Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Theorie der Politik

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Symposium 2023: Bonnie Honig's "Political Theory and the Displacement of Politics"

On January 20th the Research and teaching area Theory of Politics organizes a symposium with Bonnie Honig on her book "Political Theory and the Displacement of Politics". The event will take place from 2-6:45 pm in the Auditorium Grimm Zentrum.

Thirty Years of Political Theory and the Displacement of Politics
A Symposium with Bonnie Honig

January 20th 2023


Auditorium Grimm-Zentrum, Geschwister-Scholl-Straße 3, 10117 Berlin (please use the side entrance at Geschwister-Scholl-Straße)
and online via Zoom

Organized by the Research and teaching area Theory of Politics of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin


Please join us for an afternoon of talks and discussion to mark the 30th anniversary of Political Theory and the Displacement of Politics. In this sea-change publication, Bonnie Honig argued in favor of political theories that allowed for contestation and contingency – that is, for politics as a haphazard human endeavor. Thirty years later, prof. Bonnie Honig joins us to look back upon its claims and its enduring relevance for contemporary issues, and to discuss her current research on feminist refusal.


To register and receive the Zoom-Link, please send an email to before January 18th 2023






Ieva Motuzaite & Liesbeth Schoonheim (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)


Panel discussion: Reflections on 30 Years of Political Theory and the Displacement of Politics

Bonnie Honig (Brown University)

Samira Akbarian (Goethe-Universität Frankfurt)

Jeanette Ehrmann (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)

Mareike Gebhardt (Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster)

Viktoria Hügel (Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg)



Lecture by Bonnie Honig (Brown University), followed by a reading of The Bacchae by Avrina Prabala-Joslin

Lecture: The Couple and the Crowd: Performativity and Contagion in Eve Sedgwick and J.L. Austin

In Euripides’ Bacchae, the 2015 film The Fits, and John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice (1970), refusal is contagious. But each represents a different model of contagion. In the Bacchae, refusal breaks out all-at-once; in The Fits, a contagion passes through a community in a sequence, which allows it to mutate as it travels; and in A Theory of Justice, refusal is a contagion that turns out to be isolable. In each of these examples, efforts to contain the contagion are made via “deformatives,” Eve Sedgwick’s term for Austinian performative utterances that are, she says, “uniquely contagious.” Might contagion be reworked for democratic theory? Deformatives shame or stigmatize gender queerness which, Sedgwick argues, is marginalized by Austin’s focus on the “I do” of the straight couple as an exemplary performative in How To Do Things with Words. I read Austin differently, noting his repeated and neglected turn not just to the couple but also to the crowd, which is gathered and dispersed by a bull that may be about to charge. This is the first of three counterexamples explored here that may summon a democratic theory of contagion: each isolates, mutates or emancipates a contagion but in ways less predictable or absorbing: Austin’s bull (isolable, yet uncontainable because undecidable), Hortense Spillers’ characterization of the U.S. constitution as a virus that may mutate (the sequence model), and Patricia Williams’s depiction of an alchemy of rights (the all-at-once model of outbreak).

Reading: Avrina Prabala-Joslin (1992, Tamil Nadu) writes fiction, non-fiction, and bardic verse. Avrina will read selected scenes from The Bacchae (by Euripides, translated by Nicholas Rudall) and The Bacchae of Euripides: A Communion Rite (by Wole Soyinka).




Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Kultur-, Sozial- und Bildungswissenschaftliche Fakultät
Institut für Sozialwissenschaften
Unter den Linden 6
10099 Berlin



Institut für Sozialwissenschaften
Universitätsstraße 3b
10117 Berlin