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Symposium at the University of Amsterdam, 5th – 7th June 2019 | Keynote speakers: Sarah Clancy, Jim Hicks, Frank Keizer | Dates: The event will commence in the late afternoon of 5th June and end by early afternoon of 7th June | A collaboration of ‘Contemporary Poetry and Politics’ (FFI2016-77584-P), The Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis, The Amsterdam Center for Globalization Studies, and the Netherlands Institute for Cultural Analysis. | Organizers: Cornelia Gräbner (Lancaster University), Joost de Bloois (University of Amsterdam).

Event details of Against the Grain: The Ethics, Poetics and Politics of Contrarian Speech
Start date 5 June 2019
End date 7 June 2019

Contrarianism gains momentum whenever a hegemony consolidates itself to such an extent that there is no longer space for the possibility of alternatives. The aims and the character of contrarian movements show themselves through the interplay of ethics, politics and poetics in concrete examples of contrarian speech and contrarian practices. With the symposium ‘Against the Grain: The Ethics, Poetics and Politics of Contrarian Speech’ we open up a space for the analytical exploration of this interplay, and for a sharing of practices that oppose both the status quo of corporatism and neoliberalization, and the contrarian movements appropriating ‘free speech’ from the populist right, the alt-right, and neo-fascism.

Contrarianism can be a mode of getting to know the opponent from a committed position or perspective and, through this analytical practice, can produce dissident knowledges. Contrarianism can be a form of expression; in the face of a stifling hegemony, its poetics can nurture desires and open up new horizons. Contrarian practice can take many forms, among them opposition, resistance, dissent, non-cooperation, contestation, subversion, or sabotage. It can be practiced from within a system, from its margins, or from an outsider position. Today, contrarianism is also weaponized as a rhetorical strategy by political movements that seek to consolidate or radicalize existing power structures (be it regarding class, gender or race), or obfuscate their ruthless pursuit of their economic interests. The contrarian defiance of supposed ‘political correctness’ and the left-liberal ‘elite’ in no small measure has contributed to the success of such movements. This symposium, a collaboration between the research project ‘Contemporary Poetry and Politics’ (FFI2016-77584-P) and the University of Amsterdam, approaches contrarian speech by bringing together the poetic and the analytical, ethics and politics.

Against the Grain: The Ethics, Politics and Poetics of Contrarian Speech


Location: 5th June VOC Zaal (Bushuis) 16.30-19hrs

6th-7th June Roeterseilandcomplex JK 3.50 (9.30-18hrs)


Wed 5th June 2019

17hrs: Poetry, Protest, Precarity: Sarah Clancy and Frank Keizer 

Thu 6th June

9.30 hrs-10hrs: Welcome and Introduction by Joost de Bloois and Cornelia Gräbner

10hrs – 12 hrs: Panel 1: The New Right, Reactionary Conservatism and Neo-fascism: Countering the Claim to Contrarian Speech

Moderator: Anne Shea

Marcel Obst, University of Warwick, UK: Won't Somebody Please Think of the Children? Antifeminism and the Demonising of ‘Gender Ideology’ in Spain

Anthi Argyriou, University of Amsterdam, NL: Dissident Voices in Times of Crisis and How to Silence Them: The Case of Pavlos Fyssas’ Murder by Fascist Golden Dawn

Joseph Keady, University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA: Ambivalent Anti-Modernity and the Aesthetics of White Nationalism

Teresa Retzer, Independent Scholar: Today’s New Right Movements in Germany and across Europe: Old and New Ideologies against the ‘Free World’

12hrs -13hrs: Discussion 

13hrs – 14hrs: Lunch at Café CREA

14hrs – 15hrs: Film Screening of LampeduSani (2014), a film by Costanza Quatriglio with a screenplay by Costanza Quatriglio and Erri De Luca, produced by 

Introduction and Contextualization: Anna Botta, Smith College, U.S.

15hrs – 17hrs: Panel 2: Poetry and Performance against the Grain: Intimacy, Subversion, and claiming public space

Moderator: Ilka Kressner

Samuel O’Donoghue, Lancaster University, UK: The Subversion of Francoist Rhetoric in

Post-War Spanish Poetry

Christina Karageorgou-Bastea, Vanderbilt University, U.S.: Contestation, Justice and Intimacy: A Parallel Reading of Jaime Gil de Biedma’s Diarios (1959-1965) and Moralidades

Anne Mulhal, University College Dublin, Ireland: Politics, poetry and protest: identity politics,‘left’ contrarians and the politics of culture in contemporary Ireland

Marco de Waard, Amsterdam University College, NL: Contrary Virtuosos? Arendt, Virno, and the Paradoxes of a Liminal Figure

17hrs – 18:30hrs: Borrel Dinner

18:30hrs-20:00hrs: Public Keynote Lecture by Dr Jim Hicks: “The Instigation I Aspire to”: Contrarian Education in the Writing of Erri De Luca and in the Halls of Hampshire College.”

Followed by a round table debate with Jim Hicks and Harriet Bergman (Code Rood)

Afterwards: Drinks at Café CREA

Friday 7th June

10hrs-12 hrs: Panel 3: The Poetics of Speech and Public Space

Moderator: Samuel O’Donoghue

Maria Boletsi, University of Amsterdam, Leiden University, NL: Grammars of Contrarianism in the Greek Crisis-scape: The Political Potential of the Middle Voice

Geneviève Fabry, UCLouvain, Belgium: Raúl Zurita's land art as contrarian poetic gesture?

Ilka Kressner, SUNY, U.S.: Rafael Acevedo’s Cynical Voice in Art: A Possible Counter-Narrative?

Anne Shea, California College of Art, U.S.: Claudia Rankine: Against the Racial Imaginary

12hrs – 13hrs: Lunch at Café CREA

13 hrs-14.30 hrs: Panel 4: Imposing Normativity: Imaginaries of Progress and Nostalgia

Moderator: Maria Boletsi

Karen van Minnen, University of Amsterdam, NL: Oppositional Defiant Disorder or Contrarian Speech: The Terrific Murder of (S)Jack the Elephant

Kristine Johanson, University of Amsterdam, NL: Nostalgia as Contrarian Discourse in Contemporary American and British Politics

Calvin Duggan, University of Amsterdam, NL: Corbyn and Contrarianism: A Material-Discursive Analysis of the NHS Crisis

14.30-15hrs Final discussion