Research seminar: Naomi Waltham-Smith (CIM, Warwick), Silent Feeling: What French Thought can Tell Us About the Limits of Free Speech
Earlier this year the Higher Education Minister Frédérique Vidal alleged that French academia is "gangrened with Isalmo-gauchisme” and members of Macron’s government have vied to outdo the Rassemblement National on anti-immigrant sentiment, rejecting concepts of 'state racism' and 'whiteness' as American imports incompatible with French universalism. As French scholars thus contend with intensified assaults on academic freedom not entirely dissimilar to the ones we face in the UK at the hands of a state likewise wedded to ongoing colonialism, what resources does recent French philosophy have for analysing and mounting resistance to this critical juncture? With particular focus on the differences and disagreements between Lyotard’s différend and Rancière’s mésentente, and alongside Derrida’s thinking about responsibility and silence, Foucault’s late work on parrhēsia and listening, and some recent trajectories in analytic voice epistemology, I will argue that we cannot reckon with the limits of free speech or academic freedom without considering the role of listening and its capacity to silence or let speak. The unequal distribution of voice disavowed by the marketplace-of-ideas models, is as much a function of the inequality of audibility as it is of uneven capacities to speak up.
Naomi Waltham-Smith is Reader in the Centre of Interdisciplinary Methodologies at the University of Warwick. Sitting at the intersection of recent European philosophy with music and sound studies, her work appears in journals including boundary 2, CR: The New Centennial Review, Diacritics, parallax, parrhesia, Philosophy Today, and Music Theory Spectrum. She is the author of Music and Belonging Between Revolution and Restoration (Oxford University Press, 2017), Shattering Biopolitics: Militant Listening and the Sound of Life (Fordham University Press, 2021), and Mapping (Post)colonial Paris by Ear (forthcoming with Cambridge University Press). She has—no doubt unwisely—accepted the challenge to write a book intervening in contemporary debates on freedom of expression.
Naomi's paper will be followed by a Response from Oliver Davis, Professor of French Studies, Warwick.More…