Summer School 2017

The Political Anthropology of Subversion: On a secret technique of transformation

^ 25th June to - 1st July, 2017. ^

IPA Summer School, Acquapendente, Lago Bolsena, Italy.



The 2017 IPASS Summer School on “Subversion” will examine ancient, mediaeval and modern conceptions of the subversive, and what it means to know its techniques. 

We’ll treat subversion through a combination of thematic and historical approaches. The School will consider both the most characteristic aspects of subversion as well as its various techniques, and also study specific developments as case studies within these general understandings.

Subversion is generally idealised by intellectuals, academics and artists as a means of opposing or undermining power, sometimes in the name of values like freedom, equality or solidarity. Yet, in contemporary politics the techniques of subversion are deployed by all political persuasions, most noticeably, in the Brexit or Trump campaigns, but more generally. Eventually, political factions retreat within their own camps, endlessly subverting and satirising ‘others’. So, while it is a tempting rhetorical tool, subversion risks undermining the possibility of any shared values or beliefs.

Rather than focusing exclusively on contemporary ideas of subversion, the summer school will trace the question back to the Palaeolithic, beginning with the prehistoric graffiti and paintings, then the civilizations of ancient Natufian in the Levant, where settlement first took place, well before the rise of agriculture and other ‘technological’ changes. Much attention will be given to the ancient Greek philosophical and scientific achievements, and their assimilation and development in the Hellenistic context of the Roman Empire. The civilizations of medieval Islam and Christianity will form the background to our exploration of how these ancient foundations helped shape the way subversion has been conceived, initially opposed and subsequently idealised in the modern world. 

Thus the Summer School will attempt to capture how the logic of subversion was born; how it became a fundamental criterion for divinisation: technique oriented to dissolving things in order to unite them a general whole, producing an active integration into the void, changing character from the inside. Once inside the void, the subversive techniques can liminalise every entity, first by eliminating order, ideas, and boundaries, and then, in a second step pushing the existing framework of reality to its outer boundaries, until liminality reaches a turning point, a crisis. Thus, thirdly, the previous entity became sublimated into a deeply fractured and alienated wreck that can only continue to exist within the artificial whole into which it became forcefully integrated.

For instance, individuals become a mere populace, docile-bodies before bio-power, traditions become a culture industry sold on the market, customs become instrumentalised for constant growth and gain. Furthermore, subversion and self-aggrandizement with the void generates a newly found existence, which now continues to become transformed endlessly, until the differences between the equalising characters diminish and everything becomes All – indistinguishable, characterless, subverted.

A particularly counter-intuitive technology of subversion is ‘altruism’ or the philosophy of otherness, promoted by Hegel and Comte among others. This is not the opposite but the schismogenic double of egoism, where personalities and communities are undermined and destroyed in the name of the Other, which is never concrete, thus a metaphysical wreck, stealing and subverting concrete alliances and identities. All this is justified in the name of ‘fighting egoism’, thus accusatively redefining anyone rooted in the concrete as egoists.

This Summer School will be of interest to both social science and humanities students, willing to read primary texts and analyse primary images, central understanding, anthropologically, the intellectual pre-history of our reality.

CostsEUR 45. There is no fee for the summer school and the accommodation is provided on a charitable basis, only a registration cost (45euro) and association membership (25euro). A donation of 5-10 euro a night would suffice for this, and a sleepling bag might be convenient. Other associated costs will be your own transport and food etc. Registration cost and association membership is paid by Paypal on our website.

Contacts: Diletta Tonatto +39 345.8060926;  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  ; Arpad Szakolczai +39 388.4074157

Application deadline: 1 May 2017 *extended 15 May 2017

Summer School Staff

Dr Agnes Horvath, UCC, Cork

Professor Bjorn Thomassen, Roskilde University, Copenhagen

Dr Harald Wydra, Cambridge University

Professor Arpad Szakolczai, UCC, Cork

Dr. Tom Boland. WIT, Waterford


In order to register for the International Political Anthropology Summer School you have to:

  1. become a member (25,00 €)
  2. register for the IPASS (45,00 €) - only members can apply for the summer school



Name and Surname
E-mail address


45 euro Registration Fee for the IPA Summer School- PAYMENT ON SIGHT (following acceptance).



Contact us


  • Florence, Italy,
  • Cambridge University, U.K.
  • University College Cork, Ireland

please email to arrange an appointment

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