Over the last decade contemporary Italian thought has enjoyed enormous intellectual
and editorial success in the United States. The work of Giorgio Agamben, Antonio Negri
writing with Michael Hardt, Paolo Virno, Adriana Cavarero, and more recently Roberto
Esposito and Rosi Braidotti, have placed Italian thought at the heart of current debates on
topics as wide-ranging as bioengineering, globalization, and feminism. In ways that recall
the success of French poststructuralism in the 1980s, Italian thought today appears
increasingly to be setting the terms of both philosophical and political debates in this
country. Yet such success raises a number of questions, in particular about the very features of Italian philosophical tradition that might account for such a result. In other words, if asked to sketch the principal features of Italian thought that join together philosophers as different as Cavarero, Agamben, and Negri, how might one reply? What is it that separates Italian thought from other philosophical traditions, and what might account for its importance today? As Negri asks, where does the Italian difference lie?
Although there are many possible responses, one undeniable feature linking some of
the most powerful exponents of contemporary Italian thought is the decisive weight
afforded the notion of the “common.” Certainly, Giorgio Agamben’s quasi-manifesto The
Coming Community from 1994 merits attention, as does Hardt and Negri’s theorization of
the coming together of commonality and singularity in the figure of the multitude in Empire and Multitude. So too does the “common” run through Adriana Cavarero’s reading of “horrorism” in terms of the body politic, Paolo Virno’s emphasis on the shared capacities of labor, Rosi Braidotti’s displacement of communal bonds in favor of a Deleuzian nomadology, and more recently Roberto Esposito’s analysis of the reciprocal relation between community and immunity. One common ground (though clearly not the only one) of recent Italian philosophical iterations will be found in a shared orientation towards reconceptualizing the common.
It is in this context that the diacritics conference “Commonalities: Contemporary
Italian Thought and Theorizing the Common” will take place. Organized as a series of
individual interventions by some of the leading figures of contemporary Italian thought,
with responses from American critics, the conference will provide not only a moment to
reflect upon the roots of Italian thought today, but also an occasion to ask after future
iterations of Italian thought, and to pose more specific questions about genealogies of the
common across a centuries-long history of the Italian peninsula.
The conference will take place at Cornell University under the auspices of the journal
diacritics. For further information, please contact Timothy Campbell (firstname.lastname@example.org).