What Are We in the Eyes of Marx?

The Beirut Institute for Critical Analysis and Research (BICAR) in collaboration with the Rosa Luxemburg-Stiftung-Beirut and the Goethe-Institut-Beirut would like to invite you to a conversation entitled What are we in the Eyes of Marx? between Michael Heinrich (author of Introduction to the Three Volumes of Karl Marx’s Capital, Monthly Review Press 2014) and Frank Ruda (co-author of Reading Marx, Polity 2018, with Agon Hamza and Slavoj Žižek) moderated by Raymond Brassier.

December 7, 8.30pm, Bld. 37 (behind the Old Observatory), American University of Beirut


The Specters of Marx and the Fate of Critique

10:00AM | November 02, 2018 | Leu­pha­na Cen­tral Buil­ding C40.254

Public workshop hosted by the German Research Foundation (DFG) re­se­arch trai­ning group “Cul­tu­res of Cri­tique / Kul­tu­ren der Kri­tik” in co­ope­ra­ti­on with the Bei­rut In­st­itute or Cri­ti­cal Ana­ly­sis and Re­se­arch (BICAR).

with Prof. Dr. Angela Harutyunyan, Prof. Dr. Nadia Bou-Ali, Dr. Sami Khatib, Mark Hayek, Natasha Gasparian, Ziad Kiblawi, Andrea Comair.

BICAR roundtable at Leuphana University Lüneburg, Germany

18:00 | November 01, 2018 | Kunstraum of Leuphana University, Campus Hall 25

We cordially invite you to the public roundtable at Leuphana University Lüneburg on the theme of Critical Theory and Social Practice.

Speakers and discussants: BICAR (Beirut Institute for Critical Analysis and Research): Nadia Bou Ali, Natasha Gasparian, Angela Harutyunyan / Alex Demirović (Goethe University Frankfurt / Leuphana University Lüneburg) / Sami Khatib (BICAR / Leuphana University Lüneburg).

Event is hosted by the DFG research training group “Cultures of Critique / Kulturen der Kritik”.

More information at:

Historical Materialism Conference Beirut

As the Beirut Historical Materialism conference is getting closer, we would like to share the final version of the program (see attached) and information about your travel, accommodation and local transport with you.

The conference will take place from March 10, 2017, 2.30pm to March 12, 2017, 7pm on the main campus of the American University of Beirut (AUB). When you enter the campus through the main gate (Bliss Street), please make sure to carry a valid ID, ideally your passport. You will register as a conference speaker for HM Beirut at the main gate at the protection office. The registration is free of charge; it’s a regular security procedure.


Historical Materialism Beirut 2017 final program (PDF)

We recommend staying in Hamra during the duration of the conference; the AUB campus (Bliss St, main gate) is located in Hamra, walking distance. Other nearby neighborhoods include Clemenceau, Ain Mreisseh, and Manara. Airbnb lists many places in Hamra.
Nearby hotels are listed on commercial platforms like trip advisor:

Best Hotels Near American University of Beirut, Lebanon
Hotels near American University of Beirut, Beirut on TripAdvisor: Find 16,073 traveler reviews, 5,261 candid photos, and prices for 156 hotels near American …

AUB regularly hosts guests in Gefinor Rotana and Le Commodore.
A less pricy hotel is “35 Rooms,” also in Hamra:

Beirut Hotels: Hotels in Hamra Beirut Lebanon: Furnished …
35 Rooms very well-known famous Hotel in Hamra Beirut, Lebanon. Trendy, modern rooms for rent, furnished apartments and classy suites for your business , personally …

General Information
General information about the Campus of AUB, directions etc. can be found here:

AUB – About Us – Campus
The American University of Beirut, AUB, is a private, non-sectarian institution of higher learning, founded in 1866, which functions under a charter from the State of New York. It is administrated by a private, autonomous Board of Trustees.

AUB campus map, indicating where the conference rooms and buildings are:

The Official Map of the Campus of the American University …
ada dodge hall 13 agriculture building 58 assembly hall 16 bechtel engineering building 57 biology building 78 daniel bliss hall 07 ccc scientific research building 0567

Visa regulations
Please make sure that you know what kind of visa you need. Please check the website of the Lebanese embassy of the country that issued your passport.
Tourist visas (1 month) are normally obtained at the airport upon arrival, free of charge.

Lebanese General Security – posts
The type of request The formalities required A cost-free visa of one month extendable to 3 months is granted for immigrants from the following countries :

Please also check your passports for Israeli stamps/visas, as you cannot enter Lebanon if you have one.

Upon landing you need to fill in a landing card for the border control. You have to provide the address of your hotel or airbnb place; please make sure to have this information.

Local Transport
Most of you have already booked the flights. You will arrive at Beirut’s main international airport, Rafic Hariri International Airport:

الرئيسية – مطار رفيق الحريري الدولي بيروت
Airport, Beirut, Rafic Hariri, Opentech,Lebanon,web development, web application مطار، بيروت، رفيق الحريري، لبنان، شركة …

We recommend ordering a taxi online before you travel. Please provide the taxi company with your email and cell phone number in order to coordinate the pick up from the airport. Local taxi companies are serving the airport 24/7; however, some drivers might try to charge you excessively. A regular fare from the airport to the city center should not be more than 20 USD (30.000 LL).
AUB normally works with Allo taxi Lebanon, you can book your airport pick up service online:

With AlloTAXI you can book a taxi in just a few seconds: Call 1213, Book Online, or Download the app. Enjoy FREE High-Speed internet by Alfa onboard

Other local companies are
Queen Taxi: +961 1 423340
Alfa Taxi: +961 1560910
Charlie Taxi: 1514

Official currency is Lebanese Lira (LL), also called Lebanese Pound (LBP).
However, US Dollar is a parallel currency, widely accepted. Please make sure to carry smaller notes of USD with you; some drivers or restaurants might refuse to give you change for 100 USD notes. You can always combine LL and USD to pay cash. International credit cards are also widely accepted.
1 USD = 1.500 LL
1.000 LL = 0,66 USD

Phone contacts of the organizing team
Nadia: +96176705659
Sami: +961.78847394 or +49.15145930952 (whatsapp)

An Estranged Form of Consciousness: Alienation and Social Dissonance

“There is nothing, nothing in heaven, or in nature or in mind or anywhere else which does not equally contain both immediacy and mediation, so that these two determinations reveal themselves to be unseparated and inseparable and the opposition between them to be a nullity.”
G.W.F. Hegel, Science of Logic, Tr. A.V. Miller (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1969) §92, p.68

Marx in his analysis of the commodity form was certainly able to prove this. Increasingly a question emerges: to what extent are we ourselves embedded in this process of commodification? It is possible to link this question to a resurgence of interest in the concept of alienation. However the term is so complex and slippery that needs to be properly defined. In this presentation I would like to claim a Marxist understanding of alienation which can be useful to explore social dissonance: if cognitive dissonance is the uncomfortable tension which results from holding two conflicting thoughts in the mind at the same time, then social dissonance is the discrepancy and tension that exist between the narcissist individualism that capitalism promotes and our social capacity. In The German Ideology Marx claims that the development of division of labor is what produces alienation. Today we have a society in which the division of labor is rapidly expanding. On the other hand, working conditions are increasingly unstable and precarious making more people invest in their own education and their own development in different fields. Working conditions often require networking and sociability, making our consciousness more and more determined by technology. However through this technology our sociability can also expand. The question then is; what kind of sociability is this? If commodification entails the reification of self-consciousness, what would be required to achieve a form self-consciousness that is not commodified and reified by capitalist relations? Inevitably this would require abolishing the conditions that reproduce commodification. But before that we need to understand what these conditions are. Therefore I would like to explore how the concept of alienation can help us distinguish the different levels of mediation that we are evolved in. My proposal is that alienation can help us to concretely engage with capitalist abstractions by exposing the social dissonance that exist between the social idea and social pathology.

Mattin is an artist from Bilbao (currently living in Berlin) working mostly with noise and improvisation. His work seeks to address the social and economic structures of experimental sonic artistic production through live performance, recordings and writing. He is currently doing a PhD at the University of the Basque Country under the supervision of Ray Brassier and Josu Rekalde. He has edited with Anthony Iles the book Noise & Capitalism and in 2012 CAC Brétigny and Tuamaturgia published Uconsitituted Praxis, a book collecting Mattin ́s writing plus interviews and reviews from performances that he has been part of. Both books are available online. Mattin will be taking part in Documenta next year in Athens and Kassel.

December 2, 2016, 6 pm, T-Marbouta Library, Hamra Street

The Origins and Future of Surveillance under Information Capitalism

A Public Talk Hosted by BICAR (Beirut Institute for Critical Analysis and Research)
August 25, 2016, 6 pm, T-Marbouta Library, Hamra Street.

What forces produced by capitalism are driving surveillance over the last few decades? Given current trends, will we enter a post-capitalist world without work or money – or a new regime of personalized fascism? Taking as its foundation world-systems theory and communization theory, we’ll trace the history of surveillance from its origins in changes in economic policy that occurred in response to capitalist crisis in the 1970s to its current incarnation as a globalized mode of control of social change for a world that faces a  ‘permanent state of exception’ and an ever-growing surplus population. There are also surprisingly profound philosophical and metaphysical assumptions behind the rise of machine-learning that will be delved into, including the role of Carnap in artificial intelligence and Heidegger’s influence on Google via Winograd.  Lastly, we’ll outline strategies and tactics that have developed for resistance in an era of surveillance, including the use of cryptography in encrypted messaging, privacy-enhancing technologies such as Tor, and tools for political self-organization. This work will broadly critique the analysis of information capitalism such as Negri, Dean, and Fuchs as well as that of de-politicized  ‘new media’ theory.

Dr. Harry Halpin (MIT/INRIA) works on issues of security and privacy, including the development of the Web Cryptography API at the W3C and the NEXTLEAP Project on decentralized systems. Previously, he received a Ph.D. in Informatics from University of Edinburgh, and completed his postdoctoral studies under Bernard Stiegler. This is joint work with Elijah Sparrow of riseup.net.

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 info@bicar-lebanon.org, by August 15, 2016.

Aaron Schuster: The Trouble With Pleasure, Deleuze and Psychoanalysis

The Beirut Institute for Critical Analysis and Research (BICAR) would like to invite you to a book talk and signing at Mezyan Hamra, Friday 1st of April at 5 pm

Is pleasure a rotten idea, mired in negativity and lack, which should be abandoned in favor of a new concept of desire? Or is desire itself fundamentally a matter of lack, absence, and loss? This is one of the crucial issues dividing the work of Gilles Deleuze and Jacques Lacan, two of the most formidable figures of postwar French thought. Though the encounter with psychoanalysis deeply marked Deleuze’s work, we are yet to have a critical account of the very different postures he adopted toward psychoanalysis, and especially Lacanian theory, throughout his career. In The Trouble with Pleasure, Aaron Schuster tackles this tangled relationship head on. The result is neither a Lacanian reading of Deleuze nor a Deleuzian reading of Lacan but rather a systematic and comparative analysis that identifies concerns common to both thinkers and their ultimately incompatible ways of addressing them. Schuster focuses on drive and desire—the strange, convoluted relationship of human beings to the forces that move them from within—“the trouble with pleasure.” 

Along the way, Schuster offers his own engaging and surprising conceptual analyses and inventive examples. In the “Critique of Pure Complaint” he provides a philosophy of complaining, ranging from Freud’s theory of neurosis to Spinoza’s intellectual complaint of God and the Deleuzian great complaint. Schuster goes on to elaborate, among other things, a theory of love as “mutually compatible symptoms”; an original philosophical history of pleasure, including a hypothetical Heideggerian treatise and a Platonic theory of true pleasure; and an exploration of the 1920s “literature of the death drive,” including Thomas Mann, Italo Svevo, and Blaise Cendrars.

Aaron Schuster, The Trouble With Pleasure, Deleuze and Psychoanalysis (MIT Press: 2016)

* Aaron Schuster’s book Trouble with Pleasure is on sale at the bookstore of the Beirut Art Center.

After Evil, A Public Talk by Robert Meister In conversation with Walid Sadek and Ahmad Dallal

“Beneficiaries as Saviors in a Humanitarian Age”

The way in which mainstream human rights discourse speaks of such evils as the Holocaust, slavery, or apartheid puts them solidly in the past. Its elaborate techniques of “transitional” justice encourage future generations to move forward by creating a false assumption of closure, enabling those who are guilty to elude responsibility. This approach to history, common to late-twentieth-century humanitarianism, doesn’t presuppose that evil ends when justice begins. Rather, it assumes that a time before justice is the moment to put evil in the past.

In this talk, Robert Meister merges examples from literature, history, anthropology, political philosophy and theology to confront the problem of closure and the resolution of historical injustice. He challenges the empty moral logic of “never again” or the theoretical reduction of evil to a cycle of violence and counterviolence, broken only once evil is remembered for what it was. Meister criticizes such methods for their deferral of justice and susceptibility to exploitation.

Robert Meister is professor of social and political thought in the Department of the History of Consciousness at the University of California, Santa Cruz. An active participant in California higher education politics, he is director of the Bruce Initiative on Rethinking Capitalism at UCSC and the author of After Evil: A Politics of Human Rights and Political Identity: Thinking Through Marx

Libidinal and Political Economies: Sex, Money, and the Unconscious

Talk by Maya Andrea Gonzalez and Book Presentation by Samo Tomšič
Organized by BICAR, Hosted by 98weeks
Thursday November 26, 7pm, 98weeks Project Space (address below)

Maya Andrea Gonzalez (UC Santa Cruz) will discuss with Marwa Arsanios (98weeks) and Anne van Leeuwen (James Madison University), the relationship between sex, love and money within the libidinal economy. They will approach this topic from three analytical perspectives: (Marx) money as a title to social wealth; (Lacan) money as signifier, surplus and remainder; (Foucault) money as an apparatus of governance. Looking at the circuits of money and commodities within the libidinal and informal economy today, money, sex and the work of intimacy will be illuminated as a site of subjectivation and criminalization under conditions of austerity. Furthermore, the rise of the “anti-trafficking” movement–an apparatus emerging to manage migrant surplus-populations–is currently deploying radical-feminist saviorist discourses in order to expand the detention-industrial-complex through the redemption of “young girls.” This presentation hopes to critically examine the political stakes underlying “the war against sex-slavery” by first outlining the class-relation between sex and money. Through the methodologies and structural analytics of Marxism and psycho-analysis, it also hopes to open up a discussion of revolutionary feminist Foucaultian strategies to confront the anti-trafficking apparatus as it currently unfolds.

The talk is followed by the presentation and discussion of The Capitalist Unconscious: Marx and Lacan, a book by Samo Tomšič. Samo Tomšič will be in a roundtable discussion with Nadia Bou Ali (BICAR), Anne van Leeuwen (James Madison University), and Sami Khatib (BICAR).

The Capitalist Unconscious: Marx and Lacan is amajor systematic study of the connection between Marx and Lacan’s work Despite a resurgence of interest in Lacanian psychoanalysis, particularly in terms of the light it casts on capitalist ideology—as witnessed by the work of Slavoj Žižek—there remain remarkably few systematic accounts of the role of Marx in Lacan’s work. A major, comprehensive study of the connection between their work, “The Capitalist Unconscious” resituates Marx in the broader context of Lacan’s teaching and insists on the capacity of psychoanalysis to reaffirm dialectical and materialist thought. Lacan’s unorthodox reading of Marx refigured such crucial concepts as alienation, jouissance and the Freudian ‘labour theory of the unconscious’. Tracing these developments, Tomšič maintains that psychoanalysis, structuralism and the critique of political economy participate in the same movement of thought; his book shows how to follow this movement through to some of its most important conclusions.

Maya Andrea Gonzalez is a Marxist feminist from Oakland California. She is currently a PhD candidate in The History of Consciousness department at University of California at Santa Cruz working on a dissertation thesis on Lotta Femminista, the group who founded the Wages for Housework movement in Italy in the 1970s. Her work is an intellectual history of the movement focusing on a theory of reproductive labor from primitive accumulation to the present. She is also a member of the journal Endnotes. Currently she is working on themes of violence, race and the capitalist state form with respect to slavery, prostitution and the sex-trade.

Samo Tomšič obtained his PhD in philosophy at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. In the past he has worked at the Institute of Philosophy in Ljubljana and at the Jan van Eyck Academy in Maastricht, and is currently research assistant in the interdisciplinary cluster Image Knowledge Gestaltung at the Humboldt University in Berlin. His research areas comprise continental philosophy, structuralism, psychoanalysis, critical theory and epistemology. He is also co-editor (with Andreja Zevnik) of Jacques Lacan Between Psychoanalysis and Politics (Routledge, 2016).

Anne van Leeuwen is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at James Madison University (USA). She has a PhD in Philosophy from the New School for Social Research and wrote a dissertation on Luce Irigaray. She is co-editing a volume on Simone de Beauvoir and Luce Irigaray that is forthcoming with Oxford University Press. Her current research is in structuralist and poststructuralist theory.

BICAR.The mission of the Beirut Institute for Critical Analysis and Research (BICAR) is to develop and encourage research in critical thought and a practice of critical pedagogy. Through workshops, seminars, public discussions, and publications, BICAR will provide a platform for researchers, teachers, academics, artists, writers, students, and interested members of the public to engage critically with social, cultural, and political developments. BICAR is committed  to the relationships between intellectual inquiry, social reality, political praxis, and concrete change. In light of its locale in Beirut and Lebanon, BICAR aims to create an environment for collective reflection, analysis, and response to the contradictions of labor, capital, production, and subjectivization in conditions of globalisation.