September 5, 2022

CRITIQUE 2020-2022: Looking Back, Moving Forward


Looking Back…

Since its founding, CRITIQUE has brought together scholars from across Schools and Colleges at University of Edinburgh in a dynamic hub for ethical and critical analysis of urgent social challenges such as climate change, economic exploitation, racial segregation, gender oppression, and political violence.

Deeply committed to methodological pluralism, its members deploy a variety of methodological approaches to political and social theory, ranging from analytic philosophical methods to genealogy, from history of political thought to immanent critique, from feminist and critical race theoretical methodologies to legal analysis.

Work produced at the Centre contributes to the excellent intellectual environment of the university and aims to intervene effectively in public debates.

Thematically, we build on three interrelated and mutually sustaining pillars, around which we stimulate interdisciplinary and experimental conversations: Ethics, Critique, and Praxis.

CRITIQUE was founded by Dr Mihaela Mihai and Dr Philip Cook in June 2020. Dr Oliver Escobar has joined as Co-Director since 2021.


Since its founding, the centre has hosted over forty events, ranging from lectures, roundtables, work-in-progress seminars, book manuscript workshops, and author-meets-critics sessions. Throughout, we have engaged with internationally renowned scholars, practitioners and activists, colleagues from across disciplines within the college, and the academic community here in Edinburgh to discuss pressing global challenges. Many of these have been organized in collaboration with organizations such as RaceED and GenderED, as well as our graduate fellows. The topics featured were wide-ranging, including environmental justice and ethics, civil disobedience and protest, colonial legacies, political memory, and the politics of race and gender. Below are highlighted some key events that took place, organized under the broad themes of Environment, Democracy, and Social Justice. To view all our past events, please visit our past events page.

Key Themes

The Environment

Our events on environmental issues have grappled with a host of pressing topics and challenges, such as: ecological grief, the ethics of parenting in the face of climate change, democratic possibilities for addressing climate change, environmental approaches to pedagogy, and utopian thinking in the face of climate disaster.

Some highlights: Danielle Celermajer (Sydney University) discussed her new book Summertime: Reflections on a Vanishing Future (Penguin, 2021), in which she attempts to come to terms with the senses of uncertainty, fear, love and grief wrought by the changing climate and ecological destruction. Stephen Gardiner (University of Washington) delivered a lecture on the possibility and necessity of a global constitutional convention that would address the democratic deficit in tackling the climate crisis. From Edinburgh University, Elizabeth Cripps discussed her forthcoming book The Last Parents on Earth: Raising Children in a World in Crisis (MIT Press, 2023).

Since September 2021, CRITIQUE has been enriched by the founding of the Environmental Working Group, a graduate student-led initiative aimed at spurring conversations with a distinctive focus on environmental thought. They have dedicated ample efforts to problematising the pedagogical and political aspects of environmentalising the curriculum and the socialisation of environmentally engaged citizens. 


Our events on democracy have seen scholars, practitioners, artists, and activists come together in different configurations to discuss a variety of topics connected to democratic challenges and innovations. Topics included the epistemology of protest and resistance, the democratic possibilities of municipalism, civil disobedience, and political hope and resistance.

A few highlights include two events on the Colombian peace process: an International Forum on the Final Report by the Colombian Truth Commission, and a day of events exploring the artistic dimension of truth-seeking through the work of the Commission. On protest and resistance, we had renowned scholar José Medina (Northwestern University) discuss his latest book manuscript The Epistemology of Protest: Silencing, Epistemic Activism and the Communicative Life of Resistance and a roundtable on Civil Disobedience featuring Juliet Hooker (Brown University), Alexander Livingston (Cornell University), Jonathan Havercroft (Southampton University) and Talat Ahmed (Edinburgh University). Last but not least, another roundtable on social movements and New Municipalism tackled different understandings and practices of civic engagement and organisation, and their democratic potential.

 Social Justice

Many of our events were related to what we might loosely call social justice. Topics discussed in roundtables, lectures or author-meets-critics form included: legacies of empire, reparations for slavery, utopian thinking, political understandings of vulnerability, citizenship and migration, the meanings of ideology critique, and the future of legal gender.

Highlights include a lecture delivered by Olúfẹmi O. Táíwò (Georgetown University) on their recently published book Reconsidering Reparations, in which they argue for a future-oriented, ‘constructive’ view of reparations. Sally Haslanger (MIT) delivered a lecture on her conception of ideology critique and its relation to demands for justice. In an author-meets-critics roundtable, Duncan Bell (Cambridge) discussed his latest book, Dreamworlds of Race, in which he explores the ‘racial dreamworld’ of fin-de-siècle Anglo-American culture.



CRITIQUE Reads is a reading group dedicated to discussing and engaging with texts in critical theory, broadly construed. It institutionalises a reading group in political theory that has been meeting since 2015. The texts can be classics difficult to tackle alone, or exciting new literature. The group is member-led, meaning that members propose the literature and vote collectively on what to read next. Our members span a variety of different departments and schools, including Anthropology, Sociology, Philosophy, Politics and Law, as well as other Universities, such as Southampton, Lancaster, and St Andrews. A list of what we have read since 2020 is appended below.

Chakrabarty, D. (2021). The Climate of History in a Planetary Age. University of Chicago Press.

Chibber, V. (2014). Postcolonial Theory and the Specter of Capital. Verso.

Fraser, N., & Honneth, A. (2003). Redistribution or Recognition? A Political-Philosophical Exchange. Verso.

Mignolo, W. D., & Walsh, C. E. (2018). On Decoloniality: Concepts, Analytics, Praxis. Duke University Press.

Moraga, C., & Anzaldúa, G. (2021). This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color. SUNY Press.

Patterson, O. (2018). Slavery and Social Death: A Comparative Study. Harvard University Press.

Plumwood, V. (2001). Environmental Culture: The Ecological Crisis of Reason. Routledge.

Purdy, J. (2015). After Nature: A Politics for the Anthropocene. Harvard University Press.

Rancière, J. (2021). The Emancipated Spectator. Verso.

Redecker, E. von. (2021). Praxis and Revolution: A Theory of Social Transformation. Columbia University Press.


Professional Development Events

Several professional development events were held since the founding of the Centre, among which we would like to foreground:

Political Theory Retreat for Graduate Research Students – 17 June 2022

Political Theory PhD students and staff gathered for a day-long retreat, organised by CRITIQUE Co-Director, Mihaela Mihai. Students shared work-in-progress during the morning session, and the afternoon was an open opportunity to discuss opportunities and challenges related to a career in academia.

Publish Your Dissertation with Nicola Ramsey, Head of Editorial at Edinburgh University Press – 10 March 2021

This workshop was dedicated to a question many PhD students find themselves asking throughout their writing progress: how do I transform my dissertation into a publishable book? It was led by Nicola Ramsey, Head of Editorial at Edinburgh University Press, as well as the editor for EUP’s highly regarded Islamic & Middle Eastern Studies list.



CRITIQUE Writes is a bi-weekly structured writing session facilitated by postgraduate fellows of CRITIQUE, open to all staff and postgraduate researchers. For the duration of the pandemic it was held online and hosted by graduate fellow Lukas Slothuus. It provided a forum for community building, research resilience and support during the difficult first two waves and gathered a heterogenous group of ECAs, mid and senior career scholars.

Moving Forward….

In 2022-2023, CRITIQUE will continue to organise events that bring together academics, practitioners, and members of the public. We have a wealth of lectures, book-centred events, seminars and workshops planed, on topics as varied as oligarchic politics, republicanism, participatory budgeting, environmental thought, settler colonialism, social reproduction, racialisation, death and grieving, among others. To receive info about our events, please sign up to our mailing list on the CRITIQUE site and follow us on Twitter (@CRITIQUE_CENTRE).

We will also continue our reading and writing sessions – the CRITIQUE Reads and the CRITIQUE Writes schedules are now available.

To our usual roster of activities, we are excited to add Seasonal Sessions – quarterly mini-fieldtrips organised by the Environmental Working Group, under the aegis of CRTIQUE. Each of our sessions takes place in a different setting outwith the university. The main aim of the events is to cultivate a practice of critical ecological reflection in an informal and exploratory environment. The sessions make use of facilitated group discussion, quiet personal reflection, and immersive engagement with the particular setting of the fieldtrip. The first two seasonal sessions are dedicated to a critical examination of the exceptionality of human death and to deep time.


Text by Thijs Keulen, Talia Shoval, Grace Garland and Mihaela Mihai, September 2022.