Rethinking Crisis


We live in tumultuous times. From the spread of the Islamic State to the prospect of technology running amok, the growth of social inequalities to the rejection of traditional political institutions alongside a populist resurgence, irrevocable ecological damage to the decline of established global order, talk of ‘crisis’ has become inescapable. The concept of ‘crisis’ has a long history starting with the Greeks for whom it spelled the moment of decisive resolution up to modern day paralysis. The euphoria of progress, we are told, has given way to uncertainty and anguish. Crisis, in the words of French philosopher Myriam Revault D’Allones, has emerged as the ‘absolute metaphor of the contemporary age.’

And yet, is crisis really so emblematic of late modernity? Does it necessarily paralyze? Is there a connection between crisis and progress or is the common association of these two concepts simply abusive? What have been the various manifestations as well as conceptual deployments of crisis over time and what do they reveal about their age? What remedies and measures does identifying a situation as a crisis provide?  On the contrary, are there cultural logics for negating crises? Is crisis at all a useful or even, an unavoidable conceptual tool for grasping the world, or should we look for less dramatic vocabularies? What are the limits of crisis as a concept? Is the narrative of crisis in crisis itself? What does this imply for our self-understanding and our ability to make sense of the world? Can crisis, on the contrary, open up new horizons? How can the humanities contribute to a better understanding of the conceptions and circumstances of crisis?

The ‘Crisis, Extremes and Apocalypse’ Research network at TORCH, University of Oxford seeks to shed as many possible perspectives on the concept and topic of ‘Crisis’ as well as to approach it meta-critically and understand its various deployments. The aim of this two-day conference will be to pursue this trajectory by fostering new thinking on this ubiquitous concept.

Click here to view the programme.