Critical Theory Workshop



Villanova University, Department of Philosophy

Université Paris Descartes and Institut Mines-Télécom, Laboratoire mixte de recherche “Sens et compréhension du monde contemporain”

Collège International de Philosophie

Program Director

Prof. Gabriel Rockhill


Paris, France




The Critical Theory Workshop or Atelier de Théorie Critique is an intensive graduate-level seminar, which takes place every summer in Paris.  The primary objective of the Workshop is to provide an international forum for interdisciplinary and comparative research in critical theory, broadly construed.  Students are exposed to the work of contemporary thinkers and engage with current debates in the Francophone world.

The Workshop is comprised of a research seminar at the Université Paris Descartes as well as a series of public debates and discussions with leading intellectuals (past guests include Jacques Rancière, Nathalie Heinich and Olivier Voirol).

The language of instruction is English. However, it is highly recommended that applicants have some knowledge of the French language, which will be important for working with original texts in the research seminar and preparing for the debates with contemporary intellectuals.



Dates:  July 1-31, 2014

Location:  Université Paris Descartes, 45 rue des Saints-Pères, Paris, France

Schedule:  Meetings will take place 2-3 times a week in the mid to late afternoon

Tuition:  TBA*

Lodging:  Participants are welcome to make their own arrangements or reserve a room at the Cité internationale universitaire de Paris (approximately $900)


Research Seminar

Prof. Gabriel Rockhill

The research seminar is based on the close textual analysis of recently translated works that are related to a central theme.  A mini-conference with student presentations and responses will be scheduled for the last week of the program.

Theme 2014 / The Janus Face of Democracy: Urgency of an Untimely Question

This research seminar will critically analyze the Janus face of democracy by examining the tensions and contradictions between the dual roles that it has come to play in the contemporary world. On the one hand, democracy has in many ways come to represent the political good par excellence, and there is an extremely widespread consensus concerning the normative value of democracy as such. On the other hand, contemporary democracies are responsible for massive forms of violence and oppression around the world, ranging from highly questionable domestic policies to bloody military interventions abroad. What is the relationship between these two faces of democracy, between democracy as a supposed shield against oppression and democracy as a perpetrator of violence?

Potential Material:

G. Agamben, A. Badiou, D. Bensaïd, W. Brown, J.-L. Nancy, J. Rancière, K. Ross, S. Žižek, Democracy in What State? or La démocratie, dans quel état?

A. Badiou, P. Bourdieu, J. Butler, G. Didi-Huberman, S. Khiari, J. Rancière, What Is a People? or Qu’est-ce qu’un peuple?

E. Balibar, La proposition de l’égaliberté

Encounters with Contemporary Thinkers

Prof. Gabriel Rockhill

The Encounters series will provide an opportunity to publicly interview contemporary intellectuals on their work. As preparation, we will read select essays by the authors in question and collectively generate a series of questions for public discussion and debate. Invited guests will generally fall into three categories: prominent living philosophers, well-known specialists of contemporary Francophone thought, and important thinkers whose work has not yet been widely translated into English.

Confirmed participants for 2014 include: Pierre-Antoine Chardel, Bruno Karsenti, Guillaume Le Blanc, Adam Takacs and Patrick Vauday. 


Eligibility:  The program is open to anyone who is interested and has the requisite background.  It is primarily aimed at graduate students, but faculty, postdoctoral students and extremely advanced undergraduates are also welcome to apply. The Encounters series will be open to the general public.

Deadline:  Applications must be received by February 15, 2014.


Contact Prof. Gabriel Rockhill <>

* Limited tuition remission may be available in certain cases.