Reading the Enemies

Reading the enemies





Reading the Enemies is a research project and a series of workshops that will be held in the UK and in Finland during 2018. In the workshops invited artists and theoreticians from the broad range of humanities present readings of their ‘enemies’ – that is, texts or discourses that they assess to be manifestly in opposition to their own theoretical or political premises. How to understand the idea of enemy is left at the discretion of the speakers. An enemy can be an author who represents a political stance to which the participant is opposed, a theoretical opponent in the same discipline, or perhaps both at the same time. It can also be problematised whether it is useful to talk about enemies in this sense at all.


The project looks into different ways in which political positions take form in theoretical and artistic practices. The project pays specific attention to oppositional modes of these positional formations. The speakers are asked to explicate and analyse the positions that form the background of their readings, and reflect on the intellectually and politically legitimating principles at work in them. In this way, their readings help analyse the political stakes of the respective fields of the participants and map out the dividing lines of their theoretical practice. The problematic of the workshops asks how theoretical practice gives rise to the principles that guide and qualify it, and how this kind of work relates to its material, historical and institutional conditions.


Early career+Format of the workshops


On the spring of 2018, four workshops will take place in the premises of Middlesex University, London. The workshops continue in the autumn, from August to November. There will be eight autumn workshops, and their schedule will be published during the summer. In Finland, the workshops will take place in the traditional summer school of Tutkijaliitto. The summer school


Reading the Enemies is made in collaboration with a Finnish association of researchers Tutkijaliitto, Middlesex University, and Kone Foundation. The project is run by Jaakko Karhunen and Jussi Palmusaari.


Theoretical context and research


The notion of enmity constitutes one of central problems of the project: How do theoretical and artistic practices constitute their positions in relation to enemies? What are the modes of reading that such constitutions implicate or put to work? The contradiction that exists between the notions of reading and enemy is the starting point of the research project. The notion of enemy serves to mark a fundamental difference, the most extreme oppositional quality, a pure exclusion, or an impossibility of a shared meaning. The notion of reading, in contrast, implies a possibility for a meaningful articulation of a relation to that which one is speaking of. How, then, to subject the enemy to a reading practice without rendering it into a partner in a dialogue? How to read an enemy while retaining it as a fundamental point of opposition and not intending to compromise one’s own position?




25th of April, 6– 8 p.m., Peter Ely: Reading Margaret Thatcher: Neoliberalism and Community

Middlesex University, Barn 2


The first workshop will be given by Peter Ely, who recently completed his PhD at Kingston University. He will give a reading of a selection of Margaret Thatcher key speeches. By returning to this founding figure of neoliberalism, Ely proposes that the state of current left-wing politics can be better understood. The decline of the notion of community comes to be seen as one of the main feats of neoliberalism, and Ely suggests its re-appropriation as one possibility for the renewal of the left.



9th of May, 6 – 8 p.m., Maija Timonen: Why Love Hurts - the non-dialectics of sex 

Middlesex University, Barn 2





23rd of May, 6 – 8 p.m., Robert Kiely: Killing/Kindness

Middlesex University, Barn 2




6th of June, 6 – 8 p.m., Maria Chehonadskih, Reading the Enemies: Racism and Nationalism

Middlesex University, College Building C110


In the last workshop of this spring, Maria Chehonadskih will focus on the common and deceptively innocent question: where are you from? By a close reading of Étienne Balibar’s classic essays ‘Is There a ‘Neo-Racism?’ and ‘Racism and Nationalism’ (1988), Chehonadskih attempts to reveal the racism inherent in the state policy that ranks people according their nativity. Nationalism and racism appear to be interlinked through the dual practices of state taxonomisation and the mundane discourse on belonging and identity.