Course Critique beyond criticism: Critique and careful experimentation


Course leader: Dorthe Staunæs

Language: English

Graduate school: Faculty of Arts

Course fee: 0.00 DKK

Status: Course is open for application

Semester: Spring 2024

Application deadline: 15/03/2024

Cancellation deadline: 15/03/2024

Course type: Blended learning

Start date: 06/05/2024

Administrator: Henriette Jaquet


All students are placed on a waiting list until we reach application deadline.


Please note that for this course registration is binding unless you are prevented by illness.

This course on critique addresses the question ‘what is critique?' from different disciplines within the human and social sciences and examines various historical and contemporary forms of and approaches toward critique. 

The aim is to increase the capacity to analyze the possible character, approaches, activities and moods of critique and thereby lay the foundation for appropriate methodological choices and ethically sound analyses. More specifically, the course aims to help the participants make and elaborate choices they make in relation to their own PhD-projects.

The purpose of this course is to make the PhD-students able to identify and formulate the possibilities, foundations, and implications of critique. The participants will be able to distinguish various forms of critique and to position their own approach in relation to various forms of critique, even as they will become able to develop a careful experimental attitude.

Taking its point of departure in a Foucauldian distinction between critique and criticism, as well as Kantian and Deleuzian distinctions between negative, positive, and affirmative/speculative critique, the course approaches critique as a methodological manoeuvre rather than a moralizing activity. Together we identify and discuss a variety of theoretical, methodological, analytical, and ethical challenges for the (different) critical approaches that scholars meet during and after formulating questions, producing/collecting material, writing and publishing. The idea is to focus on a ‘careful experimental attitude’. Consequently, the ambition is not to debunk negative critique but to assist the PhD-students’ in developing a nuanced repertoire of how to conduct critique.  

The lectures and the literature draw upon and set the stage for discussing concepts of critique in traditions such as post-humanism, post-structuralism, post-social constructionism, American Black studies, Black Feminism, queer-feminism, post-colonialism, decolonial methodologies new materialism, feminist new materialism, Science & Technology Studies, and Actor Network Theory.  

In the context of the Anthropocene/Chulutucene/Plantationocene/Planthroposcene, and a damaged planet, this year’s PhD-course  addresses the issue of ‘staying with the trouble’ and of undertaking careful and responsive endeavors. While claiming the ubiquity of critique in the present age of criticism, we elaborate upon approaches that permit to go beyond negative critique while staying critical. Among these approaches are symptomatology and the diagnostics of the great health, hopeful but also melancholic experiments, the joy of not knowing like that, Socratic irony, poetics of critical affirmative writing, cartographies of the not-there and the-not-yet, the entanglement of ethics, aesthetics, and aesthesis (sensibilities) and melancholic agency. 

The course aims to cultivate a careful ‘attitude experimental’ among the participants. Accordingly, questions such as the following become pertinent: Which affective impulses do the critique follow? How may affective politics be reworked through affecting and affected writing? What is the ethics involved, if the aim is to leave conventional criticism behind and instead join experimental ventures in which productive, careful and collaborative forms of critique and analyse can emerge? What are the advantages, dangers, and pitfalls if one strives to critically capture tendencies, virtualities and dispositives (Foucault 1980, Deleuze 1998),  wor(l)d differenty (Barad 2007) and make room for vibrant and liveable ‘elsewheres’ (Haraway 1992) rather than judge and vote for or against what is (not) already there?  How does one cultivate a radical imagination as well as augment, transpose and break open archival documents and other empirical material that yield a richer picture of social life and relations of oppression? (Hartman 2019). How does one focus on critique as methodological approaches rather than a moralizing activity, while still having a political edge and not leaving issues of planetary exploitation, capitalism, racism, colonialism, sexism, and inequalities behind? How does one develop forms of critique that one can learn from?


The purpose of this course is to make the PhD students able to identify and formulate the possibilities, foundations and implications of critique.The participants will be able to distinguish various forms of critique  to position their own approach in relation to various forms of critique. and to develop a careful experimential attitude. 


Anker, E. S., & Feltski, R. (2017). Introduction. In E. S. Anker & R. Feltski (Eds.), Critique and postcritique. Durham & London: Duke University Press.
Bargetz, B. (2018). Longing for agency: New Materialisms' wrestling with despair. European Journal of Women Studies. doi:10.1177/1350506818802474
Braidotti, R. (2018). A Theoretical Framework for the Critical Posthumanities. Theory, Culture & Society. doi:10.1177/0263276418771486
Butler, J. (2004). "What is critique?". An Essay on Foucualt's Virtue. In S. Salih & J. Butler (Eds.), The Judith Butler Reader. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.
Haraway, D. J. (2011). Speculative Fabulations for Technoculture's Generations: Taking Care of Unexpected Country.  
Hartman, S. (2019). Wayward Lives. Beautiful Experiments. Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval. New York & London: W. W. Norton & Company.
Latour, B. (2004). Why Has Critique Run out of Steam? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Conern. Critical Inquiry, 30(2), 225-248. 
Love, H. (2010). Truth and Consequences: On paranoid reading and reparative reading. Criticism, 52(2), 235-241. 
MacLure, M. (2015). The 'new materialisms': a thorn in the flesh of critical qualitative inquiry? In G. Canella, M. Perez, & P. Pasque (Eds.), Critical Qualitative  Inquiry. California: Left Coast Press.
Manning, E. (2016). Postscript: Affirmation without credit. In The minor gesture. Durham & London: Duke University Press.
Roman-Dixon, E. (2016). Diffractive Possibilities:Cultural Studies and Quantification. Transforming Anthropology, 24(2), 157-167. 
Raffnsøe, S. (2015). What is critique? The Critical State of Critique in the Age of Criticism. Outlines, 18(1), 28-60. 
Raffnsøe, S., Staunæs, D., & Bank, M. (2022). Affirmative Critique. Ephmera. Jounral of Politics and Organizations. 22(3)
Sedgwick, E. K. (2003). Paranoid Reading and Reperative Reading, or You're so Paranoid, You Probably Think This Essay Is About You. In Touching Feeling. Affect. Pedagogy. Performativity. Durham & London: Duke University Press.
Sonderegger, R. (2012). Negative versus Affirmative Critique: On Pierre Bourdieu and Jacques Ranciere. In K. d. Boer & R. Sonderegger (Eds.), Conceptions of Critique in Modern and Contemporary Philosophy (pp. 248-264). Palgrave Macmillan.
Staunæs, D. (2018). "Green with envy". Affects and gut feelings as trans-corporeal, affirmative critique of new motivational data visualisations. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 31(5), 409-421. doi:10.1080/09518398.2018.1449983
Wilson, E. (2015). Conclusion. In E. Wilson (Ed.), Gut Feminism (pp. 169-180). Durham and London: Duke University Press.

Target group:

The course is relevant for all PhD students wondering about what it could be to conduct critical research.


The teaching style is a mixture of lectures, discussion seminars with short presentations, group work and lap top hours. A large part of the course consists of dialogues in which participants are expected to be active. Offering case-stories to learn from, we will have discussions of the students’ incomplete research designs as our basis for exploring how different concepts, ethics, and methodological principles of critique fruitfully can be translated and reworked into their projects.  

Please send a short project description max 1 page to Henriette Harrit

  1. Name and Institution
  2. Project description
  3. How would the course help you thinking of criticism to your project?
  4. When did you start on your PhD project?


Professor Dorthe Staunæs, Aarhus University
Professor Sverre Raffnsøe, Copnehagen Business School
Senior lecturer Brigitte Bargetz, Kiel University
Honorary Professor and Professor Emirita Nina Lykke, Aarhus University and Linköping University
Associate professor Malou Juelskjær, Aarhus University
Professor Erin Manning, Concorida University


Campus Emrup, room 6 May D165 and 7+8 May A200

Course dates:

  • 06 May 2024 09:00 - 16:00
  • 07 May 2024 09:00 - 16:00
  • 08 May 2024 09:00 - 16:00