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Khôra: Surfaces, Topographies, and Topologies in 20th and 21st Centuries Thought

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Organizer: James Martell

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Among philosophy and theory’s most enigmatic concepts appears the notion of “khôra”, an “area,” “field,” or genetic “surface,” but also a “mother” or “wet nurse,” appearing in Plato’s Timaeus as a third genre of things, that is neither informed nor the forms themselves. In 20th century theory, philosophers like Julia Kristeva and Derrida brought back “khora” as an operative concept allowing us to think a diversity of questions regarding genesis, origins, gender and sexuality, but also geography, topography, and topologies, and with them, democracy and its limits or lack thereof. 

This promise of a thought of genetic spaces and surfaces took different forms at the end of the 20th century, straddling not only ontology and ontogenesis, but also aesthetics, and gender studies. From Lyotard’s tension between the different kind of inscriptions constituted by discourses and figures, Lacan's topologies and knots, to Derrida’s notion of the trace and the neglected surface on which it is traced, inscribed, and sometimes violently carved in, to Deleuze and Guattari’s different planes, deterritorializations and territorializations marking grooves not only on the earth but also on canvases and even faces, up to Badiou’s absolute space where ensembles take place, the unthought of all thinking seems to be not space as a Kantian category a priori, but rather space as it is concretized and embodied on the different surfaces of our marks, discourses, and steps. 

In this panel, presenters are invited to investigate different surfaces of thought and creation in contemporary philosophy and theory. Among some subjects of reflection we have: (a) Platonic, Derridean, or Kristevan Khôra and their relevance today, (b) topographies and topologies and their relation to eco-criticism and Anthropocene, (c) bodily surfaces in theory, psychoanalysis, and philosophy, (d) literary and artistic surfaces and topologies and how they think, (e) topographies and topologies between philosophy and science.

Interested scholars should direct their queries to


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