Guest Lecture on Kropotkin’s Political Manifesto
When she was approached by Penguin Classics to write a new prologue for Piotr Kropotkin’s The Conquest of Bread, Sonia Arribas endeavored to write a piece that would provide readers a helpful framework to the book. The text, she explains, ‘is often read as a revolutionary programme anchored in the belief of scientific progress.’ As she analyzed the text, however, she soon deciphered the contours of a novel rather than a manifesto. ‘Most of its theoretical presuppositions do not hold,’ she says. ‘Nonetheless, Kropotkin's concern about hunger and inequality is still relevant for us today at a global level. Kropotkin was a great writer, and the book is a great construction of the imagination. Hence, I believe we can read the book as fiction, as novels can also be a source of inspiration.’
She found further justification for her interpretation in the last lines of the book, where the writer implores his readers not to read his text as fiction. ‘Kropotkin took literature and fiction very seriously. However, in The Conquest of Bread he denied several times that the book should be taken as a novel. But the fact that he needed to do that proves to me that he realized that his imagination was leading him too far,’ says Professor Arribas.
The novel centers upon the symbol of ‘bread,’ the myriad functions of which Sonia Arribas will map out in her talk entitled ‘Peter Kropotkin and his Work The Conquest of Bread’ on April 2 at HSE. The talk will be given as part of the seminar ‘West and East: Universalism of Culture’ at the International Laboratory for the Study of Russian and European Intellectual Dialogue.
Professor Arribas’s analysis demonstrates how the book’s central image functions as a rhetorical device; a link between the natural and the social; a representation of materiality as opposed to mere ideas; an exemplification of the satisfaction of needs; a representation of the specific form of anarchism defended by Kropotkin; a vehicle for his argument against the political economy of his time; and the foundation of ethics.
This will be Professor Arribas’s first time in Russia. A specialist in German literature and philosophy, critical theory, and psychoanalysis, Sonia Arribas teaches in the Department of Humanities at Universitat Pompeu Fabra as a Senior Lecturer.
Professor Arribas holds a Ph.D. in Political Science (New School for Social Research, 2004), and she is currently the principal investigator in the research project MINECO FFI2015-70273-P ‘”Gender”, Woman and the Feminine in the 18th and 19th Century Philosophical and Literary References Studied by Walter Benjamin’. She also collaborates as a lecturer in the Master in Theatrical Creation of the University Carlos III, Madrid, and as the coordinator of a Research Group in the Sección Clínica de Barcelona. For a complete list of her publications, click here.
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