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Ausgabe 1, Band 13 – Dezember 2023

Report on the 16th Annual Meeting of the Hannah Arendt Circle

Katherine Brichacek, Magnus Ferguson

The 16th Annual Hannah Arendt Circle met June 26–29th, 2023 at the University of Verona in Verona, Italy. This year’s conference was organized by Katherine Brichacek (University of Southern California), Magnus Ferguson (The University of Chicago), Olivia Guaraldo (University of Verona), and Valentina Moro (DePaul University and University of Verona). Additionally, the Circle received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 101029336.

As in previous years, abstract submissions on any aspect of Hannah Arendt’s thought were considered for presentation. The organizing committee received a record 139 submissions from six continents, which was more than double the number of submissions received the year prior. Situated in Northern Italy, the University of Verona’s Hannah Arendt Center hosted over sixty participants and visitors—many of whom were able to attend in person because of this year’s European location.

Prior to paper presentations, the first day of the conference consisted of an introductory panel discussion and two invited talks. In honor of the 60th anniversary of Arendt’s On Revolution, James Barry Jr. (Indiana University Southeast), Roger Berkowitz (Bard College), Tal Correm (New York University), Jennifer Gaffney (Loyola University Chicago), Olivia Guaraldo (University of Verona), and Yasemin Sari (Seattle University) collaboratively guided the audience through several difficult and provocative sections of the text. Additionally, the University of Verona’s Hannah Arendt Center’s year-long invited speaker series was woven into the first day of the conference. Peg Birmingham (DePaul University) continued the discussion of On Revolution in her talk, and Fanny Söderbäck (Södertörn University) brought Saidiya Hartman and Adriana Cavarero into conversation with Arendt on narration. Simona Forti (Scuola Normale Superiore) moderated both talks and provided lucid and rewarding commentary throughout the entire conference.

The remaining three days were filled with insightful and innovative interpretations and applications of Arendt’s thought. A theme of care, affect, and forgiveness ran through several of the panels on Tuesday. Marieke Borren’s (Open University of the Netherlands) and Maria Robaszkiewicz’s (Paderborn University) papers investigated care as a proto-normative commitment and component of common speech, respectively. Arendt’s theories of violence, promise, and forgiveness (Ka-yu Hui, Boston College), as well as emotions in Eichmann in Jerusalem (Sanjana Rajagopal, Fordham University) were heartily debated. Care, and failures of care, were applied to the experience of gaslighting (Kate Bermingham, Bucknell University), and Giuseppe Aprile (Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna) applied queer theory to provide a reparative reading of Arendt’s theory of judgement.

This year’s Circle also benefited from careful analyses of Arendt’s engagement with the Greek and Roman political traditions (Dana Villa, University of Notre Dame), Arendtian approaches to contemporary political mobilization (Yasemin Sari, Seattle University), and the status of the social in Arendt’s political ontology (Ziyi Amanda Fu, Northwestern University). Several presenters paired Arendt with a range of contemporaries and interlocutors – Édouard Glissant on archipelagic citizenship (Jennifer Gaffney, Loyola University), Gloria Anzaldúa on language and identity (Val King, DePaul University), Rosa Luxemburg on ‘the republican question’ (Angela Maione, Harvard University) – in ways that simultaneously nuanced and applied pressure to Arendt’s thinking. Finally, the conference was enriched by skillful applications of Arendt’s thought to a range of arts, including improvisatory jazz (Joris Roelofs, University of Amsterdam), Shakespeare’s Hamlet (Paul Dahlgren, Georgia Southwest State University), and architecture (Giacomo Mormino, University of Verona). The conference ended with an analysis of the material predicament of our shared world (Lucy Benjamin, University of Melbourne), fittingly concluding our time together with a discussion of Arendtian praxis.

Each panel included an invited correspondent whose scholarship within Arendt’s corpus warranted their special invitation. Thank you to Daniele Bassi (University of Cambridge), Lucy Benjamin (University of Melbourne), Gabriele Parrino (Scuola Normale Superiore), and Elvira Roncalli (Carroll College) for moderating and providing additional perspectives on the topics presented, not only in their panels but throughout the conference’s events.

The 17th annual Hannah Arendt Circle will be hosted by Tal Correm and New York University. Magnus Ferguson will take over as executive director, Valentino Moro will act as the abstract reviewer, and Sanjana Rajagopal will serve as a graduate assistant. Due to the popularity and success of this year’s European-based Circle, there is a strong desire to hold future meetings in a diversity of locations to accommodate the plurality of Arendtian scholars worldwide.

Thanks again to this year’s executive director, Katherine Brichacek; abstract reviewer, Magnus Ferguson; and hosts Olivia Guaraldo and Valentino Moro. The conference was a success because of the University of Verona and its Hannah Arendt Center and could not have happened without Valentina Moro’s Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant.