What’s Next? New Series Announcement!

After a fantastic first Ctrl Network Reading Group session exploring cultural theorist Mark Fisher’s article ‘The Future is still ours: Autonomy & Post-capitalism’ and filmmaker Adam Curtis’ iconic documentary series All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace, we are keen to keep the theory ball rolling!

We asked all who attended as well as members of our network what we should do next. A detailed reading of Matt Colquhoun’s latest publication Postcapitalist Desire: Mark Fisher The Final Lectures proved a very popular option, especially for those who attended our K-Punk Quarantined series in the summer and had a chance to see Matt’s excellent lecture on acid communism and his last book, Egress.

We also had lots of fantastic ideas for books and theories from a wide array of authors and we wanted a chance to keep informal sessions with open discussion that went beyond the work of Mark Fisher (much as we love him).

We couldn’t decide between the two, so we’re doing both online sessions!


Graphics by J Lilley-Byrne

Postcapitalist Desire: Mark Fisher Lectures Winter Reading Group

Every month we read and discuss Mark Fisher’s final 5 lectures in Matt Colquhoun’s latest book Postcapitalist Desire. Taking the book chapter by chapter over the course of 5 months, there is a wealth of material to discuss. Besides the transcript of each lecture (which we will treat as required reading), each lecture has additional reading lists prepared by Mark and an accompanying soundtrack. You can prepare as little or as much as you like on top of the minimum transcript reading, and only attend the sessions you like. The lectures cover a variety of fascinating topics:

  • Lecture One: What is Postcapitalism?
  • Lecture Two: “A Social and Psychic Revolution of Almost Inconceivable Magnitude”: Countercultural Bohemia as Prefiguration
  • Lecture Three: From Class Consciousness to Group Consciousness
  • Lecture Four: Union Power and Soul Power
  • Lecture Five: Libidinal Marxism

This series will be a little more formal and structured in its approach which is why we plan to meet monthly, giving everyone ample time to digest the reading and do as much or little extra as they wish. 

Attendees will need a copy of Matt’s book as we can’t supply this. You can buy the ebook here: Postcapitalist Desire.

How to get involved: Sessions will happen over Zoom. You can register for this series by emailing contemptheoryuob@gmail.com or messaging us on Twitter. We’re only sending Zoom links to those who register to ensure spaces are available.

Graphics by J Lilley-Byrne

What the F**k is Going On?

An informal monthly meeting to discuss critical theory, articles, texts and new ideas that help us answer the question “what the fuck is going on right now?”. These sessions are friendly and informal, no required reading, and little prep ahead of time. We’ll be guided by you, and the interesting articles or niggling ideas you’ve come across that are helping you make sense of wtf is going on in the world right now, or have left you even more confused and frustrated than before! To start us off, we’re going to recommend an article or two to initially guide us, but after that, we’ll do what works best for the group. You can input as much or as little as you like and attend as many as you want. We start in November with monthly sessions alongside Postcap Desire so the two don’t overlap, but they may happen more frequently if there’s a taste for it in future.

How to get involved: Sessions will happen over Zoom. We’ll send out links to our mailing list – so if you want in, just subscribe by emailing contemptheoryuob@gmail.com or messaging us on Twitter.

Winter 2020 schedule:

  • Tuesday 10th November, 1-3pm – WTF
  • Tuesday 24th November, 1-3pm – Postcapitalist Desire Lecture 1
  • Tuesday 1st December, 1-3pm – WTF
  • Tuesday 15th December, 1-3pm – Postcapitalist Desire Lecture 2

Rough New Year schedule to be confirmed:

  • Tuesday 12th January, 1-3pm – WTF
  • Tuesday 26th January, 1-3pm – Postcapitalist Desire Lecture 3
  • Tuesday 9th February, 1-3pm – WTF
  • Tuesday 23rd February, 1-3pm – Postcapitalist Desire Lecture 4
  • Tuesday 9th March, 1-3pm – WTF
  • Tuesday 23rd March, 1-3pm – Postcapitalist Desire Lecture 5

We’ll be keeping our Twitter and website up to date with details and updates on future sessions, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled. We hope to see you all soon!

Mark Fisher and Adam Curtis, the Future is still ours: Ctrl Network Reading Group Launch

We’re very excited to announce that the Ctrl Network Reading Group will be launching its first online session with a special event on cultural theorist Mark Fisher and documentary filmmaker Adam Curtis on Tuesday October 6th, 1-3pm. We’ll be discussing Fisher’s article ‘The Future is still ours: Autonomy & Post-capitalism’, and drawing on some of the related ideas explored in Adam Curtis’s iconic documentary series All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace.

Our reading group sessions are designed to be friendly and informal open discussions, and everyone is welcome to come and join the discussion. We recommend that you read Fisher’s brief article and watch a small collection of clips from Adam Curtis beforehand (see links below). If you’re not familiar with Fisher or Curtis and would like to learn more, we’ve also included a list of further reading and viewing below, but none of these are necessary for this session.

We will also be using this launch event as an opportunity to discuss ideas and hear your thoughts about our plans for upcoming sessions, which we are very keen for members to help us shape.

If you would like to register for this event, get in touch by email (contemptheoryuob@gmail.com) or on Twitter and we’ll supply you with a session link nearer the time. We hope to see you all there!

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Recommended reading

Mark Fisher:

Adam Curtis clips:

Further reading/viewing

Mark Fisher:

(Both also available in K-Punk)

  • ‘We Need a Post-capitalist vision: interviewed by anticapitalist initiative’ (2012)


Adam Curtis:

  • All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace (2011) full documentary (available online)
  • Hypernormalization (2016) and Bitter Lake (2015) full documentaries both available on BBC iPlayer
  • Little Atoms interview (2011): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S3OZlH3DX88

From Theory Group to Ctrl Network…

Living through a global pandemic is a weird thing. K-Punk Quarantined was our way of coming to terms with the uncertainty and changes that were wrought by the crisis. Like many, we were driven by a desire for connection, community, and a sense of normality at a time of dislocation and doubt. Originally the series was billed as an event exploring the work of Mark Fisher and localised entirely to the University of Birmingham. Then lockdown hit. Shortly thereafter, we’d found out our funding for the series had been approved by the College – a bittersweet thing, given that it would no longer be possible to run it as we’d originally planned. A lot of academic events at this point were deferred, if not completely cancelled. The disruption to our working and domestic lives had been too great, and the event seemed no longer possible. We discussed postponing and even cancelling. However, we also realised that, with any and every sense of the University community decimated by the crisis, we needed to do something, even if only to bring back some semblance of University life.

As a group, we’d always been advocates of finding ways of discussing theory beyond the gated environment of the University. But, as a small reading group, we didn’t really know of ways we could reach outside of the academic environment. We started out as the Contemporary Theory Reading Group, an informal gathering established between Postgraduate students in the English Literature Department at the University of Birmingham. Initially, the only thing guiding us was an interest in contemporary theory, and a desire to learn more about it as well as to discuss and critique it in an informal context. After a couple of meetings, and some support with event dissemination from a couple of members of staff in the school, we launched our first series in the English Department – three texts over three weeks, with the aim to discuss a further four texts to be decided by group attendees in as democratic a manner as possible. Our first session took place on the 5th of February 2019, and back then we didn’t expect to be doing anything more than a regular reading group.

The national UCU strikes were a wake-up call for us. We’d become a constant fixture in the department by then but that was precisely the problem, we were confined to the department. We were all advocates of doing something more – we all believed that theoretical work has an imperative to public good, and public debate. During the strikes we decided we should open up our base, run a teach-out instead, provide a space to talk about theoretical texts relevant to industrial action, and the upcoming election. These events were a great success, and we found many like-minded thinkers from outside of our respective fields, attached to the union, and otherwise, who were interested in partaking in the same conversations as us.

K-Punk Quarantined was the natural outgrowth of this desire, a desire to dissolve the boundaries that we found could stifle accessibility, and thus debate. After the success of this event, and the opportunity to spend more time with a theorist we all loved, but in whom we could not previously find the time to immerse ourselves, we wanted to build on the momentum of K-Punk. Ctrl Network grew from our desire for community. From it, we hope to provide a platform for theoretical discussion beyond the University, and a space where we can immerse ourselves in ideas not yet familiar to us. 

We invite participation from all invested in theory – those in the know, and those still learning. We invite artists and creators, and those with and without an institutional home.

Please communicate with us.

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