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Ethics and Exile


April 1st - May 13th


6pm - 9pm (CLOSED)


April 5th - May 17th


6pm - 9pm 9 (CLOSED)

It is part of morality not to be at home in one’s home

Theodor Adorno

Since World War I, intellectual life was formed by those who don’t belong. In this seminar, we will engage the work of writers in exile, exploring the relationship between their individual situation and the condition of modernity at large. How have reflections on exile challenged the content of traditional thought, as well as its structure of inclusion and exclusion, right and wrong? How might the past century, in which exile took physical and existential form, help us grapple with the present moment?

In the first half of the seminar, we will survey the history of modern ethics, beginning with the Enlightenment. By looking at the emergence of ethics as an autonomous category, we will consider the implications of its separation from other domains of life. Did the concurrent developments of colonialism and capitalism benefit from the separation? How do our commonsensical notions of ethics relate to this history? 

We will then turn to the 20th century, asking how various forms of displacement - under fascism, settler-colonialism, and nationalism - reflect a gap in modern ethics. In reading the work of writers in exile, we will figure the way in which being on the “outside” allowed for new modes of ethical inquiry. Material includes Theodor Adorno, Hannah Arendt, Edward Said, and Judith Butler, as well as literary and aesthetic phenomena.

In the second half of the seminar, we will explore the concept of exile beyond geographic displacement. Does the exile of a particular group affect how we conceive of ourselves even within stable borders? Can we be exiled without ever leaving our homes? In considering exile as a diffuse phenomenon, we will look at how other aspects of modernity - such as mass production and consumer culture - displace us from everyday life.

Throughout the course, we will consider Amman’s unique relation to the subject. The city’s population is the effect of geographic displacement: from Circassians and Armenians to Palestinians and Syrians. Yet, Jordan’s colonial past and strategic location have left it open to neocolonial and neoliberal design. Can Amman think ethically in relation to its exilic constitution, or is that hope tempered by thoughtless development?

Tuition: 280 JDs. Scholarships are available to all those who cannot afford the cost of tuition, regardless of age, nationality, or employment status. See the registration form for details. 

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