The Summer School is an intensive research program that takes place during the first three weeks in July in Paris, France, and simultaneously online. Its primary objective is to provide an international forum for trans-disciplinary and comparative work in critical theory in the broadest sense of the term. Participants are exposed to the research of a wide array of contemporary thinkers, engage with current debates in the Francophone world and beyond, and they have the opportunity to work on and present their own research projects. Past speakers have included Domenico Losurdo, Sophie Wahnich, Geneviève Fraisse, Pierre Macherey, Jacques Rancière, Seloua Luste Boulbina, and Amy Allen (click here for a complete list). Scroll down for testimonials from former participants.
The summer program, which takes place at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in central Paris and online, does not follow the traditional structure of a course or lecture series. Instead, it is organized around two interlocking components:
- Public Debates: the directors and numerous invited speakers from various fields share their work in progress or recent publications in order to engage in public debates about their research to date and their current projects. Rather than long lectures followed by a brief discussion, we aim to facilitate dynamic engagements that bring to life both intellectual and practical work, thereby allowing all of us to collectively work through pressing issues for the contemporary age. Click here to see video recordings of some of the past speakers.
- Working Groups: the participants in the summer school have the opportunity, if they would like, to present their own research projects in various working groups and workshop them with other participants.
The overall objective is to bring together a diverse panoply of thinkers in order to cultivate productive debates around work in progress and topical concerns for theory and practice today, with the goal of collectively developing a coherent and systemic account of the social totality.
Although these activities are oriented toward a graduate level of education, anyone with the requisite background is welcome to apply. Participants come from around the globe and often include advanced undergraduates, graduate students, postdocs, faculty, autodidacts, artists, writers and independent researchers. In any given year, there are usually participants from about 15 different disciplines or fields of study, who come from 4-6 different continents.
The primary language of discussion is English, but some of the activities take place in French with English summary translations that are projected on a screen. Therefore, it is beneficial, although not at all required, that applicants have a working knowledge of the French language.
Founder and Executive Director
Jennifer Ponce de León
Associate Director in Paris
Jared Bly, Constanza Filloy, Ivanna Berrios
Ziyuan Lin, Liam Woods
Primary Partner Institution in Paris
Laboratoire d’Anthropologie Politique (CNRS / EHESS), formerly Institut interdisciplinaire d’anthropologie du contemporain
École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales and online
Participants are welcome to make their own arrangements or reserve a room at the Cité internationale universitaire de Paris (approximately $900). In the past, most participants have succeeded in finding reasonably priced apartments via Airbnb or other similar platforms.
First 3 weeks of July (precise dates vary year to year)
The CTW/ATC summer program in Paris is open to anyone who is interested and has the requisite background, including advanced undergraduates, graduate students, postdocs, faculty, autodidacts, artists, writers, activists and independent researchers.
There is a rolling admissions policy, and early applications are welcome. The final deadline for the Paris program is April 30 for the upcoming summer (and June 15 for the online program, whose content is nearly identical).
Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding our summer school, which takes place both in person and online:
1. Do you need to know French?
No, the primary language of discussion is English, and all of the events that take place in French will be accompanied by simultaneous translations. Some knowledge of French is certainly an advantage, and the Workshop is an excellent place to work on your language skills. However, it is not a requirement, and the lack of any knowledge of French will not be a mark against you in the evaluation process for admission.
2. Is there financial aid available?
There is a sliding scale that goes down to zero for the program fees, and we do everything that we can to work with people’s financial needs. However, as an educational non-profit and independent institution, we also have to pay people for their labor and generate some revenue for our projects, many of which we offer as free and open to the public. Therefore, we commonly request that applicants do everything that they can to obtain funding from their home institutions–if they have one–in order to support our alternative platform.
3. Will I have an opportunity to present my own research, and could I request travel support from my home institution to attend the Workshop as if it were a “conference”?
Yes, the first week there are brief presentations by all of the participants. The second week there are smaller working group sessions, and the final week there is a participants’ conference for anyone who wants to present. This is purely optional, however, and you are welcome to opt out if you prefer to simply attend the workshop without presenting your research.
4. Is this an American study abroad program?
Absolutely not. This is a dual-language international program that includes participants from around the world. Depending on the year, there are usually participants–including faculty, students, artists and independent researchers–from 4-6 different continents.
5. What time of day are the sessions, and will I have time for other activities (such as French classes)?
The sessions generally take place 4 times a week at the end of the day, usually from 5-7 p.m., in order to allow participants time during the day to do research, visit museums, take French classes, etc. Given the intellectual and cultural resources available in Paris, the Workshop is specifically structured in this way so that participants can maximize their research time and take full advantage of everything that the city has to offer.
6. Are there breaks or time for weekend trips?
Yes, the Workshop usually takes place 4 times per week, and the sessions are consolidated as much as possible to allow for 3-day weekends. The program is always posted well before the beginning of the Workshop in order to allow participants to make their plans.
7. Do I need to present my research?
No, this is not a requirement, and some participants in the past have preferred simply to engage in the material without formally presenting their own work.
8. Do I have to be in philosophy or work on Frankfurt School Critical Theory?
No, the CTW is a trans-disciplinary platform that works against the traditional silos of the academy. Participants often come from a very wide variety of disciplines and fields, and there is no need to have formal training in philosophy or particular traditions like the Frankfurt School.
9. Do I have to be an academic or be affiliated with a school?
No, the Workshop is open to autodidacts, independent researchers, activists, artists and writers.
10. Where do participants live, and are there lodging options through the Workshop?
Participants are welcome to make their own arrangements or reserve a room at the Cité internationale universitaire de Paris (approximately $900). In the past, most participants have succeeded in finding reasonably priced apartments via platforms like Airbnb.
11. Are there required assignments?
No, the CTW is dedicated to autonomous research and collaboration. There are no traditional assignments, and participants are encouraged to work as much as possible on their own research. There are, however, readings made available for nearly every session, which allow participants to come more prepared to engage with the issues under discussion. For the working groups, participants share their work with other members of the group for feedback and discussion.
12. What types of more creative and non-academic projects have there been in the past?
Projects have ranged from work by documentary filmmakers on contemporary political struggles to photography exposés and experimental music performances with non-professional musicians. There is no set limit to the nature of projects, and creative initiatives are more than welcome. This can include collaborative projects–if they be creative or more research oriented–between two or more people.
13. Are there research libraries nearby to which participants have access?
There are a number of libraries and archives affiliated with the EHESS. Click here for a list. They all have specific restrictions, but you will likely qualify if you are a professor or graduate student. As with most other libraries in Paris, they do not have open stacks.
The Bibliothèque interuniversitaire Sorbonne has specific restrictions, but you will likely qualify if you are a professor or graduate student. As with most other libraries in Paris, it does not have open stacks.
The Pompidou Center has a good public library in the center of the city, although it can be busy with students. It does have the advantage of having open stacks.
There are numerous municipal libraries that are usually relatively nice places to work, and they have open stacks. You can search your neighborhood here.
Here are some other resources for libraries:
You have to pay for the Bibliothèque nationale, but it has a remarkable collection. It has open stacks for some collections.
14. Where can I print or scan?
There are a number of copy shops in the neighborhood of the EHESS.
15. Are there good websites with practical Information about Paris?
16. Is it possible to obtain credit or a diploma?
The Workshop is not credit bearing, but independent studies can be discussed with the Director as a possible option. It is also possible to be issued a certificate that testifies to one’s active participation in the CTW.
17. Can I attend some of the summer school online and some of it in person?
Yes, we just ask that you specify your approximate dates on the application and then confirm them a few weeks prior to the beginning of the program.
18. What is the format for the research presentations that are given by participants in the workshop?
In a typical summer, participants who want to present their work (it is not a requirement) do so once a week, in three different formats:
- During the first week, each participant presents a brief outline of their project (5-10 minutes) in front of the entire group so that everyone gets a preliminary sense of everyone else’s project and conversations can begin to be generated around shared research concerns.
- For the second week, each participant is assigned to a working group with 4-5 other participants who are focusing on similar themes. Each participant is expected to pre-circulate a relevant aspect of their project to the other members of the group (this could be an outline, a draft chapter or article, a dissertation prospectus, working notes, a collection of images, a storyboard, etc.). During the working group session, each participant will be allocated a minimum of 30 minutes to receive feedback from all of the other members of the group. Rather than responding to all of the queries, we generally recommend that the person whose work is being discussed take notes on the feedback without feeling compelled to defend their position.
- For the last week of the workshop, all of the working groups have the opportunity to present their work to the group as a whole in a final conference. In the past, some groups have decided to have each individual present their work, and others have preferred to organize a group presentation or debate around a shared theme.
19. Can I choose to only present my work in the small working group, rather than in the final conference (or vice versa)?
Yes, absolutely. We just ask that you let us know in advance so that we can make the necessary arrangements.
20. Are there extracurricular activities or informal gatherings?
Yes. We usually organize an opening cocktail after the first session, which provides us all with the opportunity to begin getting to know one another on an informal basis. Since most of the sessions end in the early evening, it is also very common that small groups will get a drink to continue the conversation informally. We usually also go for drinks after the final conference, in order to conclude the summer school.
21. Can I apply early?
We encourage early applications, and we make an effort to work with applicants who need an early decision regarding admission in order to secure funding, make travel plans, etc.
22. Can I apply after the deadline?
While we generally prefer to avoid reviewing applications after the deadline, please feel free to reach out to us in order to ask (see email below). There are sometimes last-second changes or cancellations that make spots available, and we have therefore accepted some applications after the deadline in the past.
23. Who should I contact if I have additional questions?
Here is a selection of testimonials from participants in the CTW/ATC summer school:
“The Critical Theory Workshop is truly an invigorating experience. It galvanized my research projects and reaffirmed my commitment to socially conscious scholarship by emphasizing collaborative learning and the political stakes of intellectual labor. Gabriel Rockhill’s energetic and dedicated leadership, combined with a rigorous syllabus and a diverse, highly inquisitive student cohort, creates a valuable counterpoint to the typical strictures and expectations of institutionalized academic study. The CTW/ATC is a unique opportunity for reflection and thought-provoking exchange.”
– Dana Liljegren (participant in the 2019 summer workshop in Paris and PhD Candidate in Art History at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York)
“Is your work resistant to or supportive of the powers that be? One of the things I most appreciated in our discussions at the Critical Theory Workshop/Atelier de Théorie Critique was the urgent ways in which this question was posed. It was encouraging to meet several scholars who think and act against capitalism, sexism, racism, colonialism, and all other oppressive systems that instill in us the false idea that a more liberatory existence is impossible.”
– Gustavo Hessmann Dalaqua (participant in the 2019 summer workshop in Paris and doctoral candidate in the Department of Philosophy at the University of São Paulo)
“The Critical Theory Workshop/Atelier de Théorie Critique provides an invaluable collaborative and collective intellectual experience outside the traditional institutionalized academic setting. From a diverse variety of academics, students, and artists, to a host of guest speakers, the workshop furnishes a meeting ground for open dialogue, political organization, and the development of radical critical theory. The CTW/ATC is scheduled in such a way that allows each participant to meet collectively and share their individual work and ideas. These collaborative meetings were especially beneficial to myself as they allowed me a space to share my work, receive feedback, and engage in intellectual dialogue, all of which immensely contributed to the growth of my own writing and theoretical framework. At a time of political turmoil and academic disconnect, it is essential to have the CTW/ATC as a meeting space for the development of intellectual discourse, political praxis, and radical thought.”
– Mara Cayarga (participant in the 2019 summer workshop in Paris and undergraduate at the University of New Mexico majoring in political science and philosophy)
“The Critical Theory Workshop gave me a rare chance to communicate with advanced scholars. Nowadays, the academic world is inevitably affected by political and social issues. However, this workshop created an objective space to reflect on and critique political and social problems. In this program, committed scholars shared their radical thoughts, and stimulated one other to come up with new ideas. Besides, this intense program not only brought many famous radical professors to share ideas and debate with participants, but it also divided the participants into different small groups in order to comment on and improve their individual research projects. It was an excellent opportunity to work with people who have deep and advanced ideas. Over the course of three weeks in Paris, I absorbed numerous new ideas from other participants’ research and reflected on my own ideas to improve and complete my research.”
– Ziyuan Lin (participant in the 2019 summer workshop in Paris and undergraduate at Villanova University majoring in philosophy and Asian studies)
“At the Critical Theory Workshop/Atelier de Théorie Critique I discovered a space primed for the cultivation of radical theory outside the institutional confines and limitations imposed on many intellectuals in traditional academic settings. The workshop encourages an egalitarian exchange of critical theoretical perspectives that are often marginalized in hegemonic discourses. In this vein, CTW/ATC thrives on developing individual participant’s work via smaller group exchanges between thinkers of tangential academic proclivities while conjunctively challenging its intellectuals to broaden their theoretical base through larger group discussions, which feature backgrounds in a sundry of disciplines and commitments. Despite that these dialogues underscore theoretical dimensions per the design of CTW/ATC, such theoretical foci are nonetheless counterbalanced by serious concerns with political praxis and considerations of “theory in the world.” That being said, contemporary geopolitical crises, social movements, and a variety of other real phenomena color and contextualize the workshop. Hence, the CTW/ATC refreshingly provides a place that strikes needed balances in a turbulent sociality for blossoming intellectuals.”
– Jacob Ring (participant in the 2019 summer workshop in Paris and undergraduate at the University of New Mexico majoring in English literature, psychology and philosophy)
“Spending the Summer in Paris reading and discussing the work of thinkers from various traditions has been, it is not hard to imagine, a great pleasure. More than that, however, what I appreciated the most in the CTW was the opportunity to meet, talk to and get to know the work of its highly committed and engaged participants. Exchanging ideas and feedback within such a diverse and interdisciplinary group was enriching and stimulating, and I am glad for the unique environment the workshop provided for intense, earnest debate, inside and outside of the EHESS.”
– Luiza Duarte Caetano (participant in the 2019 summer workshop in Paris and a PhD student of Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan)
“I was very lucky to have participated in the 2018 Critical Theory Workshop/Atelier de Théorie Critique. It’s rare to find spaces where radical political organisation and rigorous critical intellectual work meet at such a high level, without either taking precedence over the other. To spend three weeks working in Paris with such a talented group of thinkers, activists, artists… incredible!”
– Shannon Walsh (participant in the 2018 summer workshop in Paris)
“The Critical Theory Workshop is incredible: the generosity and creativity of the participants, the commitment to radical pedagogical and conversational experimentation, and our engagement with the politics of the city we were working in were absolutely exhilarating. The workshop is an antidote to the combative everyday world of my (and most of our) academic spaces, and something that will keep me going all year. The workshop is a real resource for collaboration and growth on any project at a variety of stages. It was so good to work alongside people who are resisting and critiquing the types of work that the institutions they are embedded in demand, who care about changing themselves and their worlds, and who are marshalling their resources and perspectives in order to create other ways of looking and building and speaking.”
– Katherine Mitchell (participant in the 2018 summer workshop in Paris)
“The Critical Theory Workshop benefits from a great line-up of speakers, a schedule that faciltates both solitary research and group collaboration, in addition to all the resources Paris offers. Participating as junior faculty, I particularly enjoyed how the conference allowed me to bring my own research project into the workshop and work through my ideas in both small and large groups. Over the course of three weeks, I was able to draft two articles during the daytime while the evening sessions always gave me new perspectives on my own writing and the field as a whole. The break-out sessions were especially valuable in this regard. In particular, listening to what graduate students are currently working on was eye-opening and pushed me to evolve my research to keep up with the ways in which the critical tradition is currently progressing. I also enjoyed the line-up of speakers. Presentations by the likes of David Palumbo-Liu and Seloua Boulbina provided the opportunity to talk with thinkers I might not normally interact with, but who have been successful at promoting minor perspectives within the academy. This interdisciplinary workshop plays an important role at the limits of the university system insofar as it brings together intellectuals from a range of backgrounds all interested in inventing new approaches to teaching, writing, thinking, and activism both within the university and the community at large.”
– John Harfouch (participant in the 2018 summer workshop in Paris)
“At this time where the academic world is continuously modified by the vertiginous relations between different cultures, political perspectives, and societal rhythms, this workshop provides the possibility to respond to this particular contemporary context by conceptualizing our own social and political research in a reflective, critical and dialogical way. We have the opportunity to confront our views with scholars from institutions from different parts of the world, with divergent cultural origins and in different states and depths of research. Two hopes unite us: the belief in social change and that the academic world could have a substantial role in producing it.”
– Luz Azcarate (participant in the 2018 summer workshop in Paris)
“My greatest takeaway from the CTW/ATC is the practice of intellectual labor collaboratively and collectively. Working through ideas and texts with other members, and the experience inside the seminars and outside, whether picnicking by the Seine or at a brasserie, have led to open discourse that inspired my work. This is not attributable to one theorist alone, but is much more true to Marx’s ‘General Intellect,’ making an environment for truly collaborative and radical theoretical practice to take place.”
– Brendan Rome (participant in the 2018 summer workshop in Paris)