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Colin Wright

Associate Professor in Critical Theory, Faculty of Arts

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Expertise Summary

My general areas of research interest include French Critical Theory (particularly Derrida, Foucault, Deleuze & Guattari), Continental Philosophy (particularly poststructuralism and the critique of humanism), Psychoanalysis (particularly Freud, Lacan, and Zizek), and the intersections between Political and Postcolonial Theory (Agamben, Hardt & Negri, Spivak, Fanon, Garvey etc.). More specific research themes include the relationships between clinical psychoanalysis and the wider culture of mainstream psychiatry and psychology as well as the impacts of technology on notions of the unconscious.

Teaching Summary

My teaching has largely been in the areas of critical theory, cultural studies and aspects of communications theory. This year, after being on sabbatical in the first semester, I will be teaching the… read more

Research Summary

I am currently working on a book entitled Toxic Positivity: A Lacanian Critique of Happiness and Wellbeing. This draws on Lacanian theory but also contemporary Lacanian clinical practice in order to… read more

Selected Publications

  • WRIGHT, C., 2002. Centrifugal Logics: Eagleton and Spivak on the Place of `Place' in Postcolonial Theory Culture, Theory and Critique. VOL 43, 67-82
  • WRIGHT, C., 2006. Philosophy, Rhetoric, Ideology: Towards a Sophistic Democracy Auckland: Magnolia Press.
  • DEMARIA, C. and WRIGHT, C., eds., 2006. Post-conflict Cultures: Rituals of representation London: Zoilus Press.
  • WRIGHT, C., 2006. Power, Conflict, Visuality: Ironic Iteration in the Anti-Iraq War Movement Versus: Quaderni di studi semiotici. 100-101, 115-133

My teaching has largely been in the areas of critical theory, cultural studies and aspects of communications theory. This year, after being on sabbatical in the first semester, I will be teaching the following modules:

MA Level:

Critical and Cultural Theory Today which provides a survey of the key concepts in the rich and intersecting fields of critical theory and cultural studies, primarily of the mid-to-late 20th Century. However, it simultaneously maps recent shifts in debates about those key concepts that have helped to maintain their contemporary relevance in the 21st Century.

The Tradition of Critique which introduces postgraduate students across the University to the post-Kantian European philosophical tradition that has informed critical theory and cultural studies, including sessions on Hegel, Marx, Freud and Frankfurt School thinkers such as Adorno and Benjamin.

The Tradition of Critique 2 which builds on the first semester series to outline more recent and indeed contemporary thinkers who both draw on and challenge the 'cannon' of the European 'tradition of critique' itself, likely to include session on thinkers such as Fanon, Derrida, Spivak and Haraway.

Undergraduate Level:

Communications and Culture which introduces first year students to British Cultural Studies and its intersections with Communications Theory and Media Studies, touching on approaches such as Marxist political economy, psychoanalysis and feminism.

Self, Sign and Society which challenges conventional ways of thinking about identity, language and community by exploring structuralism and poststructuralism's impacts on cultural, social and political theory.

Researching Culture, Film and Media which introduces second year students to a range of research methodologies, from textual analysis to ethnography, appropriate to research in the fields of media and communications. I will be delivering workshops in Critical Discourse Analysis.

Current Research

I am currently working on a book entitled Toxic Positivity: A Lacanian Critique of Happiness and Wellbeing. This draws on Lacanian theory but also contemporary Lacanian clinical practice in order to criticise the rise of positive psychology and so-called Happiness Studies, as well as the related 'Wellbeing' agenda which is impacting on notions of health and what constitutes 'cure'. My overall claim is that the politics of health become increasingly important in our 'biopolitical' era, and that Lacanian psychoanalysis, particularly its clinical practice, represents an important ethical and political alternative to dominant consumer models of 'happiness' and neoliberal 'flourishing'.

Past Research

My past research has centred around psychoanalysis, philosophy and the politics of conflict. My most recent book was Badiou in Jamaica: The Politics of Conflict (Re.Press: 2013). This foregrounded the theme of conflict in Alain Badiou's work, running from his early Maoism through to his revitalisation of the Idea of Communism, but it also applied this re-reading of his work to the history of conflict in pre- and post-Independence Jamaica, focusing in particular on the Rastafari movement and reggae.

A conference and special issue of Paragraph: A Journal of Modern Critical Theory on 'Psychoanalysis and the Posthuman' in 2010 allowed me to explore how and why a certain reading of particularly Freudian psychoanalysis has been explicitly sidelined in most work in the field of posthumanism. It also raised the issue of the relationship between psychoanalysis and technology that I am continuing to explore in my current 'digital unconscious' project.

Psychoanalysis was also the focus of another single authored monograph Psychoanalysis (Critical, Cultural and Communications Press: 2008) which provided an introduction to Freud and post-Freudians such as Jung, Klein, and Lacan as well as to feminist critiques.

Emerging from my PhD, Philosophy, Rhetoric, Ideology: Towards a Sophistic Democracy (Magnolia: 2006) explored the ideological impact of classical and renaissance rhetorical theory on the discourses of philosophy, literature and politics. Drawing primarily on poststructuralist and post-Marxist theories, it outlined a sophistic understanding of democracy based on disensus rather than on consensus.

I have also co-edited (with Cristina Demaria), Post-Conflict Cultures: Rituals of Representation (Zoilus: 2006), which examined representations of conflict in five areas: the media, visual cultures, politics and the law, ethnicity and gender, and history and literature.

Future Research

I am in the early planning stages of a monograph exploring the broad relationship between psychoanalysis and technology, focusing in particular on what I am calling the 'digital unconscious'. This project will investigate Lacan's complex indebtedness to cybernetics, game theory and information theory as early as the 1950s, as well as the subsequent cultural and clinical impact of cybernetics on cognitive psychology and neuroscience, leading, today, to the emergence of neuropsychoanalysis. My aim is to distinguish between a deeply neoliberal model of the 'digital unconscious' that views the human subject as a re-programmable machine on the one hand, and the 'unconscious structured like a language' on which Lacan insisted on the other, which has, I will argue, distinct ethical and political implications.

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