What are the key characteristics of the contemporary culture of acceleration? How has the pursuit of speed impacted upon contemporary subjectivity, upon strategies of warfare and terrorism, or upon experiences of space and time? How have theorists, activists, writers, artists, and filmmakers responded to the speed-up of contemporary life? Is there necessarily a connection between speed and destruction, or can high-speed technologies serve a progressive or radical agenda? Is speed truly, as Paul Virilio has claimed, ‘the location and the law, the world’s destiny and its destination’, or do movements exist that offer viable alternatives to the contemporary culture of acceleration?
The Dromocratic Condition: Contemporary Cultures of Acceleration
An international, multi-disciplinary conference hosted by the School of English, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
Saturday 12 and Sunday 13 March, 2005
Douglas Kellner (UCLA, USA)
John Armitage (Northumbria, UK)
Theories of contemporary culture have foregrounded the significance of ‘late capitalism’ or ‘post-Fordism’ (Jameson; Harvey); simulation and ‘hyper-reality’ (Baudrillard); information technology and the ‘inhuman’ (Lyotard); the ‘panopticon’ (Foucault); ‘communicative action’ (Habermas); ‘desiring-production’ and schizophrenia (Deleuze and Guattari); risk (Ulrich Beck); and the cyborg (Haraway).
An alternative theorisation – which intersects with these perspectives, but diverges from them – views acceleration as the defining feature of the contemporary era. The French cultural theorist Paul Virilio has coined the term ‘dromocracy’ (from the Greek dromos: avenue or race course) to characterise this position. Under Virilio’s ‘dromocratic’ reading of history, scientific, technological, societal, military, and cultural change is propelled by the pursuit of ever-increasing speed. Our own era – with its fibre-optic cables, satellite-linked communications networks, supersonic aircraft, and cruise missiles – is, Virilio suggests, approaching the limits of acceleration, and teeters on the edge of the ‘integral accident’ – the true end of modernity.
This conference invites papers that explore any aspect of what the social theorist John Armitage – re-orientating Lyotard’s famous assessment of the contemporary – has called the ‘dromocratic condition’.
The organisers envisage that a special issue of the journal Cultural Politics (http://www.bergpublishers.com/uk/culture/culture_about.htm) will result from the papers at the conference.
Please send proposals (250-300 words) for 20-minute papers to Paul Crosthwaite at the e-mail address or mailing address given below by 23 December 2004. Updates and accommodation information will appear on the conference web site (http://www.dromocratic.visitnewcastlegateshead.com).
University of Newcastle upon Tyne
School of English
Newcastle upon Tyne
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