Mi / 10:00 – 11:30

Angela Davis and Hans-Jürgen Krahl on the Frankfurt School’s Theory-Practice Debate

Cecilia Sebastian, KWI Fellow

KWI & Online (Zoom)

This paper will offer a transatlantic student perspective on the theory-practice debate at the center of Theodor Adorno’s and Herbert Marcuse’s 1969 correspondence, famously bookended by the occupation of the Institute in January and Adorno’s death in August. Noting that there were not one but two student occupations that occurred during this period, with Marcuse supporting the second led by Black and Chicanx students at UCSD, it undertakes a comparative reading of the insights and activities of the self-named Spartacus Department in Frankfurt and Lumumba-Zapata College in San Diego. It first recovers a multidimensional critique of the role of the postwar university in advancing capital accumulation and entrenching racial segregation—twinned processes which students recognized as posing an existential threat to the continued practice of negative thinking within the university. It then argues that the Spartacus Department’s and Lumumba-Zapata College’s mutual attempts to occupy and refigure corners of the accredited university as sites of horizontal teaching and learning begin to encode the missing theory of organization in the Frankfurt School’s corpus. By recentering the motivations and insights of these campaigns and two of the students who led them, Angela Davis and Hans-Jürgen Krahl, it illuminates a path for a more political iteration of Critical Theory after 1969.