A Slippery Concept highlights ambiguous terms that have become widespread or backgrounded in the course of recent crises, and whose use or non-use has been instrumental in defining current crises in specific and potentially dubious ways. The objective of this rubric is to draw attention to the (non-)uses of these terms and the origins of their different meanings.
Slippery concepts assess the conceptual history of the term, look at shifts in contemporary usage and possible alternative meanings. Through this genre of critical reading, the authors develop a deeper understanding of the slipperiness of a term and of how contemporary uses can be situated and confronted. Slippery concepts can be commented on in form of an extended entry to an (imagined) encyclopedia of contemporary political and crisis debate, which emphasizes the etymology and historical semantics of the term.
Slippery concepts can also be commented on in form of a witty column on a specific situation in which the term was used, which highlights the author’s puzzlement with the term and the explorations of its uses and misuses that followed from this puzzlement. Length: two to eight pages or 1000 to 4000 words max. Below, the slippery concepts available on CriDis are listed.
This blog post analyzes the utilization of the concept of solidarity within the context of the Covid-19-crisis. It argues that the concept is central in epitomizing the securitized dividing-line between the hegemonic and counter-hegemonic discourses and the ways in which they construct the nature of the current crisis. It reveals that and how the notion of solidarity has become a battleground for underlying interpretations of the crisis situation. This also led to a shift in the understanding of the concept of solidarity. While this appears to be the case in several countries, this blog post focuses on the German context.
Biopolitics has been a widely used concept during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, attention has been limited to practices of discipline and power imposed to safeguard public health and the resultant normalization of states of exception. This narrow reading of biopolitics, however, does not allow us to develop viable alternatives to the vicious circle of surveillance and protest. This blog post suggests viewing biopolitics as a slippery concept. It proposes a more nuanced reading of biopolitics, highlighting its affirmative potential that could help develop imaginaries to counter the current biopolitical impasse. The e-biopolitics of Estonia serves as an example.
This piece discusses the meaning of crisis, clarifies its relationship to exceptionality and considers the usefulness of the concept of crisis within the Covid-19 context. By means of a disambiguation of the term, it is argued that emergency responses come hand in hand with crises. The overlapping of crisis and emergency politics hinders our analytical capacity, and suggests the need to pay more attention to agency when thinking about crises. A critical reading of exceptionality is proposed, mainly through the work of Agamben and Neocleous, to elucidate the usefulness of the term crisis in the current context.