Dr Oliver Davis
Associate Professor (Reader)
Director for Student Wellbeing in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures; Senior Tutor for French Studies
Email: O dot Davis at warwick dot ac dot uk
Humanities Building, University Road
University of Warwick
Coventry CV4 7AL
Chair, panel discussion: Intervals of Cinema II, Rancière and Cinephilia in London. A panel discussion with Jacques Rancière, Erika Balsom and Catherine Grant, organised by the collective À nos amours in conjunction with Verso, Saturday 31 January 2015, 1pm-3.30, Birkbeck College, 43 Gordon Square, London.
Selected recent talks
Research seminar paper: 'Falling ineluctably through the nebeneinander: parataxis in the "aesthetic regime of art"', IPS, Gröden, Südtirol, 29 June 2014.
Public lecture: 'Cultivating the Intractable: Rancière’s egalitarian (anti-)method in aesthetics and politics', Dutch Art Institute, Arnhem, The Netherlands, 11 April 2014.
Research seminar paper: ‘The Institutional Entrenchment of Queer in the French Academy: an état présent with a new-universalist analysis of ambivalence about futurity, expertise, theory and “neo-liberalism”’ at 'Queer Theory and Academia: The Case of France in an International Frame', Warwick University, 14 December 2013.
My individual research
Techniques of coercive governance
This is a new research project I am currently developing. The term ‘coercive governance’ names an approach which reads transversally across social and political theory, management and military theory, institutional history and criminology. The project is grounded in an original interconnection between Jacques Rancière’s radically egalitarian critique of governance and institutions, Bernard Stiegler’s conception of technics as co-constitutive of the human and Gilles Deleuze’s understanding of the control society. My work uses this theoretical nexus to examine a series of carefully selected case studies drawn from the literature, politics and art of the last two hundred or so years, with a particular but not exclusive focus on French material. The twin focus of this ongoing work is on techniques of coercive governance and possibilities of citizen resistance, principally through new forms of egalitarian political activism.
This project will offer a new critical genealogy of the concept and practice of governance informed by Rancière’s provocative opposition between egalitarian politics and ‘policing’, the latter term positing a continuum of repressive practices running from bureaucratic rationality through to the violent suppression of dissent. The project revisits the ongoing transition Deleuze named, in 1990, from disciplinary societies, in Foucault’s sense, to control societies: in other words, from societies in which disciplinary institutions gradually and imperfectly shape governable docile bodies in relation to norms, to societies in which developed interconnected digital networks enable the proliferation of instantaneous and highly effective control mechanisms which threaten the subjective ground of democracy.
Jacques Rancière: equality and the politics of aesthetics
Rancière Now, a volume of new critical essays on Rancière's work, which I edited, was published by Polity Press in September 2013. The volume includes essays by Carolyn Steedman, Sabine Prokhoris, Tom Conley, Jeremy F. Lane and Jackie Clarke, among other contributors. It also contains a new dialogue between Rancière and Jean-Luc Nancy and a new interview with Rancière, concerned mainly with his Aisthesis (Galilée 2011 / Verso 2013).
I have also published my own critical introduction to Rancière's work. That book undertakes a comprehensive analysis of his thought from 1965 to the time of writing and aspires to disseminate it to an English-speaking readership of academics from the disciplines of philosophy, history, cultural studies, French studies, English and politics, as well as to artists, policy-makers, activists and other non-academic readers. A German translation of this book, with a new Postscript, is now available from Turia + Kant.
I am investigating the remarkably protracted transformation of this unique island in the Seine. I am interested, in particular, in understanding (i) how different redevelopment proposals make reference to the significance of this iconic site in the history of the French workers' movement; (ii) the nature of purported consultation with local residents about the redevelopment in terms drawn from Rancière's account of politics and (iii) the conception of art and its politics implicit in the latest proposals for the 'cultural hub' R4.
Other research interests
My doctoral work, later published as a book, analysed narrative constructions of the ageing process in essays and life-writing by selected twentieth-century French authors, foremost among them Beauvoir. That was primarily a literary project, in a broad sense, although one with obvious ramifications into other areas. Also on the literary side I continue to be interested in twentieth-century and contemporary French fiction (particularly the work of François Bon, on aspects of which I have published and which I enjoy teaching) and in literary-critical methodology (I published a critical verdict on la critique génétique which I may have to revise in light of my recent work and I have also written on issues in psychoanalytic criticism). I am very preoccupied with queer theory at the moment (please see below) and I have a longstanding interest in French gay and queer literary culture (particularly Guillaume Dustan).
I warmly welcome enquiries from students who may be considering embarking on an MA, a PhD or a post-doctoral project in areas either squarely within, or touching upon, my current or recent research.
Queer Theory in France
I am working alongside Dr Hector Kollias (King’s College London) on this three-year research project, which is funded by the AHRC under its Early Career scheme. The project aims both to analyze the particular uses made of the post-war French intellectual tradition by queer theorists working in Britain and the United States and to account for resistance to the queer theory they developed on its subsequent return 'home' to France. To visit the project website click here. Arising out of this project I have guest edited a special issue of the leading peer-reviewed journal Sexualities. That special issue will develop and disseminate work presented at the first Warwick project symposium and is scheduled for publication early in 2015.
Teaching and supervision
My main teaching and research interests lie in twentieth-century French philosophy of the Continental tradition, critical theory, queer theory and twentieth-century and contemporary French literature.
I am currently supervising two doctoral projects: Alex Corcos's thesis on Situationism and contemporary protest movements and Kayte Stokoe's work on the theory, practice and cultural representation of drag.
I helped devise and now convene the School's new core MA for Research module on critical and cultural theory, IT914-30 Critical Theory in Modern Languages.
I run a final-year undergraduate module on literary representations of sex and sexuality (FR409 Modern Sexualities) and a second-year module on political activism by intellectuals in France (FR247 Intellectual Interventions: Politics, Literature and the Left during and after the Algerian War). I jointly teach a two-term special subject module, with Douglas Morrey, on contemporary French literature (FR324 French Contemporary Writing from 2000 to the present). In academic year 2014-15 I will be teaching a new two-term special subject module related very closely to my current research: Policing, Pacification, and Prisons: Coercive Governance in French Culture, History, and Thought from 1925 to the present.
I contribute to final-year French language teaching and assessment.
I am currently Director for Student Wellbeing in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures, and Senior Tutor for French Studies. This means I have oversight of arrangements for supporting student wellbeing ('pastoral care'), in particular personal tutoring. I endeavour to promote the academic wellbeing of all our students, individually and collectively. Any student based in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures is encouraged to approach me, in confidence, in addition to their Personal Tutor, for support when facing difficulties with their studies. I have regular weekly 'office hours' in normal teaching weeks (listed on this page), during which any student based in the School is welcome to drop in for a chat. Subject to my teaching, research and administrative commitments I am also happy to arrange to see students at other times.
- Jacques Rancière : Eine Einführung (Vienna: Turia + Kant, 2014), a German translation by Brita Pohl, with a new Afterword, of the monograph immediately below.
- Jacques Rancière (Cambridge: Polity, 2010).
- Age Rage and Going Gently: Stories of the Senescent Subject in Twentieth-Century French Writing (Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi, 2006).
- Rancière Now (Cambridge: Polity, 2013).
- 'Desublimation in Education for Democracy', in Stiegler & Technics, ed. by Christina Howells and Gerald Moore (Edinburgh: Edinburgh Universtity Press, 2013), 165-178.
- 'Eastwood reading Beauvoir reading Eastwood: combative self-assertion in Gran Torino (2008) and Old Age ', in Existentialism and Contemporary Cinema: A Beauvoirian Perspective, ed. by Ursula Tidd and Jean-Pierre Boulé (Oxford: Berghahn, 2012), 135-148.
- 'Guillaume Dustan's "autopornobiographie": Is there room for trash in the queer subcultural archive?', in Alienation and Alterity: Otherness in Modern and Contemporary Francophone contexts, ed. by Helen Vassallo & Paul Cooke (Bern: Peter Lang, 2009), 59-76.
- ‘Theorizing Writerly Creativity: Jung with Lacan?’, in Post-Jungian Criticism: Theory and Practice, ed. by Baumlin & Jensen (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2004), 55-74.
Journal special issues
- Bareback Sex and Queer Theory Across Three National Contexts (France, UK, US), a special issue of Sexualities guest-edited by Oliver Davis and forthcoming early 2015.
- Queer Theory's Return to France, special issue ed. by Oliver Davis and Hector Kollias, Paragraph 35, 2 (2012). To see the Table of Contents click here.
- 'Jacques Rancière et l'art contemporain : un échange d'histoires d'amour et de tyrannicide / Jacques Rancière and Contemporary Art: Swapping Stories of Love and Tyrannicide', Critique d'art 41 (Spring-Summer 2013), 14-30.
- 'Didier Eribon, restive rationalist: the limits of sociological self-understanding in Retour à Reims', French Cultural Studies 23, 2 (May 2012), special issue on Didier Eribon, ed. by Bill Marshall, 117-126.
- 'The Radical Pedagogies of François Bon and Jacques Rancière', French Studies 64, 2 (April 2010), 178-91.
- 'Rancière and Queer Theory: on irritable attachment', in Borderlands 8, 2 (October 2009), special issue: Jacques Rancière on the Shores of Queer Theory, ed. by Samuel Chambers and Michael O'Rourke. To see the special issue click here.
- ‘The Author at Work in Genetic Criticism’, Paragraph 25,1 (March 2002), 92-101.
- French Women Philosophers: A Contemporary Reader, ed. by Christina Howells (London: Routledge, 2004), nine chapters thereof, including pieces by Monique Schneider, Sarah Kofman, Monique David-Ménard and Myriam Revault d’Allonnes.
- Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The World of Perception (London: Routledge, 2004). Seven radio lectures on phenomenology, science and aesthetics, delivered in 1948.
- Review article: Cervulle & Rees-Roberts, Homo Exoticus (Armand Colin, 2010) and Grandena and Johnston (eds.), New Queer Images (Peter Lang, 2011), Contemporary French Civilization 37, 1 (2012), 107-110.
- 'Five Questions for Jacques Rancière / Cinq questions à Jacques Rancière', Contemporary French & Francophone Studies: Sites 16, 2 (2012), 151-6.
- 'Re-visions: remarks on the love of cinema: An interview with Jacques Rancière by Oliver Davis', The Journal of Visual Culture 10, 3 (December 2011), 294-304.
- 'Guillaume Dustan', entry for The Literary Encyclopedia: link to article here.
- Reviews for French Studies, Modern Language Review and Modern and Contemporary France.
Background and formal qualifications
After studying for a BA in French and Philosophy at Wadham College, Oxford, I stayed on to complete an M.St. and D.Phil in French Literature there. I subsequently taught at Wadham and at the ENS in Paris before starting at Warwick in 2006. I have also successfully completed Warwick's PCAPP qualification (Postgraduate Certificate in Academic and Professional Practice).
Wednesday 12–1 and Thursday 12–1 during full term (not in reading weeks or vacations).
FR409 Modern Sexualities
FR324 French Contemporary Writing from 2000 to the Present
FR325 Policing, Pacification and Prisons: Coercive Governance in French Culture, History and Thought from 1925 to the Present