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The UCLA Program in Experimental Critical Theory

University of California, Los Angeles

The UCLA Program in Experimental Critical Theory is meant to galvanize, coordinate, and expand research and teaching in critical theory across departments and disciplines at UCLA. The Program offers the Graduate Certificate in Experimental Critical Theory, which is open to graduate students enrolled in a Ph.D. or MFA program in any participating department at UCLA. The Program also sponsors the annual ECT Colloquium, which meets twice a quarter, and various lectures and conferences.

Our rubric “Experimental Critical Theory” is meant to emphasize three correlated imperatives: “Theorize,” “Criticize,” and “Experiment.” The fundamental project of “theory” is to articulate models of analysis, interpretation, and conceptualization that express the general conditions of particular objects, relationships, or situations. Theory describes the systems and structures of knowledge, power, symbolic representation, and material exchange that operate within a wide range of social, political, and cultural fields. If “theory” implies the movement between particulars and universals, “critique” insists on the structural barriers that condition all acts of predication and interpretation. Critique questions the assumptions of the generalizations elaborated by theoretical projects, asking what remains unthought in their concepts and practices. Hence “critical theory” describes both the attempt to generate common frameworks and the self-critical moments that must accompany any theoretical project. Finally, the notion of “experiment” implies the urgency that critical theory expand beyond the received understanding of its proper practices, in order to propose new modes of critical reflection. To experiment is to welcome the possibility of new thinking, to establish the conditions for encountering ideas and phenomena that escape the formulations of previous paradigms. By taking experimentation and the uncertainty that it implies as part of the project’s conceptual and pedagogical imperative, we hope to engage a broader range of media than is usually associated with criticism and theory. Theoretical thinking and practice does not only happen in conventional disciplinary fields, but may take shape in a variety of material practices and artifacts. By aligning our project with an ethos of experimentation often associated with the arts and sciences rather than the humanities, we wish to expand not only the range of objects under investigation but also the possibilities of theory itself as practice. The Program in Experimental Critical Theory is not meant merely to transmit existing knowledge to our students, but to invite them to participate with us in exploring and creating new possibilities for the future of theory.

Contact Information
Kenneth Reinhard, Director

University of California, Los Angeles
Program in Experimental Critical Theory, Department of Comparative Literature
350 Humanities Building, UCLA
Los Angeles, California
United States
(310) 825-7650

North America

Academic Program
Certificate (includes emphasis, specialization, or concentration)

Year Established