Adorno and Identity – Virtual Workshop and Special Issue of Adorno Studies

Jonathon Catlin's picture
Call for Papers
October 12, 2020
Subject Fields: 
Ethnic History / Studies, German History / Studies, Jewish History / Studies, Philosophy, Sexuality Studies

A virtual workshop on “Adorno and Identity,” with papers intended for publication in a special issue of the journal Adorno Studies, is now accepting abstracts from potential contributors.

Negative dialectics, Theodor Adorno wrote, “is suspicious of all identity.” Nevertheless, identity is one of the central concepts linking together Adorno’s wide-ranging corpus. This issue pursues a timely and interdisciplinary revisitation of the notions of identity, the nonidentical, and negative identity in Adorno, prompted by several recent studies: Eric Oberle’s Theodor Adorno and the Century of Negative Identity, Fumi Okiji’s Jazz As Critique: Adorno and Black Expression Revisited, and Oshrat Silberbusch’s Adorno’s Philosophy of the Nonidentical: Thinking as Resistance. These works serve as a common point of departure for revisiting Adorno’s thought at a moment in which identity has become a central and hotly debated concept. The goal of this issue is twofold: to use Adorno’s work to develop more conceptually robust and nuanced notions of identity and nonidentity, and to advance critical theory by connecting Adorno’s work to broader conversations about identity in adjacent fields.

Contributors will revisit Adorno’s writings on race, fascism, antisemitism, gender, and sexuality alongside his conception of subjectivity as a dialectic of identity and non-identity in his works of philosophy and writings on art, literature, and music. In particular, this issue offers an opportunity to restage missed encounters between Adorno and Black thought and music. Noting that “what [Adorno] fails to realize is that jazz emerges from a subject constituted by the holding of contradictory positions”—a subject that is not self-identical—Okiji’s work considers jazz as a form of critical self-reflection within Black life that “creates an unstable, ever constellating gathering of difference” and thereby approaches the “union of differentiation” and “difference without fear” that Adorno called for. Oberle’s study of “negative identity” highlights the contact Adorno made in exile with American sociology and racial violence and explores resonances with the rich legacy of W. E. B. Du Bois and his theorization of race as a “wound in the fabric of universality.” Silberbusch’s philosophical study recenters the nonidentical as a powerful tool for making visible and resisting social suffering. Contributors are invited to engage with these projects and expand upon Adorno’s conception of dialectics as “nonidentity through identity,” broadly and imaginatively conceived, and especially to consider underexplored connections between Adorno’s work and ethnic, gender, and sexuality studies.

The editors of Adorno Studies have expressed their enthusiasm for this special issue, and the journal’s electronic format will allow the inclusion of audio-visual material such as music.

Planned contributors, expanding on a previous workshop that took place at the German Studies Association annual conference in 2019 include: Asaf Angermann, Jonathon Catlin, Eric Oberle, Fumi Okiji, Oshrat Silberbusch, Martin Shuster, Sebastian Truskolaski, and Moira Weigel.

Submission guidelines: Please submit abstracts of approximately 500 words and a short biographical note to Jonathon Catlin at by Monday, Oct. 12, 2020. A virtual workshop for participants to exchange drafts and a virtual public roundtable event for broader discussion on the topic are planned for December 2020 or January 2021 at a date suitable for all invited participants.

Contact Info: 

Jonathon Catlin, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of History, Princeton University

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