Tom Vandeputte is lecturer in continental philosophy and critical theory at the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam, where he also directs the Critical Studies department. He studied humanities at Birkbeck College, University of London and completed a PhD in philosophy at Goldsmiths College, where he remains affiliated with the Centre for Philosophy and Critical Thought. He has held teaching positions at the University of Amsterdam, the Free University Amsterdam, Birkbeck College, and King’s College London. Tom’s work focuses on twentieth-century theories of history and language, particularly in their relation to political thought.
He is currently working on a book project on the nexus of language, history, and justice in Walter Benjamin’s writings on Karl Kraus. In the past, he has written extensively about the crisis in higher education and alternative models of study. Together with Tim Ivison he edited Contestations (Bedford Press, 2013); he is also co-editor of Politics of Study, a collection of conversations developed in collaboration with Sidsel Meineche Hansen (Open Editions, 2015). He is co-founder of The New Reader, a journal for theory at the intersection of art, philosophy, and politics.
Philologies of Fascism:
Notes on Language and Politics
ICI Project 2018-19
Language is a recurrent concern in the analyses of the twentieth-century fascist movements by their contemporaries. This holds true not only of investigations dedicated entirely to the language of fascism, such as Klemperer’s Lingua Tertii Imperii, the famous collection of philological remarks produced during the 1930s. Also in the work of thinkers like Kraus, Arendt, Adorno, Bachmann or Pasolini, the attempt to understand fascism as a political phenomenon turns at decisive points into a scrutiny of its phrases and tropes, its idiom and diction, its characteristic modes of speech and writing. This project explores the thought that, often implicitly, structures these investigations: the hypothesis that any attempt to understand fascism – to grasp its specificity and novelty – must involve a study of its language.
Fascism, so these authors suggest, can be thought as a political phenomenon only insofar as it is also treated as a linguistic phenomenon. Before it has crystallised into an ideology or taken the form of totalitarian rule, fascism announces itself as a distinct configuration of language, thought and experience. Tracing the elaboration of this hypothesis in the writings on fascism produced during the emergence and aftermath of the totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century, I explore how these philological inquiries shed light on a number of issues that continue to haunt our historical and political moment: the relation between language and affect, speech and violence, truth and lying, protected and disposable lives.
Images of Arrested Time in Kierkegaard and Benjamin
ICI Project 2017-18
In this project I examine how notions of standstill, stasis, and interruption may help to rethink the constitution of historical time. Focusing on the images of arrested time that appear at decisive points in the work of Kierkegaard and Benjamin, I will elaborate an apparently simple thought: that history is, contrary to a persistent assumption, not to be conceived in terms of development or progress but takes place precisely in an interruption of the course of history.
To follow this thought means to challenge conceptions of history that rely on the simple opposition of movement and stagnation, stasis and kinesis, which find their exemplary expression in the representation of history as the progression of a human subject through time. If the failure of history to erupt is, today, best captured as the movement of a machine rotating on the spot, historical time must be rethought as a moment of genuine standstill – a now where history ceases to unfold as an inexorable succession and time itself is brought to a halt.