Institute of English Studies Blog |

Interview: Emily Cousens on The London Free School of Applied Critical and Feminist Theory

by

  1. Could you please write a few sentences introducing yourself and your work?

 My name is Emily and I am a third-year PhD student in Philosophy, looking at what the concept of vulnerability means for feminism. I am particularly interested in how the discourse on vulnerability within feminist thought has evolved in recent years, with the term frequently being used to denote a common corporeal susceptibility to being affected. In my thesis, I explore the implications of such a reconceptualization for a politics of sexual violence; arguing that the impulse to universalise vulnerability frequently obscures and may leave unchallenged the structures that distribute vulnerability along classed, racialized, gendered and sexualised lines.

 

  1. What is the London Free School of Applied Critical and Feminist Theory?

 

The London Free School of Applied Critical and Feminist theory is a week-long course that brings together academics, activists and students to discuss a range of ideas, issues and events loosely based around the four themes for the week: Decolonising the Present, Living a Sexed Life, Representing Gender and Sexuality and Theory in Practice.

 

The Free School is ‘applied’ with the intention being that academics will use theory to speak about practices and events. I see application in this way as a central tent of these disciplines and something that underscores their political potential. Moreover, such a focus will ensure that everyone is encouraged to use theory for illuminatory and dialogic possibilities rather than merely presenting their most recent piece of work.

 

Over the week, the class of fifteen students will participate in learning in alongside the academics and from one another. The size and layout of the week, as a class of equals, will ensure that learning is reciprocal and everyone is engaged. Each day will end with four students delivering a workshop on the day’s theme. The format of these are up to the students but will likely involve them presenting their own responses to the theme and the day’s discussion and guiding the final explorations of the subject.

 

 

  1. What inspired you to set up the summer school?

 

My inspiration for the summer school was twofold. Firstly, I love learning with others. I think that postgraduate study and academia generally can be slightly isolating and so I relish any opportunity to come together with peers to discuss ideas and push and challenge one’s own and each other’s thoughts. So, slightly selfishly, I wanted to create the academic environment that I had always hoped to find. I also think this method of learning with others is particularly pertinent to feminist and critical theory, where knowledge is generated through experience.

 

Second and related, I felt that there were few existing spaces for such learning. Events of this nature are frequently governed by the market logics of higher education: high fees, large numbers of students and the cult of celebrity. I think that these are all impediments to inclusive learning and undermine the political and truly critical potential of these disciplines.

 

  1. What do you hope the summer school will achieve?

 

My intention is to foster a space in which students and academics can engage in discussion and debate, harnessing the potential of these disciplines whilst escaping the constraints and imperatives of institutionalised academia.

 

  1. What advice would you give to applicants?

 

Firstly, if you have read this and any of it appeals to you then please apply. The school is open to anyone with an undergraduate degree; regardless of discipline or any of the traditional markers of academic distinction.

 

As you apply, try to work out exactly what it is that appeals to you about the week and do your best to convey that in the application. Also, what is it that attracts you to feminist theory and/or critical theory? Engagement with these subjects often stems from quite a personal place so feel free (but by no means obliged) to be open about your own relationship with these disciplines.

 

Finally, what would you like the week to look like? There are still opportunities to shape how it runs; from how the student-run workshops operate to what happens when the day has formally ended. I hope to facilitate a friendly and supportive community of students and would like your thoughts on how this can be achieved.

 

To find out more about The London Free School of Applied Critical and Feminist Theory and to apply please click here.

Please follow and like us:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *