CSPS PhD Course: Critical Perspectives on Social Theory


This PhD course gives participants an opportunity to intensively engage with some of the major foundational movements in critical social theory, so that they can continue to explore contemporary expansions of those movements in their own research. It is organized as an intensive discussion seminar over the course of four weeks (with two 3-hour sessions/week). With different specialized teachers for each session, from the chair groups RSO, SDC, GEO, SCH and beyond.

Learning Goals
After successful completion of this course, participants are expected to be able to:

  • Distinguish a range of positions in social theory
  • Critique understandings of the social world by contrasting different theoretical positions
  • Compose a coherent position with regard to multiple theoretical positions relevant to an issue


Critical social theoretical perspectives are a well-established and essential part of academic debate. For researchers entering into these debates, it is necessary to have at least basic understandings of many branches of theory, both to effectively carry out new research and to recognize subtle references to specific theories while engaging in dialogue with international audiences. Moreover, theoretical development is a cumulative process: as new theories come to the fore, they build on historical waves of previous development. To engage with new developments, it is therefore vital to have working knowledge of what preceded them.

This course intends to help researchers situate themselves in relation to different interpretations and lineages of major theoretical perspectives. The main objective is to give participants a brief opportunity to engage with some of the major foundational movements in critical social theory, so that they can continue to explore different expansions of those movements in their own research. To do so, the course is organised as an intensive discussion seminar over the course of four weeks, exploring 7 core theoretical topics. Each seminar will have its own set of required readings, which include both foundational literature and new research perspectives. Completing these readings is necessary for all students to contribute to discussion during the seminar meeting. These readings will require a substantial time commitment outside of the meeting hours, so participants will need to budget time accordingly in order to fully participate in the course.

In order to have enough time to complete the readings required for the first day of the course, registration is required by October 22. No registrations later than that date will be accepted.

From the 7 seminars, participants should take with them new understandings about the foundations of their own theoretical perspectives. These will include the following key topics in social theory, with some of the key authors we will read, introduced and guided by these associated experts:


Session 1 2018-11-05 14.00-17.00 Introduction to the course; Marx: Karl Marx Bram Buscher
Session 2 2018-11-06 14.00-17.00 Marxisms: David Harvey, Neil Smith Robert Coates
Session 3 2018-11-08 14.00-17.00 Governmentality and Psychoanalysis: Jacques Lacan, Slavoj Zizek Robert Fletcher
Session 4 2018-11-09 14.00-17.00 Governmentality and biopolitics: Michel Foucault, Paul Rabinow Stefan Wahlen
Session 5 2018-11-12 14.00-17.00 Posthumanism: Donna Haraway, Anna Tsing, Sarah Whatmore Clemens Driessen
Session 6 2018-11-13 14.00-17.00 Feminisms: Simone de Beauvoir, Judith Butler, Gibson-Graham Oona Morrow
Session 7 2018-11-14 14.00-17.00 (Post-) Colonialisms: Edward Said, Arundhati Roy, Gyatri Spivak Joost Jongerden

For more info and to register, click here.



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