BICAR) will host its first summer school in Lebanon this June. The summer school is open to international and local students. It is intended as a pedagogical intervention at a catastrophic moment in Lebanon’s history. With economic collapse, severe shortages of fuel, electricity, and medicine, and over 80% of the Lebanese population living below the poverty line, the current capitalist crisis demands the development of adequate tools for understanding our historical present in ways that can also affect conditions of transformation. We at BICAR think that Lebanon is the future past of the failures of global neoliberalism, a place that can instruct us on the dismal future to come if the social, political, and economic contradictions of the present are left to their own historical trajectory. In order to concretely grasp the conditions of the present, we propose a patient return to the past and will be offering an intensive course program on classical and contemporary critical social theory and aesthetics. The school will consist of an introductory keynote lecture followed by four core courses offered over eight sessions.

Keynote Lecture

On the concept of prehistory, if it is one?
By Dr.  Frank Ruda

Capitalism seems to have changed everything. It established a fundamentally new form of organising social relations and from its conception nothing – and perhaps not even nothing – remained the same. These are assumptions that have been often attributed to Marx (and Marxists), even by Marxists. Yet Marx explicitly identified capitalist political economy as a prehistoric formation. This puts pressure on the concept of prehistory, if it is one. This talk will attempt to deal with this pressure by returning to Marx.

Dr. Frank Ruda is Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Dundee. He is the author of Abolishing Freedom: A Plea for a Contemporary Use of Fatalism (Nebraska University Press 2015); For Badiou: Idealism without Idealism (Northwestern University Press 2015) and Hegel’s Rabble: An Investigation into Hegel’s Philosophy of Right (Continuum 2011).

Course I

The Idea of Critical Theory
By Dr.  Ray Brassier

This course will track the development of the idea of critical theory from its original radical inception, focusing on its two fundamental components: the Marxian analysis of the commodity and the Freudian analysis of repression. We will conclude by considering the ‘critical pessimism’ to which critical theory’s founding figures, Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, allegedly succumbed in their final years.

Dr. Ray Brassier is Professor of Philosophy at the American University of Beirut. He is the author of Nihil Unbound: Enlightenment and Extinction (Palgrave 2007).

Course II

On Negativity
By Dr.  Sami Khatib

This seminar explores negativity as concept, figure and affect. In Western thought, ‘negative’ thinking can be traced back to pessimism, skepticism, nihilism and dystopianism. For Hegel, however, negativity is the restless movement and dialectical driving force of cultural formation and education (Bildung). The seminar asks how global sites of class struggle and coloniality can be theorized as sites of negativity.

Dr. Sami Khatib is a substitute professor at the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design (HfG). His publications include a co-editorship of the volume “Critique: The Stakes of Form” (Zürich, Berlin: Diaphanes, 2020) and authorship of the book “Teleologie ohne Endzweck: Walter Benjamins Ent-stellung des Messianischen” [“Teleology without End.” Walter Benjamin’s Dislocation of the Messianic], (Marburg: Tectum, 2013).

Course III

Marxist Aesthetics
By Dr.  Angela Harutyunyan, with Natasha Gasparian

While Marx and Engels never systematically wrote on aesthetics, throughout the twentieth century multiple attempts were made to construct systematic aesthetics based upon their writings. This course investigates such attempts both within Soviet Marxism and Western Marxism in the 1930s and 1960s as mirroring one another, albeit from different political systems and historical circumstances.

Dr. Angela Harutyunyan is Associate Professor of Art History and Theory and Head of the Art History Program at the American University of Beirut. She is editor of ARTMargins (MIT Press) and the author of The Political Aesthetics of the Armenian Avant-Garde: The Journey of the ‘Painterly Real,’ 1987–2004 (Manchester University Press 2017).

Natasha Gasparian is an art historian and curator who works on modern and
contemporary art in the Arabic-speaking world. She is the author of Commitment in the Artistic Practice of Aref El-Rayess: The Changing of Horses (Anthem Press, 2020). Currently, she is the curatorial assistant to Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath for the 16th edition of the Lyon Biennale.

Course IV

Anxiety and Authority: The Critical Use of Psychoanalysis
By Dr.  Nadia Bou Ali, with Mohamad Tal

Modernity is an age of neurosis, in which anxiety emerges as an affect linked to the demand for collective political solutions. If our present historical moment is characterized as an ‘age of anxiety’ overridden with depression, suicide, and paralysis, can we rethink anxiety without resorting to quick tranquilizing resolutions of the sort proposed by authoritarian figures like Trump, Orban, Bolsonaro, and Modi? The appeal of such figures invites us to reconsider the basis of what authority is and ought to be using psychoanalysis to diagnose its nature in relation to anxiety.

Dr. Nadia Bou Ali is Associate Professor and Chair of the Civilization Sequence Program at the American University of Beirut. She is the author of Hall of Mirrors: Psychoanalysis and the Love of Arabic (Edinburgh University Press 2020); and co-editor (with Rohit Goel) of Lacan contra Foucault: Subjectivity, Sex, and Politics (Bloomsbury Academic 2018).

Application and Deadline: 

CV/Resumé + 500 words statement of interest + 150 words statement about funding to be submitted by March 29, 2022



$500 students with institutional funding;
$300 self-funded students;
Free to local students.
Payment for funded and non-local students to be made upon successful application.


Established in 2015, the Beirut Institute for Critical Analysis and Research (BICAR) aims to promote critical thought and analysis with a special focus on studying manifestations of modernity in Lebanon and the Middle East. As a public research and educational institute, BICAR seeks to cultivate a space for rigorous research, debate, and dialogue. It intends to foster cultures of critique capable of understanding Lebanese modernity in relation to processes of modernization that are part of a global dynamic. BICAR has two fundamental commitments: to disseminate pedagogical and research oriented projects in Arabic and English to a wide audience in Beirut, Lebanon, and beyond; and to foster the relationship between intellectual inquiry, social reality, and social change. BICAR’s founding members are Dr. Nadia Bou Ali, Dr. Ray Brassier, Mr. Rohit Goel, Dr. Angela Harutyunyan, Dr. Sami Khatib, and Dr. Ghalya Saadawi.

Click here to mail your application to

CfP: Historical Materialism Beirut

Historical Materialism Conference (HM) in Beirut from March 10 to March 12, 2017. BICAR is organizing this event in collaboration with the Center for Arts and Humanities (CAH) at the American University of Beirut (AUB); Jnanapravaha Mumbai (JP); and the Historical Materialism Journal in London.

Debates around historical materialism have evolved in the wake of the collapse of ‘actually existing’ socialist states, particularly since the fall of the Soviet Union, where historical materialism was the officially sanctioned method for understanding the dynamics of revolutionary reality. Socialist states in Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa, as well as South and South East Asia also claimed to follow historical materialism, whether officially or semi-officially, as part of the Cold War battle against the ideology of positivist neutrality. However different the outcomes of these historical attempts and experiments were, they prove the futility of turning states into an exclusive embodiment of historical materialism and treating the latter as an empty signifier serving the purposes of ideological state apparatuses. Post 1989, these contexts are no longer the historical embodiments of the method and historical materialism has been taken up and debated by the Left during the past three decades. Scholars around the world have attempted to rethink historical materialism in a post Cold War world where the end of history has been simultaneously proclaimed and perpetuated, both descriptively and normatively. Here we encounter a double fissure, the first triggered by the collapse of the very historical experiences that gave rise to historical materialism as a method, and the second by the schism between the realities of global capitalism today – the political status quo it generates – and the immanent imperative of the historical materialist method – the need to politicize theory despite the depoliticizing effects of capitalist ideology.

What happens when historical materialism, because of the historical conditions in which it is situated today, becomes a theoretical endeavor rather than a political weapon? Is it possible to reconnect method and practice, critique and practice, when the structural conditions – the untimely absence of a political avant-garde, mass mobilization movements with emancipatory agendas, and revolutionary political programs on a large scale – makes praxis difficult, even impossible?

This conference invites scholars, activists and other invested members of the public to think the possibility of praxis today by taking Beirut as both a critical site of the troubled legacies of communism, socialism and Stalinism, and as a site for critique. At the same time, Beirut is the dumping ground for neoliberal, authoritarian, and theocratic policies that date back to Lebanon’s role during the Cold War era. This ideological wasteland has a material base, articulated by the contradictions of global capitalism in today’s Lebanon: Beirut is the future past of the national state, a state without a state, run by sectarian neoliberalism. Despite this present, the short history of Beirut and Lebanon in the 20th century tells the untold story of what could have been: the unredeemed desire for a non-capitalist modernity, neither secular nor religious, neither “Western” nor “Eastern.”

Among the themes we would like to explore:

  • The False Promise of the Victim and the Desire for the Revolution
  • Primitive Accumulation
  • The Capitalist Unconscious: Lacan and Marx
  • Marxist and Materialist Feminism
  • Capitalism, Alienation, Authenticity
  • World History Without a Worldview
  • The Invisibility of the Class Struggle in the Aftermath of Colonialism
  • History and Repetition, or the Temporalities of Capitalism
  • Capitalism and Barbarism
  • What is Praxis?
  • Materialist Aesthetics
  • Deprovincializing Marxism

(This is a non-exclusive list – other subjects are of course welcome too. Pre-constituted panels are welcome but we reserve the right to disaggregate them and create new panels with some of the speakers proposed.)

The submissions (300 word abstracts) should be sent to, by August 15, 2016.